Significant discrepancies in perceptions of leadership, according to survey

Managers believe they are much stronger at the people aspects of their role than the people they are actually managing, according to a new survey that lays bare the difference in perceptions between managers and employees in UK workplaces.

In the study, from consultancy Penna, 82 per cent of managers said they are 'always’ or ‘occasionally’ good at supporting direct reports with opportunities for promotion. But 39 per cent of employees disagreed.

Even more managers (91 per cent) said they supported employees with opportunities at least some of the time, though 29 per cent of staff disagreed. More than half (51 per cent) of employees believe they would make a better people manager than their own manager.

Just a quarter (25 per cent) of staff respondents said their manager is supportive, and 23 per cent feel they are accessible, compared to 44 per cent and 40 per cent respectively of managerial respondents.

More encouraging, 64 per cent of employees said they like their manager, and 66 per cent that they respect them. More than three‐quarters (77 per cent) said they have a good relationship with their manager, and 31 per cent agreed that their manager works hard to make the team work more efficiently.

Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research adviser at the CIPD, said: “Typically what happens with people, including managers, is that they overestimate themselves. And employees may not always take into account that it is not just their manager who has control of development and growth in an organisation.

“The best way to prevent these discrepancies is clear, honest and consistent communication. If people feel part of making a decision, even if the outcome is not one they agree with, they’re more likely to accept it.”

Penny de Valk, managing director of talent practice at Penna, added: “Managers have a tough gig and their roles have increased in pace and intensity because of the ongoing economic turmoil. They think they are doing a great job, one that even their direct reports don’t want to do, but their employees beg to differ and organisations aren’t investing in their development to address this critical perception gap.

“Managers score highly on being liked and respected. While important, it should not come at the cost of clarity of direction and vision sharing – which their direct reports say is lacking. If UK businesses want to maintain their competitive advantage, they must address the tensions between perceived and actual managerial performance and impact."