5 Key Findings from State of the American Manager Report

Gallup released its latest State of the American Manager Report this week.* The renowned research and consulting company did its homework. The report is based on four decades of research and a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries. These folks analyzed the engagement of 27 million employees. So I tend to believe the results. And they are not pretty.

Although as the Turnaround Authority, I do get more consulting assignments related to the failings of managers as pointed out in this report. But that doesn’t make me happy about the state of management in our country.

Today I’ll share the most important findings of the report, and in future blogs, will delve deeper into some of these findings.

  • Manager talent is rare, and organizations have a hard time finding it

Wow. Research showed that the majority of managers are not suited to their role; 82 percent don’t have the high talent required. That talent naturally exists in just 1 in 10 people, but two in 10 can be trained to be successful managers.

The study listed five talents of great managers. They motivate their employees, make unbiased decisions for the good of the team and the company, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and assert themselves to overcome obstacles.

  • Talent is the most powerful predictor of performance

If you hire a talented manager, you can expect a 48 percent increase in profitability. That’s huge.

These managers are more engaged, function as brand ambassadors for the company and focus more on employees’ strengths than weaknesses.

  • Managers have the greatest impact on engagement

I don’t know how research companies figure out such things, but Gallup research found that managers who are not engaged in their jobs or who are actively disengaged, cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually. Or roughly the GNP of our entire country in 1953.

And the percentages of managers who are not engaged are high: 51 percent are not engaged, 14 percent are actively disengaged for a total of 65 percent.

Equally disturbing is the finding that at some point in their career, one in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager.

    •   Female managers have an engagement advantage

It’s true guys, according to Gallup. Female managers are more likely to be engaged than male managers, at 41 percent versus 35.

For the highest percentage of engaged employees, look for females working for a female manager. They will have a 35 percent engagement rate. Male employees working for male managers had the lowest rate, at just 25 percent.

  • Specific behaviors can help managers increase employee engagement

I suppose this is a glimmer of good news. At this point in reviewing the report, I felt I needed it.

Two-thirds of employees who strongly agree that their manager helps them set work priorities and goals are engaged. And more than half of employees who strongly agree that their manager is open and approachable are engaged.

I do agree that managers can adapt certain behaviors that can engage employees in their companies. For tips of keeping your employees engaged, see my previous column, “Top Tips for Keeping Employees Engaged.”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I talk more about what the findings of the report are and what you can do about it in your company.

* Click here to download a PDF of the report.










When Your Employees Hate Their Job

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” Confucius said. Unfortunately, a majority of workers have no love for their jobs, and 18 percent worldwide describe themselves as “actively disengaged,” according to a recent Gallup survey of 5.4 million working adults.

In the United States, 30 percent claim to be engaged at work, higher than many countries, particularly New Zealand, where 62 percent describe themselves at not engaged at work.

But let’s not congratulate ourselves. That means that 70 percent of our workers describe themselves as non-engaged or actively disengaged. In their article, “Half Your Employees Hate Their Job,” Tom Gardner and Morgan Housel used an excellent analogy to describe the situation.

“Imagine a 10-person bicycle. This means that three people are pedaling, five are pretending to pedal, and two are jamming the brakes. That’s you, corporate America.”

Other troubling results came from a survey done by Bain & Associates Company with Netsurvey, which analyzed responses from 200,000 employees in 60 countries and found the following:

• Engagement scores decline as employee tenure increases. Employees with the deepest knowledge of the company, and the most experience, typically are the least engaged.

• Scores decline at the lowest levels of the organization, suggesting that senior executive teams likely underestimate the discontent on the front lines.

• Engagement levels are lowest in sales and service functions, where most interactions with customers occur.

No good news there, right? But there are things you can do to engage your employees, which leads to better morale and increased productivity.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, “The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement,” Rob Markey has suggestions that include have the supervisors lead the engagement efforts, train them on how to talk candidly with their employees and have them conduct short, frequent and anonymous line surveys to stay in touch with how things are going.

Supervisors should also ask employees on the front line how they can improve service to customers. “The companies that regularly earn high employee engagement tap that knowledge by asking employees how the company can earn more of their customers’ business and build the ranks of customer promoters,” Markey wrote.  “And they don’t just ask; they also listen hard to the answers, take action, and let their employees know about it.”

Housel and Gardner, who is also co-founder of The Motley Fool, had suggestions that include letting go of vacation and sick pay policies. Make your office someplace people would actually like to spend time — have meditation classes, install treadmill desks, let them go on Facebook and ESPN at work without feeling like they are cheating.

One intriguing suggestion they had is to let employees write their own job descriptions. The company learns where the passions of its employees are and if possible, can incorporate some of what they want to be doing to what they are actually doing.

Isn’t it worth the effort to get more people pedaling on your team? Your company needs to do whatever it can to get those people who are jamming the brakes or just pretending to pedal to start contributing to the group effort.

In my next column, I’ll write about some companies that have taken even more radical steps to make sure they have a more engaged work force. And I’ll share with you my top tips to engage your employees.


The High Cost of Office Politics

Politics is expensive. Just through late October, the top two candidates spent close to $2 billion vying for that fancy oval office and comfy bed on Air Force One. A report Wednesday stated that between the two candidates, they spent $1 billion on TV ads alone.

But let’s talk about the cost of another type of politics. If you’re like me, you’re probably campaign-weary too. My favorite Tweet from Election Day was by Larry Sabato, the Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Some call it Election Day. I call it Negative Ad Liberation Day.”

NASA managers knew there were issues with the O-rings on the Challenger and had been warned by engineers that it was too cold for the launch. But the organizational culture was such that people were scared to report the problems. It was launched on January 28, 1986 and broke apart 73 seconds later with six astronauts and a school teacher on board.

I want to talk about office politics. I don’t care whether you’re involved in your church’s flower guild, your condo association or a multi-million dollar company — every organization has politics. You’ve heard the definition of a dysfunctional family, right? One that has more than one member. Pretty much can be said of a group that has to deal with politics.

Everyone has an agenda. Fred in accounting may be sucking up to the boss, hoping for a promotion while Sue tries to avoid any type of controversy and sticks to her cubicle. I’m not concerned here with these type behaviors.

I’m talking about what takes place at the senior level, where playing politics can have the most devastating and costly consequences, even to the point that senior level managers can paralyze the operations of a company. Or worse.

I once worked with a large company where the directors were in a dispute over the direction of the company. Some old directors wanted to continue in the manufacturing business, believing they could salvage some of the company’s remaining resources, while others wanted to morph into a licensing company and focus resources on what they saw as a more promising path.

The problem was that the transition to a licensing company had already begun and the politics among these officers resulted in a six-month loss of time — not to mention millions of dollars — before the company pulled together on the project that would save them.

I’m not saying disagreement among managers is a bad thing. It can be a healthy way to flesh out the best ideas. Problems arise when one person or a group of people tries to undermine the process of normal negotiations and discussions by currying the favor of senior management or board members, and skew assumptions and strategies towards their desired outcomes. I’ve seen numerous companies disintegrate for these reasons.

The problem with politics is that not everyone has the best interests of the company in mind.

Let me give you a more deadly example. After the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, Ronald Reagan formed the Rogers Commission to investigate what happened. Their findings were chilling.

NASA managers knew that there was a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings and had known it for years, but NASA’s organizational culture was such that the people working closely on the project were too scared to bring it up.

Managers also disregarded warnings from engineers about launching in the low temperatures that morning, fearful that a delay might hurt the image of the space program. Seven people died as a result.

One of the largest barriers created by politics is that the CEO is unable to get the right answers and information he needs quickly enough to act, particularly during a crisis.

Another problem with an overly politicized office is that morale among employees is generally low and productivity is lowered. And unhappy employees have a harder time doing their jobs. Gallup reported that lost productivity due to employee disengagement costs more than $300 billion in the U.S. annually.

What is office politics costing your company?

Tune in for the next post when I address what you can do about office politics.