Are managers becoming the company scapegoat

A phrase I have repeatedly heard in the internal comms and employee engagement arena recently is ‘People leave managers, not companies.’

When I first heard it I did think it was a striking statement, encouraging managers to be more effective and to encourage companies to create better managers, which is where it does have merit. However, the more I’ve heard it, and the more I’ve heard the contexts in which it is now being used, the more I have become adverse to this statement.

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In recent years, it seems people are putting more and more responsibilities on managers. In the beginning managers were accountable for ensuring employees were fulfilling their duties, understood their roles and were there to resolve workplace issues.

However, this has now increased to include a strong emphasis on employee engagement, health and well-being such as ensuring a work-life balance, and HR responsibilities such as feuds between colleagues. If any of these things appears to be faltering many are now quick to blame the manager, when perhaps the issue is far more deep-seated, and where perhaps stress put upon the manager is setting up a failure or mistake.

In my opinion, the statement is also far too sweeping and makes it easy to find a scape goat. Each employee is different and reasons for leaving a workplace therefore differ too.

For instance, there are many reasons out of a manager’s control, such as not enjoying the sector/job. I have known many people who thought their dream was in a particular field but after getting their ‘dream job’ they quickly realised it wasn’t what they wanted, so they left.

Another factor for employees leaving is career progression, in some roles you have fulfilled all that you can and you need to move on. Example – small companies where progression into other roles is unlikely or, a very common reason, it was always a stepping stone. I have done much retail work in my life, with myself and my manager knowing full-well that I wouldn’t be there long. Retail was not my passion, there’s nothing they could do about that.

Another, unfortunately, common reason for employees leaving, which cannot always be controlled by managers, is an employee not getting along with a team member. Occasionally, people clash and as much as you can attempt to help them get along and, where possible prevent them crossing paths, the outcome can be that one member of staff decides to leave. It is an unfortunate circumstance, but it does happen.

These are just some of the things that, on reflection, can be out of a manager’s control, or perhaps should not be in their remit to begin with. I strongly believe that the happiness of staff is not down to a single person but each individual in the team and each factor of the role. I have had many instances where my manager has been incredible and I have had the utmost respect for their work and their methods, but yet I have left and I would hate to think the blame ever landed on their desk.

In one particular role, it was the conflicting pay compared to product price, the fact I had to pay four times a year for my own uniform – which meant giving the majority of my paycheck each season back to the company – and the very high store manager turnover, that meant I left. In such a case it was certainly the company that I left, my manager however was brilliant.

I can see where people are coming from, managers play a huge role in the fulfilment of their employees but it is unfair to use this statement to explain each leaver and to take the weight off other factors, which without addressing could lead to higher staff turnover.

The sun’s shining, engagement is rising

We have been loving the nicer weather this week. The sun shining through our office windows, and the radiators being switched to off, we women have broken out the sandals and the men are rocking casual shorts. There’s something about the brighter days and warm sunshine that just makes life better.

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photo credit to soulrevivalreflexology.co.uk

But it turns out that the benefits of the sun on workers is more than just a happier mood (and laid back clothing). Studies reveal that employees are more productive and are less likely to suffer from health problems.

Considering sick leave costs the UK £29billion per year, improved health can only be a good thing for businesses and employees alike.

It’s also been suggested that employees are more willing to go in to work in the first place, can be more focused and aware, and work faster to complete deadlines. It seems much of this research also suggests a lack of overall negative effect on workers, indicating that the sun enables workers to be more productive but continue to also feel more awake, rather than suffering from an increased risk of burn-out.

It’s important that managers take this opportunity to encourage workers to take their lunch breaks away from the office and make the most of the weather. I know, I for one, have been making the most of it, spending my lunch breaks absorbing the sun while it lasts, after all it is England!

But just remember the sun cream, otherwise it won’t be burn-out but rather sun-burn that’s effecting employees.

An honest look into gender equality

As I’ve got older I’ve started thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman, what it’s like compared to 100, even 50 years ago and whether ‘equality’ as envisioned has been reached.

The more I think about it the more confused I feel about our world. Young women as they grow up, whether that be in western countries or not, whether they be rich or poor, all go through something that many men do not understand, that we ourselves do not understand for many years and perhaps never wholly do.

From my own experience I worry the terms ‘feminism’ and ‘gender equality’ are being thrown around without much thought to how important they really are, how crucial it is for us to get it right.

It saddens me that many in my own family, men and women alike, claim that we have reached equality or that feminism has done us no good, only making our lives harder. And whilst I agree to some extent, I think these attitudes are all too common and are damaging advancement.

When I say I agree with those statement, I agree with them in context, meaning that indeed we have furthered equality since the 60s and 70s when members of my family think back to. It is hard to argue we have come nowhere in the last 40/50 years.

Equally some feminism has harmed society. There is ongoing debate about working mothers, to breastfeed or not to breastfeed. I have heard many a time ‘Pankhurst didn’t fight for women to stay at home with the kids, cooking and cleaning for her husband.’ But in each argument they miss the crucial phrase ‘unless they want to.’ Feminists fought for women to have the right to choose, not to be dictated to.

Feminism now discusses a lot around men and their right to choose, about over masculinisation and gender constraints.

A funny argument I had with three men in my family regarded one particular movement that is encouraging men that it’s okay to cry. Two claimed it is merely aggressive feminisation whilst only one understood that it’s not about forcing men to start crying but rather, that it is okay to, that it does not make you less of a man, as, shockingly, this is still seen as taboo by many. This one in three presents exactly why we have a problem.

One of those same two men also claimed that harassment of women no longer exists, but more worrisome was that the one that found the sense before claimed that street harassment such as wolf whistling was complimentary. I find it baffling and saddening that two men with daughters do not see the issue of this.

What saddens me more is that they are not alone.

We live in a world where at the age of 16 a male teacher made me change my clothes on a school trip because my appearance was ‘distracting’. When asked what he meant he explained my boobs were too visible (I was wearing a crew neck shirt). Why was a 30 year old teacher distracted by his barely legal student?

We live in a world where, when a boy forcefully tried to grab my breasts, a passing man winked and said ‘women – say no, mean yes.’ rather than try to help me. We live in a world where many women are afraid to walk home alone at night, where we check the back seat of our cars before getting in when it’s dark, where we can’t set a drink down without keeping an eye on it. A world where men are often oblivious to these things that are second-nature to us.

We live in a world where rape is still the fault of the victim, where many would rather stay silent than face the comments, the questions, the looks. We live in a world where rape is the topic of discussion, as though it is up for it.

We live in a world where a lot of a woman’s value is still placed on her makeup and clothing. And yet, in this world, we still hear arguments that we have reached equality, that feminism is unnecessary, that these things do not harm our societies.

As a woman who has lived through comments of being ‘one of the lads’ because I like gaming and playing rough, where I was branded a ‘tom boy’ because I liked sports over barbie, and where the amount of sexual harassment I have been subjected to since I was a child damaged my self-esteem and my mental stability, I can safely say we are a long way off. This is not a world in which equality has been reached and it is not a world in which we are safe to be individuals rather than genders, races, or sexual orientations. And I think it’s well past time that changed.