Sick of having to chase your staff to perform?  Don’t see why they claim to be so stressed?  Ever thought it might all be your fault?

A recent survey by the Chartered Management Institute provides some statistics which should at first sight have managers everywhere clutching for their laurels.  The survey of over 2,000 employees across the UK concluded that 55% consider that their boss lacks the competence to do his job properly.  40% believe that this lack of competence has gone unnoticed by the managers in question, suggesting that a significant proportion of bosses believe themselves to be more competent than do their staff.

40% of the survey respondents believed that their bosses’ behaviour increased their stress levels, over a third that their boss prejudiced their enjoyment of the job, and about 10% that their boss was actively bad for their health.

These statistics would be much more concerning if they were not drowned out by the shriek of axes being ground (CMI provides management training and no on-one can resist an anonymous poke at the boss), and if it were not a racing certainty that a survey of 2,000 UK bosses would say exactly the same things about their staff – how being a manager would be a much nicer job without them, etc.  Indeed, the CMI survey said that only 40% of employees were willing to acknowledge any weaknesses at all in their own job performance.  The other 60% are of course beyond criticism, meaning that any boss who takes a different view will necessarily increase their stress levels, impair their enjoyment of the role and make them ill.  Clearly.

Ultimately what the statistics recognise is simply the eternal truth that a significant proportion of any workforce at any level will inevitably consider their own workplace issues and reversals to be somebody else’s fault.  However, one serious question does arise from the survey – how far can fretting under the reins of an over-confident and under-competent manager give rise to claims against the employer?  Though the argument is often run, it is practically impossible for an employee to move successfully from his boss being less than every mother’s dream to a constructive dismissal, stress or other personal injuries claim. A judicial finding that employers must only employ managers who are both able and modest with it (or conversely, staff with a proper degree of self-awareness) could have devastating consequences for British industry.

Bullying, discrimination or dishonest dealing is one thing, but just being frustrated at work, even with some objective justification, is simply what the Courts have traditionally seen as the fair wear and tear of office life.  While serial complaints about a particular boss may indeed indicate an underlying problem with him, therefore, there is no harm in admitting in response to a grievance against a manager that something could indeed have been better handled.  That is not by itself an admission of legal liability, it gives the employee no further right of recourse, and it may certainly be preferable in Tribunal credibility terms to defending the clearly indefensible.  After all (many apologies if this comes as a surprise) no one has the right to be happy at work.