The Squeezed Middle: Why we should be hugging and not squeezing line managers

Bajorek Z |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Feb 2020

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It is clear why organisations want line managers to do a good job – the implications of high sickness absence, presenteeism, low productivity and unwanted turnover are very costly and organisations, especially in a tight labour market, want to hold on to their best workers. However, with the ‘squeeze’ in roles that line managers have, do they have the opportunity to do a ‘good job’ and are we providing them with sufficient support?

ONS statistics highlight that mental health related sickness absence is still reported as one of the main reasons for why employees take time off work, and OECD productivity levels indicate stubbornly low (or lack of) productivity growth since the recession of 2008. A number of explanations have been put forward to suggest why this could be the case, with poor quality ‘management’ often being blamed.  But managers are employees too, and if we want to get the most out of managers, is it time that we stopped squeezing them too much? 

This paper looks at the critical role of the line manger and considers:

■ What do line managers actually do?

■ What is the current evidence about line management effectiveness?

■ How do we get the best out of line managers?