Research from mental health charity Mind finds that the twin pressures of juggling junior staff workloads and meeting their bosses’ demands are putting the squeeze on middle managers with serious consequences.
Twice as many middle managers (14 per cent) have been signed-off sick for stress compared to their bosses (seven per cent), while other symptoms of the stressed middle layer include: calling in sick (16 per cent), crying at work (25 per cent) and losing their tempers with colleagues (29 per cent).
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind said: “If stress is not addressed at senior and middle levels, it is likely that it won’t be addressed lower down. If managers are bottling-up stress they may be inadvertently setting a bad example to junior colleagues and discouraging an open culture at work, which has knock on effects for both employees and the business as a whole.”
The report also finds that one of the key stress triggers is the UK’s long hours culture. On average, managers do almost twice as much unpaid overtime (42 per cent) than their junior counterparts (24 per cent), with one in 20 (six per cent) doing more than 20 hours a week.
But unpaid overtime is far more than a result of managers having huge “to-do” lists. The report reveals the vast difference in attitudes and expectations across UK workplaces. While two in five managers (41 per cent) say they’re expected to do unpaid overtime, fewer than one in five directors (17 per cent) say the same. Nearly a third (31 per cent) of middle managers say it’s the culture among staff to do unpaid overtime, compared to 17 per cent of directors.
As a result, managers’ work/life balance is suffering badly. While nearly two thirds of directors (61 per cent) say they enjoy a good work/life balance, less than half of middle managers agree (49 per cent). Middle managers are also twice as likely to feel they don’t have enough free time (24 per cent) compared with their bosses (12 per cent).
Paul Farmer continued: “Unfortunately modern business culture, especially at executive level, often discourages workers from admitting when they are overworked and overstressed. For many, admitting to stress is still too readily interpreted as a sign of weakness, which is not only counterproductive, but puts many at risk of long-term mental health issues. We’re finding that the middle layer is becoming increasingly squeezed and finding it difficult to cope.
“It’s vital that bosses and executives open effective dialogue to ensure that workloads and other problems are addressed quickly, before they spiral out of control.”
Mind is currently working with business leaders to promote “Taking Care of Business”, a campaign to improve the mental health of UK workplaces.