A global study from Walking the Talk, titled Managing Behaviours in the Workplace, surveyed 745 people including 189 leaders, and found that only 34% of those in leadership roles believe they are able to influence or alter the behaviour of employees.
This is despite the fact that 78% of leaders thought their organisation had adequately equipped them with the skills needed to have a positive influence on others. And despite 86% feeling confident in creating the right atmosphere to allow workers to behave appropriately. The research suggested this contradiction is due to leaders being more comfortable operating at a macro level – for example putting in place frameworks and policies – rather than dealing with the more human element of individuals’ behaviour.
When it came to who should be held responsible for employee behaviour, 76% thought leaders should always be aware of what their employees are doing, and 69% agreed that leaders should be held accountable for the behaviour of people working for them.Walking the Talk - Managing Behaviours Report
When asked at what point leaders become responsible for employee behaviour, 19% said they should always be accountable no matter what the situation. One in five (21%) thought it should start when a group of employees have behaved poorly at least once before, and 27% saw the responsibility starting when employees have behaved badly on more than one occasion.
Amanda Fajak, European regional director of Walking the Talk, highlighted the importance of leadership when it comes to creating culture. “Leaders shape the context in which their people operate,” she said. “They encourage, discourage or tolerate certain behaviours and in doing so they set the standards, explicitly and implicitly, of what it is acceptable to say and do in their organisations.
“It follows, therefore, that if they create a culture that encourages or tolerates inappropriate behaviour they should be held responsible for the consequences.”
Fajak added that the research suggests a need for distributed leadership in organisations. “[This shows a need] for having a strong cadre of leaders who are aware of the responsibility they have for setting the tone and for managing behaviour and, crucially, who are equipped with the skills and tools to discharge this responsibility,” she said.
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