Scotland’s Senior Leadership falls short in dealing with inappropriate behaviour


A LANDMARK study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has revealed the full impact of bad management practices across the Scottish economy. The research shines a light on significant gaps in qualifications, training, and managerial effectiveness across the country.

Main Findings

  • Toxic work culture has prompted 34% of managers in Scotland to leave their previous jobs, compared to 27% of managers in Wales.
  • Managers in Scotland (37%) are more likely to think their senior leadership team is poor at identifying and dealing with toxic/inappropriate behaviour in a timely manner, compared to managers in Wales (28%).
  • More than one in five (22%) of Scottish workers believe their current manager or supervisor is ineffective. This is driving many employees to consider leaving their jobs, causing significant challenges for employers in retaining talent.

The findings from the UK’s leading body for management and leadership, conducted in partnership with YouGov — Taking Responsibility: Why UK plc needs better managers — are based on conversations with over 4,500 UK workers and managers. With more than 350 survey respondents working in Scotland, the results lay bare the effect that bad management is having on Scottish businesses, public services, and the wider economy.

The damaging impact of untrained, ineffective managers

The outsize impact of bad managers on the Scottish workforce is causing retention issues at a time of labour shortages, with 23% of all employees in Scotland planning to leave their organisations in the next 12 months. And 29% said they have left a job in the past because of bad management.

Furthermore, workers (38%) and managers (33%) have reported their organisations are performing poorly when it comes to retaining existing employees, with 34% of workers and 26% of managers also saying their organisations are not attracting new talent. 

Addressing workplace issues

Both managers and workers in Scotland identified the characteristics that make the biggest difference to their working lives with almost 2 in 5 managers (39%) and almost half of workers (46%) identifying feeling supported by their manager or supervisor as a top five characteristic that they prioritise when working for an organisation. 

Despite this, some of the UK’s largest institutions have recently been rocked by scandals and accusations around bad behaviour. A considerable portion of managers (37%) and workers (30%) in Scotland expressed dissatisfaction with their organisation’s senior leadership in identifying and dealing with toxic or inappropriate behaviour in a timely manner. Managers themselves (15%) state that they don’t feel comfortable calling out bad behaviour.

In the past year, many managers expressed disappointment with their organisations, citing poor performance in recognising and rewarding good performance (31%), and addressing staff underperformance (35%).

‘Accidental managers’

The study also exposes the overwhelming number of ‘accidental managers’ – people who enter management positions with no prior training.

While one in five people in the Scottish workforce holds a management role, half of managers lack any formal leadership or management qualifications, and more than three quarters (76%) assumed their roles without any previous formal training in management and leadership.

Adding to the problem, 29% of managers in Scotland have never received any formal management and leadership training, and 25% have not taken steps to develop their management and leadership skills in the last three years.


In response to the research, Ann Francke OBE, the CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said that the report was “a wake-up call for a low-growth, low-productivity, and badly managed Scotland to take management and leadership seriously.”

“The management situation in Scotland mirrors the wider picture we are experiencing all over the UK, where challenges from skills gaps, poor retention, to unacceptable problematic behaviours by senior, managerial staff and institutions have painted a negative image of the country in the media.”

“Inability to recognise and address workplace misconduct or staff underperformance eventually fosters discontentment among employees, leading to failings that cause damage to individuals and their employers, not to mention the wider economy’s performance.”

“Fortunately, we can ensure a better situation in the future. Through investments in effective management, Scotland has the potential to chart a positive course, one that can foster a flourishing economy, rejuvenate public services, and nurture an equitable society, all driven by the principles of good management and leadership.”

“We have to regard capable, trained managers as a reputational insurance policy – they will help prevent toxic behaviours, they will call out wrongdoing and they will get the best out of their teams.”

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