‘Accidental managers’ without proper leadership training contributing to almost one in three workers walking out, research finds

Poll also reveals ineffective leaders create poor motivation and low job satisfaction in their teams

Credit: Anchalee Phanmaha/Getty Images

‘Accidental managers’ with no formal leadership training are contributing to almost one in three workers quitting, a new study has revealed. 

The survey of more than 4,500 workers and managers by the Chartered Management Institute, conducted by YouGov, found that 82 per cent of those who enter management positions have not had any proper training, known as ‘accidental managers’.

In the study a quarter (26 per cent) of senior managers and leaders and half (52 per cent) of managers also claimed they have had no formal management or leadership training.

And 31 per cent of managers and 28 per cent of workers have left a job because of a negative relationship with their manager, it found.

Paul Surridge, managing partner of Target Leadership Consulting, has seen several managers who were “thrust into the role often without wanting to be”.

“Many who take such positions do so because of the financial benefits and in some cases power, not because of a desire to lead,” he said, adding that he is not surprised by the extremely high number of ‘accidental managers’ revealed in the survey findings.

Surridge also said he was worried that many people should not be in management positions – “accidental or not”.

He explained that organisations were generally poor at identifying those with leadership potential because they typically do not invest in expensive leadership programmes before the individual reaches a position of authority. By this stage, he said, “they have the potential to do a lot of harm”. 

“Many leadership development programmes are aimed at existing leaders, which is arguably too late,” Surridge said. 

Gemma Bullivant, HR consultant and coach, said the findings of the report highlight the “critical” need for management training and ongoing coaching support to nurture the confidence needed to put these skills into practice.

“Recognising the role of confidence in knowing what to do and how to do it when it comes to management skills is vital,” she said, adding that trained managers are not only better equipped to address poor performance or behaviour, but also to create environments where employees can thrive, reducing turnover and fostering a culture of trust and productivity.

In the report, Taking Responsibility: Why UK plc needs better managers, while one in four people in the UK workforce hold a management role, only a quarter of workers (27 per cent) described their manager as ‘highly effective’. 

Of those workers who did not rate their manager as effective, half (50 per cent) planned to leave the company in the next year. Of those who rated their line manager as effective, 21 per cent had the same plan. 

Accidental managers 

The report also found that accidental managers are often promoted for the wrong reasons, with nearly half of managers surveyed (46 per cent) believing colleagues won promotions based on internal relationships and profile, rather than their ability and performance. 

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said the research was “a wake-up call for low-growth, low-productivity and badly managed Britain to take management and leadership seriously”. 

Promotions based on technical competence that ignore behaviour and other key leadership traits, according to Francke, have “time and time again” resulted in failures that harm “individuals and their employers, not to mention the wider economy’s performance”.

According to the research, a fifth (18 per cent) of managers are not confident in their leadership abilities, with more than half (60 per cent) saying they are confident but need more development.

Many are struggling to deal “sensitively” with the multiple issues confronting their team members at work and at home, the research noted. 

In contrast, the study discovered that managers who have received formal training are substantially more likely to feel confident in their managerial abilities (83 per cent against 71 per cent).

It said: "They are significantly more likely to trust their team, to feel comfortable leading change initiatives and to feel comfortable calling out bad behaviour compared to those that don't have training."

A separate CIPD study discovered growing evidence of the importance of line management. According to the survey, the quality of line management has an impact on employees' health and wellbeing.

It also demonstrated that managers who treat individuals fairly and provide appropriate feedback and support while also growing their employees and assisting them in working together have happier, healthier and higher-performing teams.

For information from the CIPD about the factors holding back leadership learning, click here