British employees feel misunderstood

Half of the UK’s workforce feels misunderstood by their bosses, according to new research*. What’s more, more cash is not the solution to this dilemma.

The new study, which surveyed over 2,000 workers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, found that 50 per cent of UK employees feel their employers don’t understand them or their potential – higher than the European average of 46 per cent. The survey also showed that 40 per cent of UK workers are unhappy with the quality of leadership – again showing a significant disconnect between employees and employers.

UK employees were some of the most likely in Europe to feel this way, with only France reporting slightly figures where 52 per cent saying they feel misunderstood by their employer. This was followed closely by Italy (48 per cent) and Germany (46 per cent), while the Netherlands reported the most positive results with only a third stating such feelings (35 per cent).

However, UK and European employees are more likely to feel their direct reports understand them better, with 61 per cent reporting that their managers know and support them, and want to see them succeed. This shows that those working more closely together enjoy better relationships, which in turn is likely to lead to better quality of work and greater productivity. The lesson for businesses is that close relations between all staff, regardless of seniority, matter.

These findings are supported by other aspects of the study which demonstrate what motivates employees, what keeps them happy and engaged at work, and what makes them want to stay. For example, the research found while cash is the primary motivator for UK workers, over a third (38 per cent) say they go to work for other reasons such as personal development, job satisfaction and workplace relationships.

Evaluating where a lack of motivation can turn into disengagement, the study also found that 41 per cent of UK employees feel like quitting at least every few months – significantly higher than the European average of 28 per cent. Two-fifths (19 per cent) consider it on a weekly basis or more, again considerably higher than the European average of 13 per cent.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director at ADP UK, commented,


This research points to a worrying issue: British bosses do not truly understand their people and what they could offer businesses. If employees don’t feel valued and understood, they are far less likely to be engaged in their role and productive in their work. As this research shows, money isn’t always the primary motivator for many people, and workers are often motivated by more personal reasons such as work relationships and career growth.

Phipps continued: “While it requires time and investment, which employers may feel reluctant to give when they don’t see direct returns, it is always important to invest attention and effort in understanding employees. This allows businesses not only to learn how to utilise their talent in the best way possible, but to ensure employees feel their potential is realised and feel motivated to do their best work. Employers who fail to do this risk a disengaged workforce that doesn’t deliver, and potentially a high turn-over of staff.


  • The study was carried out by ADP (Automatic Data Processing).





Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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