Employers are being urged to encourage employees to rate their managers' abilities. Psychologists suggest that this could improve performance and reduce staff stress levels.
New research, co-funded by the HSE, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and Investors in People, was presented this week at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference.
The research focused on the manager-employee relationship, which has been found to be a commonly reported cause of stress in the workplace. 150 managers were asked to self-rate their own management skills whilst almost 500 employees were asked to rate their managers' management skills. The managers were split into two groups; one group received training and/or feedback on their management skills whilst the other group received no feedback. Both training and feedback focused on management behaviours that are known to be important for the prevention and reduction of stress in staff.
When managers received feedback from their staff, they were found to be more likely to change their management style and subsequently be seen as more effective line managers. Effective behaviours were defined as:
* managing their own emotions and having integrity;
* managing and communicating existing and future work;
* empathetic management of individuals within the team; and
* effectively managing conflict.
Those managers who did not receive any feedback were less likely to change their management behaviour. Feedback was therefore found to be a significant trigger for change.
Emma Donaldson-Feilder of Affinity Health at Work, who was involved in the research, said:
"Without holding a mirror up to a person, they can have blind spots about how they come across and if they think they are already good enough, why should they change?
"The consequences of stress are pervasive; those under stress may experience psychological symptoms, such as anxiety or depression, physiological symptoms, such as palpitations or raised blood pressure and/or cognitive symptoms such as reduced mental capacity. Stress is a significant cause of sickness absence and this puts pressure on those left behind to run the business, creating a cycle of uncomfortable pressure with costs to the individual and to the company."
Ms Donaldson-Feilder and her colleagues are currently developing a number of tools for businesses, including a questionnaire that staff can use to rate their line manager and learning materials for managers. These will be available later this year on the HSE website.