You can delegate authority but not responsibility that remains with the delegator. Well that was what I was taught back in the late 80’s when I was on my ISM course. However it would seem that we have stopped doing that. We have continually moved not only the authority, but also the responsibility down to the lowest level of management, Line Manager & Team Leaders. The two articles from People Management last week only go to show that to be true.
In an article by Karen Warren for People Management last week titled Stop making excuses for bad line managers she outlined this stating, “Line Managers and team leaders are responsible for many things: recognising and rewarding great work, ensuring their staff are performing well and holding them to account if they’re not, and supporting their development – either to improve their performance and wellbeing or to help them develop and progress into other roles if they want to.”
Emily Burt also wrote about Line Manager responsibility in the same publication titled Line managers ‘first port of call’ for employees with mental ill-health talking about the CIPD and Mind guidelines for improving work place mental health. The article states “The role of line managers in employee wellbeing is vital,” said Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD. “They are often the first port of call for someone needing help, and are most likely to see warning signs of poor mental health among employees.”
I have to wonder how much of the work of Senior Managers, HR and Occupational Health Experts is now being abdicated, yes abdicated, further down the management structure to the lowest management levels. Could this be down, in the case of HR at least, to the fact that CIPD has been driving the profession further and further towards what it sees as the good stuff, the sexy stuff, Strategy, the thinking part, while it continues to neglect the operational side of the profession and those working within it?
Yes Line Managers/Team Leaders are the first people who are likely to spot problems, but they have not been suitably trained and developed (in a lot of cases), to actually do their main job, let alone have the training required to apportion a causal effect to a change in a team members behaviour. They definitely haven’t had the training to actually deal effectively with it and nor have the vast majority of HR, Health & Safety and other more senior managers. Add to that they are for the most not recognised or suitably remunerated for taking on these types of responsibilities.
Yes irritability and other mood changes in individuals in a managers team is usually spotted quite quickly by them. Attributing a causal effect is much harder, takes years of experience and asking them to effectively diagnose it is something they neither have the skills, training or experience to do, not to mention the time on top of all their other responsibilities. It is hard enough for skilled, trained and experienced people to get those suffering from mental health issues to open up and talk. It can take hours of gentle persuasion to do so. Have Line Managers and Team Leaders the actual time on top of everything else to do this in a way that is beneficial to the team member?
Warren goes on to re-state that the majority of our Line Managers were given their jobs and just expected to get with it. Most are actually given the role because they are great at the job they were doing, with no training before taking on the role and scant training thereafter. How is this still possible?
How long has CIPD and other professional bodies been championing the need to better train existing Line Managers and to encourage organisations to develop people who have the attributes to become effective ones, before they are actually needed to fill those roles, in effect developing talent pipelines. My observations so far are that we have moved on very little since the time this issue was first raised.
During that time we have expected them to take on addition responsibilities including first line HR, Health & Safety, Training & Development, Reward & Recognition and now we want to add Wellbeing including Mental Health. Warren says “Stop making excuses for bad line managers.” I actually think the vast majority of them are doing the best that they can and getting scant thanks for it.
How often have we heard that stress is one of the main causes of ill-health at work?
I don’t think a week goes by without an article somewhere being published on the subject. As we keep abdicating these authorities and responsibilities down the management levels we are actually increasing the stress levels of Line Managers. They are now the ones senior managers expect to deal with it from not only their managers perspective but also from their team members as more senior managers within our organisations make it obvious to them that they don’t deal with that, speak to your line manager they will help you.
Personally I think it is time to review the function of Line Managers, their roles and responsibilities. It is time that organisations reassess the training and development that line managers require to carry out the roles they are being asked to do. It is also time for senior managers and directors to stop abdicating and take some responsibility back. Take on the burden of some of the additional stress we have been putting on them and realise our part in getting to this situation in the first place.
Who is responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of our line managers, or are we saying they are responsible for that themselves?