Mounting insecurity about the current economic situation is leading to “a pressure cooker of tension” in many workplaces, according to the latest Roffey Park Management Agenda after conducting a study covering 372 managers across all sectors of employment. Further, the study found these troubled times are manifesting themselves in a new and more aggressive wave of office politicking and infighting.
The survey found 60% of managers reporting office politics on the increase in their company. But the politics may be the least of their worries as, 79% say that actual conflict in the workplace is becoming more of a problem, with 18% of the respondents having themselves experienced harassment or bullying at work and 9% were physically assaulted.
In addition to the infighting and general pandemonium in the office, 12% claim that sexual harassment also occurs in their companies. Asked who were the main perpetrators, the respondents listed:
- 63% -senior managers
- 29% – bosses
- 20% – colleagues
- 18% – customers
When asked to pinpoint a cause for the increase in office-yard bullies, 64% referred to people being deliberately “excluded” or “sidelined”, while a similar proportion believed that their firm’s long hours culture led to bullying. Others spoke of “unreasonable put-downs”, “basic rudeness” and a “blame culture”.
Some of the blame might be found closer to the root, as the report found the tight labor market makes taking the credit for other people’s hard work par for the course. Beverley Stone, an occupational psychologist, believes that low morale in many organizations is prompting large numbers of staff deliberately to sabotage the efforts of their co-workers and managers.
“Producing late, low-quality work, going off sick just when you are most needed or sticking so closely to procedures that you cannot get the job done properly are three increasingly common forms of industrial sabotage,” Stone said in the report. “They are what staff do to fight back when employers put them under too much pressure or create a hostile work environment, and they can all be extremely damaging to any organization.”
Also, the study points to the rise of the “macho, meddling manager” that treats their subordinates like inept infants and throws a tantrum when interference from their support staff prevents their work from being completed on time. In fact, as many as a third of those surveyed say they are considering changing jobs because they are given “no autonomy” at work or because their bosses are too controlling. Additionally, mangers feeling their own pressures of the tight labor market often make matters worse by deliberately scapegoating the most vulnerable members of staff.
All of this fuss has led some to ask the most basic question: what is the mean of the “working” life? Evidence of this, is the 47% saying they are looking for “greater meaning” in their lives in the middle of what is described as a “kill or be killed” corporate culture. The highly volatile work environment leads 53% to admitting to having experienced tensions between the spiritual, though not necessarily religious, side of their lives and the demands of their typical working week. Interestingly, the study found this philosophical quest particularly true among those working in the energy or public sectors.
However, more than 40% of managers say they would welcome the chance to debate with colleagues the contradictions between a more spiritual path and the hostility of 21st-century office life.
Some of the ideas that may come out in such a debate is the need to do more socially and environmentally responsible work through the company. Eighty-eight percent of managers want their organizations to do more of just that, through community work, fundraising for charity and through employment diversity. While more than a third of the organizations represented in the study already have in place a corporate and social responsibility policy, many respondents see this as mere “window dressing,” looking for more substance behind the work.