A new study has shown that many office workers feel unsupported by their line managers, which has a negative impact on company culture and the bottom line of their employer.

More than one in six (17%) say it is their direct line manager that stops them from speaking up when they see something that is not right or it not working – a more common attitude among men (20%) than women (14%).

A similar number of employees (16%) also suggest they do not feel recognised for their contribution at work – an area in which line managers play a key role.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, here the situation is reversed and women (22%) are twice as likely as men (11%) to feel this way.

The study, Work Remastered, analysed more than 1,000 office-based workers across the UK and the US and was carried out by culture change consultants United Culture.

Why are line managers so important?

Alys O’Neill, director of consulting at United Culture, comments: “Line managers are the cornerstone of corporate culture. They set the tone and drive how the company behaves. That’s a mammoth responsibility, but when it’s not working it means the whole business suffers.

“If people don’t feel comfortable speaking up and suggesting new ways of working, organisations get bogged down and lose their way. Line managers have to be encouraging and supportive of their teams’ desire to improve things.

“They also have a responsibility to ensure people are recognised for their positive contributions, otherwise the business will invariably lose its best and brightest.”

Paul Diggins, Head of Internal Communications at Santander, adds: “This research absolutely rings true, both with my experience here and in previous organisations. The role the people manager plays, on a daily basis, in creating context, alignment, pride and belief in the work of their teams, and their connection to the business as a whole, can never be underestimated.

“For many, they represent ‘the business’, and it’s incumbent on every business to equip them properly to undertake that role – giving them the content and the capabilities to have meaningful conversations with their people. Particularly for topics like returning to the office, where every conversation is unique to the individual.”

The research also revealed that many office workers are unhappy with their current working patterns – another area where line managers often have a big role to play.

What about career progression and work/life balance?

A quarter (25%, rising to 30% of men) think their current working pattern hinders career progression, while around one in five (21%) feel the way they currently work negatively impacts their work/life balance. Those aged 18-24 (28%) were the most likely to feel this way.

Alys O’Neill continues: “Line managers often have at least some level of discretionary control over working patterns such as hybrid or remote working, and they certainly have a primary role to play in how teams come together and work together.

“A lot of HR teams might not realise the importance of the line manager community as both guardians of culture and drivers of business success, but that’s what they are. Training and other programmes designed specifically to help, encourage and support those people, such as mentoring, can pay big dividends in terms of improved productivity as well as overall employee wellbeing and satisfaction.”






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.