The Impact of Accidental Managers on Employee Retention: How 360 Surveys Can Make a Difference

A recent article by People Management reported that accidental managers are contributing to almost one in three workers quitting. It’s not necessarily a new issue, it’s one we’ve seen in our survey results for years. However, it has a significant impact on employee retention and highlights the importance of effective leadership in the workplace.

Introduction to Accidental Managers

An accidental manager is an individual who has been promoted based on their expertise and past performance without proper training or experience of managing people. According to People Management, they often take on the role because of the financial benefits, but they don’t necessarily have the desire to lead. The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) believes around 2.4m of 3.4m UK managers fall into this category!

accidental managers

Harvard Business Review says that when a career path to becoming a manager is unclear, result orientated and high performing employees often find themselves promoted without the people management skills.  They then tend to spend less time doing what they are good at (the reason they were promoted in the first place!) and more time trying to do something they have no experience of – managing people.

The Effects of Being Managed by an Accidental Manager

The impact of accidental managers on employee retention cannot be ignored. Studies have shown that employees who feel supported and engaged by their managers are more likely to stay with an organisation long-term.  However, when employees are led by someone who lacks the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively manage a team; when they are not properly supported and guided by their managers, they may feel undervalued, unappreciated, and disconnected from the organisation, morale can suffer, and turnover rates can increase.

Recent research by the CMI found “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.”

What can an Accidental Manager do to help Themselves?

According to Engage for Success 68% of UK manager class themselves as accidental managers. They give 8 useful tips to increase manager effectiveness:

  • Expand their skill set – courses, mentoring, reading etc.
  • Embrace diversity within teams – will bring different points of view and different ways of doing things.
  • Use the urgent/important matrix – to structure workload.
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique – break the working day into 25-minute intervals.
  • Don’t be too nice – address those who may not be pulling their weight.
  • Keep an open door – tackle difficulties before they affect the team.
  • Discover the 4 C’s – critical thinking, effective communication, creativity and collaboration should be what you are looking for in a team and manager.
  • Step up – be a role model.

What can an Organisation do to Avoid Accidental Managers?

When it comes to promotions based on skills and expertise, there’s often an assumption that it entails managing people. However, this isn’t always the case. There’s an alternative path for development to consider. For instance, implementing a pay structure where individuals are promoted only after attaining specific experience, qualifications, or training, and acquiring the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions. While people management training could be included if needed, this approach would eliminate the possibility of accidental managers.

According to the CIPD, 67% of employers utilise a pay structure which can achieve the following objectives:

  • Align the reward strategy with the employer’s mission, vision, purpose, culture, and business strategy to encourage the required behaviours and performance.
  • Bring clarity and order to managing pay rises and career development.
  • Ensure fairness and lawfulness, such as avoiding pay discrimination.

For further insights into pay structures, the CIPD offers a factsheet that can be found here.

While a pay structure may not always be feasible, it remains crucial to support individuals transitioning into management roles.

Supporting Accidental Managers with 360 Feedback Surveys

If an organisation is unable to offer a pay structure but wants to proactively support their employees, then 360 feedback surveys can be a beneficial tool for gathering feedback. A 360 survey is an anonymous feedback mechanism that gathers input from an employee’s manager, peers, direct reports, and sometimes even customers or clients. This comprehensive assessment provides a holistic view of the employee’s performance and can help identify areas for improvement, offering valuable insights into the effectiveness of managers and pinpointing areas where additional training or support may be needed.

Patterns and trends can be identified through the feedback. For instance, if multiple individuals provide feedback indicating a lack of leadership skills or inadequate communication, it may be an indication that the manager in question is an accidental manager. This information can then be used to develop targeted training and development programs to address these areas of weakness and improve overall managerial effectiveness. 

It is important to note that receiving a 360 feedback can be quite daunting. Therefore, it is advisable to offer professional support. Recipients can have one-to-one sessions with a consultant Chartered Psychologist to go through their results, identify themes, and create action plans. The Psychologist will also encourage the recipient to think about how they will carry out their action plan, providing guidance on things to consider, tasks to complete, recommended reading, and information to share with others in the workplace. In cases where there has been conflict or specific issues raised that are hard for the recipient to recognise, they can talk them through it in a supportive environment.

Conclusion: The Importance of Addressing Accidental Managers for Long-Term Employee Retention

In conclusion, accidental managers are a huge problem in the workplace and are doing damage to individual employees, teams and organisations as a whole.  They can have a detrimental effect on employee retention. However, by looking at pay/development structures and/or using 360 surveys plus providing targeted training and development opportunities, organisations can tackle this challenge. By investing in the development of people, organisations can create a supportive work environment that fosters employee engagement and long-term commitment. Taking proactive steps to address the issue of accidental managers is crucial for organisations that value their employees and strive for long-term success.

If you have concerns about the potential influence of accidental managers on employee retention within your organisation, we are here to help. Our team of skilled professionals can conduct comprehensive 360 surveys to collect valuable feedback and pinpoint areas that require improvement. Contact us today: