American Managers Stressed, but Optimistic

June 19, 2009 ( - American managers are more stressed about the current recession than their global counterparts, but they are among the most optimistic about their future, according to a new survey.

U.S. supervisors also are highly confident in their corporate leadership’s ability to improve the business situation and their own roles in motivating workers, according to nearly 8,000 managers surveyed in 14 countries by BPI, a European management and human resources consulting firm that includes Chicago-based SSP BPI Group.

National Differences

The international “Managers Coping with the Recession” survey asked supervisors in the U.S., as well as 10 European countries, plus Brazil, Russia and China about their perspectives. Among the survey’s findings:

  • 86% of U.S. managers said the economic crisis has impacted their organization’s stress level, and 82% say they personally feel stressed at work. Both measures are the highest of any countries surveyed, with the global average at 66% for organizational stress and 62% for personal stress in the workplace.
  • Nearly 75% of U.S. managers say the economic crisis has negatively affected working with their teams, compared to a global average of about 50%.
  • 45% of U.S. managers said the recession will lead to layoffs in their company, more than any other country surveyed (the average was 35%).
  • About 77% said the economic crisis will impact their retirement plans, 86% said it will affect their savings, and 71% said it will affect their professional growth opportunities.
  • More than half (57%) of U.S. managers say the economic crisis will last between one and two years, and 32% say it will last more than two years.

That said;

  • U.S. managers were among the most confident (88%) that their company’s leaders will effectively deal with the economic situation and will be attentive to the well being of their employees (nearly 82%). Only managers in Brazil were more confident in these areas (93% and 82%, respectively).
  • U.S. managers are optimistic about the future of their jobs (84%), companies (85%) and professions (86%).
  • The vast majority (93%) of U.S. managers believe they have the resources and tools to motivate their teams, but admit to being less equipped to attract new talent.

“While American managers say the economic downturn has had more serious consequences on their jobs and businesses than most other countries, they strongly believe this situation will ultimately improve the way their companies operate, communicate and engage employees,” said Jay Scherer, managing partner at SSP BPI Group. “This underlying sense of optimism, along with the right leadership skills, can help managers effectively guide their companies and teams through times of tremendous change.”

The survey results also pointed differences among American managers based on their age, gender and company size. For example:

  • Managers under the age of 39 are more anxious about their job security and professional growth opportunities. However, according to the survey's authors, they are also more likely to believe the current crisis will help companies improve communications about business strategies, their openness to employee views, and corporate governance.
  • Men are more confident than women in management's ability to effectively address the economic situation at their company, according to the report - and men also feel more confident about their own managerial responsibilities, including motivating their teams, developing their team's skills, contributing to the company's financial performance, implementing the corporate strategy, and attracting new talent.
  • Managers in mid-size companies (those with 100 to 499 employees) are feeling slightly more affected by today's economy in terms of the stress level, work culture changes and financial stability of their companies. According to the survey, they are also more likely to believe the economic situation will lead to layoffs, longer working hours and mergers.

The second BPI International Survey on Management was conducted in partnership with BVA, a French market and opinion research institute, to understand how managers are coping with the recession in their businesses and markets. The survey was performed Dec. 8-17, 2008, in 14 countries with a sample of 1,000 managers per country in the United States, China and Russia; 500 managers per country in Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom; and 300 managers per country in Belgium, Finland, Romania and Switzerland.

SSP BPI Group is a career management and coaching firm that offers a range of career consulting services including: workforce transition, career planning and orientation, leadership development, individualized career success strategies, executive coaching and executive advisory services. For more information, visit: .