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Do bad leaders damage productivity?

It's well reported that good leadership can have an enormous positive impact in the workplace, driving employee engagement to boost morale and productivity. But what's on the other side of the coin? Do bad leaders have a similar impact in the other direction, undermining relations and wreaking havoc in organisations?

The management consultancy Orion Partners seems to think so. In their recent survey of 2,000 UK workers, almost a quarter said that their leaders had poor communication skills, were overstressed and failed to empathise with employees. Orion Partners believe this 'catastrophically bad' and 'destructive' approach to leadership is taking its toll on productivity.

The survey further identified four key areas where British leaders are perceived to be underperforming by their employees. These were 'threat versus reward', managing change, empathy and self-awareness. Almost half said they felt threatened by their bosses rather than rewarded, meaning that they were less likely to perform to their full potential. In severe cases, the authors warned that it might increase the risk of employees suffering from anxiety and depression.

Around a third of respondents thought that their leaders were good at managing change, and a similar number said their leaders showed self-awareness. But 85 per cent of employees said their managers lacked empathy, caring more about what they did than what they were feeling. Only one in twenty thought their bosses demonstrated a combination of the four positive leadership traits, being empathetic and self-aware, managing change well, and creating a rewarding environment in the workplace.

The authors claimed that the current 'productivity gap' in the economy was because the UK workforce 'is not firing on all cylinders'. They said that improving the quality of leadership would maximise employee productivity.

Acas runs a wide range of courses in People management for employers and managers, including Skills for supervisors and Managing change, all aimed at enhancing expertise, increasing performance and improving productivity.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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