A survey suggests that managers must learn to be lovable, reports Stephen Pritchard
How much do you love your boss? According to new research into workplace relationships, the answer is not that much. It is hard to feel sympathetic towards managers who say they are lonely and isolated in their oak-panelled executive dining rooms. But a survey carried out by the Leeds- based recruitment agency the Link Up Group warns that business efficiency is being harmed by the coolness of staff towards their superiors.

The survey was sent to senior managers in 290 mostly large organisations, including banks, retail chains, the utilities and the public sector. It asked managers whether staff treated them with courtesy, greeting them in the morning and saying goodbye at night.

The questionnaire asked managers whether they thought their staff adored, liked, disliked or even hated them. It also asked for more tangible evidence, including whether staff offered to make coffee or sent birthday cards to their managers.

Only 45 per cent of all respondents could say they were regularly made coffee, but a more promising 54 per cent received birthday cards. However, the picture becomes bleaker higher up the management ladder. Only 18 per cent of directors were made coffee, and just 13 per cent were sent birthday cards.

The questionnaire covered firms in eight industry sectors. The happiest bosses are in government departments and the utilities; the least loved are in retail, travel and transport. Older, more senior bosses with more than 100 staff under them were more likely to feel unloved than middle- management executives in charge of between one and five employees.

According to Larry Gould, managing director of the Link Up Group, the survey results make serious points, despite the anecdotal nature of some of the questions.

The idea for the survey came from research into the traits that make managers successful. Within the Link Up Group, Mr Gould found that the best bosses were also the most popular. "They had one thing in common: they appeared to be supported by nice, helpful people," says Mr Gould.

He decided to test his hypothesis with a wider group of managers. The research must have touched a nerve, because the response rate was among the highest ever for a survey by his company.

Mr Gould believes one reason is that managers are uncomfortable with their roles in modern, flat management structures. One group that felt especially unpopular with their staff were young, high-flying executives who managed a group of mostly older, male employees.

Modern management techniques have removed many of the formalities that once accompanied promotion, Mr Gould points out. Demarcation lines are less clear when everyone works in an open-plan office and calls each other by their Christian names. "It's equality but not equality," he suggests.

One way forward might be to restore common courtesies to office life, Mr Gould believes. He looks across the Channel for an example. "In France, people still shake hands in the morning," he says.