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Robot managers ‘just follow the rules’

Chartered Management Institute | Chartered Management Institute

3 min read Partner content

Workplaces dominated by rules, bureaucracy and targets mean that managers are switching off their sense of care for others, according to a new report.

CMI(the Chartered Management Institute) and MoralDNA said as a result “too many managers are robotically following rules rather than making decisions with their hearts and minds”.

The report, Managers and their MoralDNA, follows City scandals over mis-sold debt, PPI and rate fixing, plus crises in the NHS and the police, damaging public trust and employee engagement alike.

It finds that 74% of managers are at risk of overlooking the impact of their decisions at work on others – 28% more than among the general population.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, said: “Too many employers fall into the trap of relying on ever-more complicated layers of rules and regulations to say what their people can and can’t do.

“The result is that people act like robots at work, using the letter of the law as an excuse not to engage their hearts and heads when making decisions.

“We need to stop blindly following rules and start caring about the impact our actions.

“To be successful, organisations have to meet the needs of their customers, employees and stakeholders.

“If the values and behaviours of those managing and leading organisations are out of kilter with those groups, they won’t be run in a way that properly serves customers and stakeholders or gets the best out of employees. In short, they’re destined to fail.”

The report shows that the general population can be divided almost equally into six different ethical character types – Philosophers, Judges, Angels, Teachers, Enforcers and Guardians – according to how far their approach to ethical matters is driven by their hearts, heads or compliance with rules.

Analysis of managers’ morals revealed marked differences, with higher numbers of Enforcers, Judges and Philosophers (74%) and much smaller proportions of Angels, Teachers and Guardians (25%).

As a result, there are significantly more (28%) people in management roles who may lack empathy when making decisions and fail to consider the impact of their choices on the wellbeing and interests of customers, colleagues or shareholders. Conversely, there are less than half as many managers in the Angels and Teachers categories – which have a stronger ethic of care – than among the general population (14% of managers compared to 36% of the general population).

The situation is exacerbated by an over-representation of Enforcers (22% of managers compared to 15% in the general population). This ethical character type, which tends to remind everyone else about their duty to obey regulations, can be particularly guilty of blindly following rules and can lose sight of the principles behind their actions.

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