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Home > News > January 2005 > 28-Jan-2005

Failure to manage change heightens stress, harassment and conflict at work, survey claims

UK organisations are failing to manage change effectively and this is causing an increase in stress, harassment and conflict at work, according to an annual snapshot of the state of the workplace.

Now in its eighth year, the Management Agenda - by executive education and research organisation Roffey Park - examines the challenges that managers and organisations are facing. Developed from a survey of over 600 UK managers, this year’s report covers trends relating to organisational change, organisational life, organisational culture, the ‘employee deal’ and working across boundaries.

Report findings

92% of managers have experienced organisational change over the last two years. The last year has seen increases in downsizing - with 35% of organisations making people redundant - and off- shoring. 43% of multi-national organisations claim they are now shifting production to cheaper labour markets.

The research authors - Linda Holbeche and Claire McCartney - claim that the majority of organisations are good at initiating change, and maintaining top-level involvement, but bad at consolidating change, maintaining momentum and reviewing and learning from the change process.

"Change and restructuring are often badly managed," said the authors. "As a result, we’re seeing greater incidences of stress, harassment and conflict in the workplace. Organisations must learn to manage change more effectively."

More managers than ever before (78%) are suffering from work- related stress, caused by increasing workloads, lack of time and lack of support.

52% of managers have experienced harassment at work. 27% have been bullied and 34% feel they have been deliberately sidelined or excluded. Senior managers are the main perpetrators of harassment, although line managers and colleagues are also at fault.

Conflict has increased in 46% of organisations, over the last two years, predominantly because of differing personalities and agendas. 56% of managers have seen an increase in the use of office politics.

25% of managers say they have lost trust in their corporate leaders - a rise from 22% last year.

"There is a perception that senior managers are secretive and out for their personal gain," said the authors. "Senior managers must become more open and communicative and they must ‘walk the talk’ in terms of the corporate values, to stem this rising level of mistrust."

45% of managers do not feel fully appreciated or rewarded. 65% admit that they are searching for ‘meaning’ in their working life.

63% say diversity is not actively managed in their organisations and 27% feel they have been discriminated against in some way, either in terms of their gender, age, ethnicity or religion.

83% of managers are working consistently longer than their contracted week. 33% put in 11-15 extra hours and 9% work more than 15 additional hours each week. More men (85%) than women (79%) work longer hours.

47% of managers say that HR lacks credibility in their organisation. 53% claim that their HR practitioners are too reactive. 27% feel HR is out of touch.

However the research findings are not all doom and gloom. 52% of organisations have introduced health and well-being initiatives to combat stress, such as occupational health roadshows, stress tests and stress-busting training.

49% of managers claim that organisational changes have resulted in new opportunities and 42% say they are feeling more enthusiastic as a result of change. 67% say they feel secure in their jobs. 47% are considering a move in the near future, to either a similar job in a different organisation or a different job in their current organisation.

"Managers seem confident that they could find work elsewhere," said the research authors. "There is a sense that their commitment to their organisation is waning. Less people seem willing to go the extra mile. Instead they’ve become more bullish about their own worth. The feeling is that if they don’t get what they want from their organisations, they’ll walk."

According to the survey, the key challenges for organisations are to manage change, recruit and retain key people, focus on the core business, cut costs, stay ahead of competitors and comply with increasing regulation and legislation.

The most pressing ‘organisational development’ challenges are to build a high performance culture, build the talent capability of the organisation, restructuring, strategy and vision work and employee engagement. Organisations are also investing in leadership development, strategic alliances, 360 degree feedback, outsourcing, line manager development, risk management processes and ‘hot- desking’.

76% of managers believe that their organisations are successful at fostering creativity. 74% say that there are female role models in their organisation. 51% say they have a satisfactory work-life balance, although they would like their organisations to offer truly flexible working and home working. 71% believe that British organisations should comply with the Working Time Directive.

‘The Management Agenda 2005’ is available from Roffey Park, priced £35, and it can also be purchased online and downloaded from Roffey Park’s website:

Please note: Training Reference is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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