A rigid and controlling leadership style is leaving U.K. employees feeling powerless and devalued, according to new global research by workplace culture expert O.C. Tanner.

The findings reveal that 41 percent of U.K. employees have their working time strictly monitored, with 39 percent admitting that leaders are constantly checking if they are on task during work hours.

Only 53 percent of employees are given the freedom to determine how they accomplish their work. When workplace flexibility is provided, it is often limited to specific job roles or ‘favourite employees’.

These findings are part of O.C. Tanner’s 2024 Global Culture Report, which collected data and insights from over 42,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and executives across 27 countries, including 4,818 participants from the U.K.

Flexibility and autonomy are now expected

Robert Ordever, European Managing Director of O.C. Tanner, stated, “Work realities have shifted over the past few years. Employees now expect some level of flexibility and autonomy over their working day, including the tasks they focus on and when and how they accomplish them. Whether they work behind a desk, on a construction site, or in a factory, employees need to feel empowered and considered, not micromanaged. Unfortunately, there are still leaders who believe power and control get things done, signalling high levels of distrust and a lack of care.”

The report highlights the detrimental effects of a command-and-control leadership style. Employees with little or no flexibility in their roles feel that their opportunities for personal and professional growth are limited. Also, 38 percent of U.K. employees even report having their break times strictly monitored, making them feel undervalued and mistrusted. This leads to a higher likelihood of burnout and exhaustion, with burnout being five times more likely when employees are dissatisfied with their level of flexibility at work.

What should employers do?

The report recommends that leaders should offer every employee some level of job flexibility and influence while acknowledging the limitations of certain job roles. While it’s not possible to stock shelves or drive a truck from home, leaders can still empower employees by adjusting work schedules, accommodating changing life circumstances, allowing time for personal appointments, and giving employees greater control over their workload.

Currently, organisations commonly provide job flexibility to some but not all employees, with 56 percent of U.K. employees saying that flexibility is not uniformly available across all job roles. Additionally, 36 percent admit that leaders only grant flexibility and freedom to ‘favourite employees’.

Ordever adds, “Providing all employees with some level of autonomy and flexibility at work is crucial. Ensuring they feel seen and valued leads to thriving workplace cultures and better business outcomes.”

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.