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16 July 2019
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BAD BOSSES DRAG DOWN STAFF WELL-BEING

Toxic line managers are the most critical factor to the health and subsequent productivity of employees, reports Herpreet Kaur Grewal.

Boss © Alamy
© Alamy

09 January 2019 Herpreet Kaur Grewal


Toxic line managers are the most critical factor to the health and subsequent productivity of employees, according to an academic speaking at a workplace event last month.


Professor Sir Cary Cooper, co-founder at workplace consultancy Robertson-Cooper and author, told delegates at Worktech 2018 in London, that “all the evidence in the occupational health, well-being areas shows that the biggest problem we all have are our bosses, whoever they are”.


Cooper said: “On the door of every workplace, there should be a sign saying ‘your boss is potentially dangerous to your health’ like we have on cigarette packets. The evidence is clear: that is the critical thing.”


The government’s Department for Work and Pensions was currently working on understanding and improving the “emotional intelligence” of line managers.


Said Cooper: “Our managers are not as socially and emotionally sensitive as they need to be. Who manages you is critical to your well-being.”


“On the door of every workplace, there should be a sign saying ‘your boss is potentially dangerous to your health’’’


Cooper added that the workplace has to be designed for employees – so they must be involved in its design. 


“Psychological environment is much more significant,” said Cooper. “You can be in a lousy work environment but if you have a great boss who manages you with a praise-and-reward approach rather than a fault-finding one, who knows you and knows you have issues at home, who gives you flexible working if you need it – it is really important.”


He said that in an average workplace only about 20 per cent of managers have the natural skills to manage people, around 60 per cent are trainable and there are around 20 per cent who “should never be allowed near people”.


Neil Steele of Asure Software stressed how sensor technology would only become increasingly popular. But he added that while “sensor-based data collection was “in and accepted” – the worker's “perception [of it] is crucial to its successful adoption in the workplace”.


Ulrich Blum, an associate at Zaha Hadid Architects, told delegates that design was essential in ensuring that data was used more effectively in offices.


“The workplace used to be about getting more out of people but now it’s about getting the best out of them,” he said. Blum said algorithms now existed that measured desk distance and research showed desks that were within 24 metres of one another encouraged collaboration. He pointed out that research showed that often managers and bosses sat farther than 24 metres from the rest of their colleagues, which undermined collaboration within teams.

Emma Potter