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Fifth of HR Professionals Say They’d Quit Job to Flee Boss


More than a fifth of HR professionals working in the UK say they’d consider leaving their current job due to poor management, according to global recruiter Randstad.

In a poll of almost 9,000 workers across the UK, 21% of HR business partners, HR managers and other professionals involved in the sector said they would leave their job because their organisation showed such poor leadership.

By contrast, 23% of accountants and finance professionals said poor management would drive them to quit – suggesting that leaders in accountancy are worse than those in HR.  Almost a quarter (24%) of customer services advisors and sales managers and executives said they would leave their current job because of the quality of management – one of the worst sectors in the country.

Ruth Jacobs, managing director of Randstad Business Solutions, said:

“Having the wrong manager can make your working life and a lot less enjoyable – and a fifth of the HR business partners and HR managers say poor leadership is making them consider leaving their job altogether.  My advice to HR professionals is, when you’re going for a job interview, don’t be afraid to ask your new boss directly what their preferred management style is.  How does it fit with your preferred style?  And, if you have more than one interviewer, watch how the hiring manager interacts with their colleagues.

“By paying attention to your potential new manager during interview will help you gain a better understanding what kind of leader they are, you wouldn’t want to leave it too late and end up with a bad boss.  Lastly, try to work out whether your new boss will be the mentor and leader you’re looking for to help drive your career forwards.  Listen to the questions they ask you and try to understand what their priorities are.  If they ask about your goals and how you plan to reach them, you can assume that they have an interest in your professional development.

“Working for a manager with no interest in your future just feels a waste of time; they should want you to succeed as much as you do.  Are they looking for someone who is going to show leadership skills and be a potential leader, or someone who will follow instructions precisely?  Look out for questions about times when you have used your initiative – or if they want to know about previous responsibilities in past jobs.  If you’re hoping to move into a more supervisory position these types of questions could be key.”

Meanwhile, only 16% of tech experts working in information, technology, and communication – including developers and cyber security professionals – complain of bad management in their organisations.  This suggests tech is one of the best run industries in the country and includes much better managers than the HR sector.  The fewest complaints come from skilled trade workers such as maintenance engineers and handymen where only 14% complain about the quality of management.

Jacobs added:

“IT is not necessarily renowned for having an incredible management culture.  But these results highlight quite how inaccurate the IT Crowd stereotype is.  Far from lacking soft skills, leaders in IT appear to have more of them than HR professionals.  The one thing IT and the wider tech sector has though, is great role models.”



The research produced some good news for HRDs.  When asked if strong management was also a reason to stay in their jobs, 24% of HR professionals said it was.  This was, however, lower than IT (25%), Sales (25%), and accountancy (31%) – as well as the national average (26%).

Ruth Jacobs continued:

“The quality of management in HR is clearly very mixed, given leadership is both a significant reason to quit and a big reason to stay.  As your career in the industry progresses, there is every chance you will be handed a management role and asked to run a team, which can take you out of your comfort zone if it’s not something you’ve done before.  Yet, you will be expected to jump straight in and demonstrate the necessary leadership skills without any hitches.

“This is a competitive industry and you need to be able to show your boss you are ready for that next challenge.  Communication is often a differentiator.  You can have many leadership skills but if your communication is a bit lacking, you will probably hit a professional ceiling.  Being able to listen and understand are vital skills for being a good leader.  Not only do you need to listen to understand a problem, you need to listen to what co-workers, or your team, say and figure out what inspires and motivates them.  You’ll need to be able to process complex and important information while also being able to lend an ear to your team members’ issues and concerns.  If you’re unable to listen effectively it can lead to costly mistakes and misunderstandings.”


Randstad’s research also suggested the UK is seeing a resurgence in the popularity of strong bosses.  The Imperial CEO, the great leader, became less fashionable with the decline in deference and various corporate scandals following Robert Maxwell’s death including Asil Nadir’s Polly Peck, the collapse of Enron under Kenneth Lay, the rescue of RBS under Sir Fred Goodwin, and the arrest of Bernie Madoff.

But that’s changing.  In the last seven years, there has been a revival in the popularity of strong leadership in the workplace.  In a long-running poll of employees working in the UK, sampling more than 62,000 people, and now in its eighth year, Randstad has tracked the attractiveness of strong leadership as a factor in influencing candidates’ views of potential employers.

In 2012, just 14% of employees said strong management was an important factor in attracting them to a new employer.  By 2014, this had risen to 15% of potential employees, rising to 17% in 2015 and 24% in 2017.  It has now risen to 28%.

Jacobs concluded:

“The rise of the visionary tech billionaire has made strong leadership fashionable again.  Elon Musk began delivery the four-door Tesla Model S in 2012.  In the same year, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, became the first woman to serve on the board of Facebook – and Ginni Rometty became the CEO of IBM.

“Mark Zuckerburg took Facebook public in 2012 – they’ve made films about him as well as Steve Jobs who propelled Apple to become the world’s most valuable publicly traded company in 2011.  James Dyson, Jeff Bezos, and Arianna Huffington have become internationally renowned leaders.  Their accomplishments and high profiles have reignited a belief in strong leadership.  It’s one of the reasons the Apprentice has been so successful.  It’s just a shame that so few of these role-models are British.”