Managers are feeling wedge between leadership & employee expectations


More than half (54%) of the managers surveyed said their leadership is out of touch with employee expectations; and 74% said they, as managers, don’t have the influence or resources they need to make changes on behalf of their team.

Of the many things we've learned in the past few years, one thing that stands out is how important managers are when it comes to inculcating and promoting a healthy culture at work. After all, they are seen as the bridge of communication between the leadership team and employees, and play an even bigger role in how connected employees feel to the company.

However, managers across the globe are feeling stuck between what their leadership expects of them, as well as new employee expectations today, Microsoft's Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work report has found. 

Why? As a start, more than half (54%) of the managers surveyed said their leadership is out of touch with employee expectations; and 74% said they, as managers, don’t have the influence or resources they need to make changes on behalf of their team.

The source of this tension is clear as business leaders seek a return to what once was, it was highlighted. In particular, 50% of respondents said their company already requires, or plans to require, full-time in-person work in the year ahead, even though about half (53%) of the employees involved in the survey are considering going hybrid or remote. 

As a result, managers are feeling powerless to drive change for their team. 

Key takeaways

No doubt, managers are a critical bridge between evolving employee expectations and leadership priorities. If empowered, they hold the key to unlocking the potential of hybrid work. Thus, to help them on the journey, leaders must equip them with the resources and training they need to manage the transition.

"While policy is set at the top, leaders need to decentralise decision-making and empower managers to make the change on behalf of their employees’ individual needs," it was noted in the report.

In addition to this, the report showcased other key trends in today's hybrid world of work:

Employees have a new "worth it" equation

"Work is only a part of life. It shouldn’t be your whole life or the only thing you care about."

"I can still be successful at work, but I need to make more balanced decisions to pursue my own interests."

These affirmations by two respondents in the survey is one that would resonate with almost everyone. While some may still not be walking the talk on it, many of us are moving in the right direction, as the report has shown.

This comes as another impact of the past two years —a shift in our priorities, identities, and view of the world, pushing us to draw a line between what's important and what's not. As a result, employees’ "worth it" equation — what people want from work and what they’re willing to give in return — has changed. The power dynamic is shifting, and perks like free food and a corner office are no longer what people value most.

Per the Microsoft study, 47% of respondents said they are more likely to put family and personal life over work than they were before the pandemic. In addition, 53% — particularly parents (55%) and women (56%) — said they’re more likely to prioritise their health and wellbeing over work than before. 

Breaking down the respondents by region, those in Asia/the Pacific islands were the second-most likely to say so (57%), just after those in Latin America (70%); and ahead of those in North America (52%), Europe (44%), and Australia/New Zealand (48%).

With these in mind, employees are acting on their newfound priorities. In 2020, 17% of people left their jobs, and this percentage increased slightly to 18% in 2021. The top five reasons employees quit were: personal wellbeing or mental health (24%), work-life balance (24%), risk of getting COVID-19 (21%), lack of confidence in senior management/ leadership (21%), and lack of flexible work hours or location (21%).

Interestingly, 'not receiving promotions or raises I deserved' landed in number seven on the list at 19%, further illustrating the shift in priorities.

Key takeaways

As employees' priorities continue to shift, the best leaders will create a culture that embraces flexibility and prioritises employee wellbeing — understanding that this is a competitive advantage to build a thriving organisation and drive long-term growth. 

Leaders need to make the office worth the commute

As the world shifts more fully into hybrid work, the biggest opportunity for business leaders is to reimagine the role of the office and create clarity around why, when, and how often teams should gather in person.

According to the survey findings, more than one-third of employees on a hybrid work model said their biggest challenge is knowing when, and why, to come into the office. Yet, just 28% of companies have established team agreements to clearly define the new norms. 

At the same time, over four in 10 (43%) of remote workers felt left out of meetings, but only 27% of companies have created new hybrid meeting etiquette to ensure that everyone feels included and engaged.

"Making the office work for all employees will take radical intentionality. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach: Experiment with 'Team Tuesdays' or in-person office hours between 12pm and 2pm, two days a week. Consider quarterly offsites that bring far-flung teammates together regularly. The key is for managers to provide clear guidance to employees as they experiment and learn what works for the team," it was suggested in the report. 

Key takeaways

Leaders must establish the why, when, and how of the office. This means defining the purpose of in-person collaboration, creating team agreements on when to come together in person, defining hybrid meeting etiquette, and rethinking how space can play a supporting role.

Organisations that fail to grasp the new intentionality required to define the role of the office risk missing out on the true benefits of hybrid work.

Brief methodology

The Work Trend Index survey, published in Microsoft's Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work report, was conducted by an independent research firm, Edelman Data x Intelligence, among 31,102 full-time employed or self-employed workers across 31 markets between 7 January 2022 and 16 February 2022. At least 1,000 full-time workers were surveyed in each market, and global results have been aggregated across all responses to provide an average.

APAC markets involved in the study: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Lead image / 123RF

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