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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK
Stressed-out managers 'running on empty'
By Guy Robarts
BBC News Online business reporter

Stressed worker
Another manager contemplates his next nervous breakdown

It can be lonely at the top - especially when it feels like a boa-constrictor is wrapping itself around your chest.

There is a power struggle going on in industry in the UK.

But rather than a David and Goliath type takeover battle, it's more of a yawning contest between managers who say they are now running on empty.

More of a lack-of-power struggle, in fact.

Workplace energy levels are dropping "dangerously low" with UK managers running on empty as they try to cope with massive personal workloads, according to a joint survey from the Chartered Management Institute and recruitment group Adecco.

In "The Business Energy Survey" our bosses said they were having to work an extra 14 hours more than they are paid for, effectively lumbering them with a seven day week.

Quality time

Forgive your gaffer if he is on a bit of a short fuse - he probably has not spent quality time with the wife and kids for a while.

Managers - whether men or women - say they are missing important family commitments because of work pressure that leaves their batteries flat by the weekend.

By listening to and embracing new ideas companies can retain their best staff and build a reputation that attracts new talent
Richard Macmillan, Adecco

Team camaraderie at work inevitably suffers too, with less than 20% of managers socialising regularly out of work.

But what's behind this mega-stress culture we live in today?

Managerial styles could be to blame as company cultures sap the energy of their workers. Lack of motivation is a major problem in the work place.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, told BBC News Online: "If you don't feel motivated, you don't have much energy and vice versa.

"There are those who clearly feel overloaded, overtaxed and therefore de-motivated and de-energised. I suspect those are the people who don't have a very clear idea of what is important to achieve in their job.

"Jobs are badly defined, People are unclear about what's expected of them and work incredibly hard trying to fulfil some rather unclear agenda.

"It's a job definition and communication challenge."

I am a stressed worker who is pressurised by stressed managers to work ever harder
Sally, Bristol

However, quite a number of managers are happy to work longer hours so long as there is a sense of purpose about it and they are recognised for what they're achieving, the Business Energy Survey said.

This sense of purpose was more important than a bulging pay packet, many managers agreed.

"It's clear that employees are not afraid to work at this level providing their ideas are heard and they can be made to feel valued, empowered and are allowed to work more flexibly," said Richard Macmillan, managing director of Adecco UK.

"Companies need to sit up and address this before it's too late."

Bad vibes

The Business Energy Survey found that corporate confidence and energy filtered through to individual employees.

But many employees questioned said too many organisations were weighed down by bureaucracy or were too reactive.

Most staff questioned wanted to see a more empowering, accessible, entrepreneurial and innovative management style.

Those who said they worked for growing, dynamic companies were more likely to say that the management style was empowering and successful
Mary Chapman, Chartered Management Institute

They wanted to see companies offer more career breaks, sabbaticals, term-time working and subsidised home working.

"There's a clear contrast between those people who feel overloaded and de-motivated and the ones who are feeling purposeful, energised and recognised," said Mary Chapman.

"Those who said they worked for growing, dynamic companies were more likely to say that the management style was empowering and successful.

"Whereas if you look at those who said they worked for organisations that were declining or shrinking, the numbers who said management was bureaucratic and reactive was much higher than the average."

Richard Macmillan added: "By listening to and embracing new ideas companies can retain their best staff and build a reputation that attracts new talent."


A more engaging management style is badly needed in many UK companies.

"I would like to think that actually what companies will be doing is training and developing their leaders and managers to be better at communicating. There are skills and techniques that can be learned," said Mary Chapman.

Office workers
Workers favour more flexible hours and subsidised home working

When workers feel they are part of a growing business they are more likely to be highly motivated, more responsive to change and therefore more likely to perform better.

A simple equation - happy staff equals more profits.

But negative energy is permeating our work culture.

The mighty work ethic has sunk its talons deep into the backs of business leaders.

It is a known fact that the UK works harder than any EU country and as we move towards a service-driven economy keeping workers happy and productive is becoming increasingly important.

Authoritarian regimes are making company's greatest assets feel exploited to such a degree that some are thinking of upping sticks and going to work elsewhere, the Business Energy Survey said.

This could be a major problem for a company if it is looking to expand and grow and will therefore impact future profits.

Stressed out

Stress levels at work have increased in the last couple of decades by intrusions like mobile phones, laptops and an increasingly baffling array of ring tones, enough to tip anyone off the cliffs of sanity.

A recent survey by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that 13.4m working days a year are lost to stress, anxiety and depression at a cost of 3.8bn to industry.

Avoiding bad manners at work is such as simple thing to do and can have a dramatic impact on improving your working environment and your relationships with others
Office Angels

Workplace stress is now the fastest cause of absence from work in 'burnt-out Britain'.

An art gallery in Manchester even resorted to one radical measure to help local workers chill out. Manchester Art Gallery offered "art attacks" after teaming up with leading stress experts.

They organised lunchtime tranquillity tours for stressed-out employees, allowing them to unwind as their eyes were massaged by paintings like The Waters Of Lethe by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Thomson's Aeolian Harp by Turner and Summer in Cumberland by James Durden.

Foul mouths

Another recent survey by recruitment firm Office Angels, found that most office workers admit to being rude or bad mannered at work - two-thirds blamed pressure of work for their outbursts.

In hectic working environments basic manners fly out the window. Proper etiquette such as introducing people at meetings is overlooked, leading to a breakdown in morale and relationships between co-workers.

"Avoiding bad manners at work is such a simple thing to do and can have a dramatic impact on improving your working environment and your relationships with others," said Office Angels.

Psychologist Dr Colin Gill said simple politeness, seen as de rigueur a couple of generations ago, was no longer universally practised.

He said: "Courtesy is no longer something that is so much respected in our society. If anything, it's often seen as quite stuffy to be polite or overly formal.

"There's also some perception that traditional manners are no longer cascading down the generations."

However, companies who keep tidy manners with their staff may find themselves rewarded with tidy profits.

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