Only half of managers can cope with crises at work

Non-supportive workplace culture leaves managers unarmed in solving workplace crises, according to new research. High profile leaders reveal lessons in bouncing back|Non-supportive workplace culture leaves managers unarmed in solving workplace crises, according to new research. High profile leaders reveal lessons in bouncing back

Non-supportive workplace culture leaves managers unarmed in solving workplace crises, according to new research. High profile leaders reveal lessons in bouncing back

Research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) reveals only a little more than half of UK’s managers can cope with workplace crises.  

The most common workplace crises are significant conflict with a colleague (54 per cent), unfair treatment (49 per cent), closely followed by project failure (36 per cent). Managers struggled to deal with these crises, with eight in ten admitting that their confidence suffered as a result, and almost two-thirds said their capacity to do their job suffered. 

According to Ann Francke, CEO of CMI, a risk-averse workplace culture is the biggest reason for managers floundering at times of crisis.

“Surviving – and, in time, bouncing back – starts with de-stigmatising adversity and making it easier to learn lessons. We need to have more open and inclusive cultures that tolerate risk and learn from challenges,” she sad.

“On a personal level it means learning to accept, to look forward, and to become more self-aware as a leader. We can learn as much – if not more – from defeat as from victory. Managers need to build resilience so they and those they lead, can achieve more, survive better and bounce back stronger.”

The absence of professional management ranked as a major factor in the cause of crises in a survey of 1,100 managers. 78 per cent blamed a lack of support from senior management and 68 per cent of managers cited culture failure as responsible. 

The report, Bouncing Back: Leadership lessons in resilience, includes the reflections of professionals who have suffered high-profile challenges: Lord Browne of Madingley, Rachel Lowe, Stephen Robertson, Ivan Massow, Charlotte Proudman and Nick Leeson.

“The future is the only thing that matters, the past is not important. It is what it is and we move forward. Those at the top of an organisation should set the right tone, that inclusion is the single most important feature of leadership,” Lord Browne of Madingley said, following his own crisis having lost his position at BP due to misrepresenting his personal circumstances.

“When everything went wrong the effects were devastating. I lost absolutely everything,” Rachel Lowe, whose original business went bankrupt, said.

It wasn’t just a case of losing the business; it was very much a case of losing my mental state of mind. It takes courage to come back. You have to remember the successes, the positives, and keep going,” she advised.

Amongst managers that had dealt with a crisis, three quarters take a more active approach to risk management. This includes encouraging colleagues to discuss learnings more openly, and communicate more effectively.  Most managers who have overcome adversity said that, as a manager, they are more prepared to handle a similar crisis in the future, and 85 per cent say they now actively work to create and maintain a good workplace culture.

Six ways to improve managerial resilience

1.    Make it OK to fail. Failure as a step on the way to success should be the new normal. Over half of managers (52 per cent) say the one thing that would have helped them at a moment of crisis was more support from their managers.

2.    Develop risk tolerance. Don’t manage risk by avoiding it. Build up risk tolerance through creating a culture geared towards accountability. Managers exposed to crises become better at managing them. 61 per cent take a more proactive attitude in the future.

3.    Encourage managers to accept, re-evaluate and face forward. Help managers to gain a sense of perspective by stepping outside the situation. Six in ten (57 per cent) managers said a crisis gave them a fresh sense of perspective. Employers though should note that 38 per cent subsequently changed jobs.

4.    Foster a balanced mind-set and humility. Ensure a dose of realism and measured reactions by regularly reviewing best and worst case outcomes. Over half (54 per cent) of managers become more empathetic and self-critical after a crisis, highlighting humility and collaboration as key lessons.

5.    Offer mentors. Recognise the power of learning from mistakes. Just 41 per cent of managers currently have access to a mentor. Two thirds of those that do, say they were important in handling a crisis.

6.    Build support networks. Strong personal networks can soften the blow of a crisis. Four fifths (83 per cent) of managers agreed personal networks were helpful in dealing with adversity.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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