Press release:

New study: Bad managers and toxic work culture causing one in three staff to walk

Monday 16 October 2023

A groundbreaking new study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in partnership with YouGov exposes the damage that bad managers are inflicting on their organisations and the wider UK economy, and describes good management as ‘an insurance policy against toxic workplace cultures’. 

  • This research reveals that one in three people, both managers and workers, have left jobs because of a negative work culture
  • Half of those who say their bosses are ineffective plan to quit within the next year
  • Managers have a deep impact on employees, including on their motivation, satisfaction, and likelihood of leaving their job
  • 82% of workers entering management positions have not had any formal management and leadership training, adding to the UK’s stock of “accidental managers.”
  • Managers with formal training are significantly more likely to call out bad behaviour or report concerns or wrongdoing compared to those who have not had any training
  • Ann Francke OBE, the CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said that the report was “a wake-up call for a low-growth, low-productivity, and badly managed Britain to take management and leadership seriously”.

London - A landmark study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has revealed for the first time the scale of damage being caused to the UK economy by the lack of training within Britain’s managerial ranks.

The findings from the UK’s leading body for management and leadership, conducted in partnership with YouGov — Taking Responsibility: Why UK plc needs better managers — are based on conversations with over 4,500 UK workers and managers and set out the impact that bad management is having on businesses, public services, and the wider economy.

The study comes after several UK employers have been rocked by scandals and accusations of toxic workplace cultures, while the UK’s productivity and growth continues to lag behind other advanced economies.


The damaging impact of untrained, ineffective managers

While one in four people in the UK workforce holds a management role, only a quarter of workers (27%) describe their manager as ‘highly effective’. This failure of management is having an outsize impact on employees’ likelihood to leave their jobs, their motivation in their current role and their satisfaction with their pay.

Of those workers who do not rate their manager, half (50%) plan to leave their company in the next year, only a third (34%) feel motivated to do a good job and only one in four (25%) are happy with their overall compensation.


Headline findings include:

  • Management training is an insurance policy against a toxic workplace culture. Managers who have had training are significantly more likely to have reported concerns or wrongdoing at work than those who have not undergone formal training in management and leadership.
  • Parents are suffering discrimination. A third of managers believe that those with caring responsibilities are less likely to be promoted.
  • Hybrid workers are losing out in career stakes. One in three UK managers believe that people who spend more time in the office are more likely to get promoted. This despite managers and workers both considering flexibility in where they work to be even more important than pay in the organisation where they work.


 ‘Accidental managers’ 

One of the central findings from the report is the UK's proliferation of untrained managers who are promoted into management positions simply because they are popular, good at their job, or happen to be available to take charge. The report reveals that 82% of managers who enter management positions have not had any proper management and leadership training – they are “accidental managers”.

According to the research these “accidental managers” are often promoted for the wrong reasons, with nearly half of managers surveyed (46%) believing colleagues won promotions based on internal relationships and profile, rather than their ability and performance.

The study also reveals huge divides among managers across gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds. Male managers (22%) were significantly more likely than women (15%) to say they had already learned enough about management, and managers from lower socio-economic backgrounds (57%) were more likely than managers from higher socio-economic backgrounds (48%) to say that they didn’t have management and leadership qualifications.

Managers from white ethnic backgrounds were also more likely to say that their manager treats them fairly and with respect (81%), compared to those from non-white ethnic backgrounds (70%).

These failures in management come amid months of high-profile media reports of bad behaviours in cherished institutions where serious wrongdoing, mismanagement, and toxic cultures have been exposed.


Fixing the failings – the power of highly-trained, skilled managers

The research found a consistent link between strong, highly trained managers and more effective organisations.

A higher proportion of trained managers said that they ask their team members for feedback, are more comfortable with managing big changes, and also employ emerging technology to improve efficiency.

Great managers also engender loyalty in their people. A large majority (72%) of those workers who rated their manager as effective felt valued and appreciated. This figure dropped to just 15% when the manager was rated as ineffective.

Good management also drives improved productivity. Previous CMI research shows that organisations that invest in management and leadership development programmes see, on average, a 23% increase in organisational performance and a 32% increase in employee engagement and productivity.



In response to the research, Ann Francke OBE, the CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said that the report was “a wake-up call for a low-growth, low-productivity, and badly managed Britain to take management and leadership seriously.”

“The picture of the UK economy in recent years has been a seemingly relentless drip feed of entrenched challenges, from stalled productivity, labour shortages, skills gaps, to instances of shocking behavioural failings by individuals and organisations that have catapulted the UK into the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

“Promotions based on technical competence that ignore behaviour and other key leadership traits are proving - time and time again - to lead to failings that cause damage to individuals and their employers, not to mention the wider economy’s performance.

“But a more optimistic future is within sight. By investing in management, the UK has the opportunity to set a positive trajectory that can deliver a growing economy, invigorated public services and a healthy, inclusive society driven by good management and leadership.

“On a very practical level, skilled managers should be seen as a reputational insurance policy - they will help prevent toxic behaviours, they will call out wrongdoing and they will get the best out of their teams.”


- Ends -

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Notes to editors

CMI commissioned the leading polling organisation YouGov to look at the state of UK management and leadership. The managers’ survey fieldwork was undertaken between 8–14 June 2023. The survey was carried out online and was fully completed by 2,524 employees with management experience.

The workers survey fieldwork was undertaken between 5–12 June. The survey was carried out online and fully completed by 2,018 employees with no management experience.

In addition, CMI also undertook some research with managers who are members of CMI to get some insights into the qualities and impact of a good manager. The workers survey fieldwork was undertaken online between 15 June and 6 July and fully completed by 1,030 CMI managers.