Threat level

Survey reveals almost half of UK workers feel threatened by their bosses

Threat level

Sometimes, a piece of ‘new research’ comes along which doesn’t add much to what we already know, leaving us wondering what purpose it could possibly serve. 

However, a survey published today of 1,277 employees by development consultancy Head Heart + Brain definitely doesn’t fall into that category. That is because a rather staggering 47% of the survey’s respondents admitted to feeling ‘actively threatened’ by their boss.

Now, we all know that working for somebody else presents us with challenges, both on a professional and personal level, yet it is quite worrying indeed that almost half of Britain’s workers – albeit based on a small sample – face the additional challenge of feeling under threat from their manager.

Whilst civil servants are reported to be the most under threat workers, with 72% saying the behaviour of their boss made them feel threatened, employees in the retail sector also come out at above the average 47% figure – a significant 58% of retail personnel don’t feel safe and secure working under their superior. Squeezed in between civil servants and retail as the most threatened professions are scientists and doctors, who polled at 63% and 60% respectively.

Head Heart + Brain believes that the figures suggest the poor performance of some UK retailers – and the sector’s particularly poor set of Christmas 2012 results – are in part due to the brain-fried and threatening leadership of retail bosses. 

“In the current economic climate, both business and public sector leaders feel they have to run just in order to stand still,” explains Head Heart + Brain partner Jan Hills. “They are under immense pressure to make their organisations leaner, while also improving performance. And pressure breeds threatening behaviour if it isn’t channelled in the right way.” 

Head Heart + Brain’s survey was founded on an application of neuroscience, the study of how the brain reacts at a biological level and how these reactions impact social interactions and behaviour.

Hills adds: “Neuroscience teaches us that the best leaders consciously manage their employees in a way that makes them feel rewarded.  Feelings of reward boost engagement, boost decision making skills, and boost productivity.  It employees feel threatened, they process information less effectively and can’t perform at their best.”

She goes on to suggest that a lack of effective leadership has contributed to the current period of economic stagnation, and specifically to a widening productivity gap in the labour market. Hills urges UK bosses to get more “brain-savvy” as a way of helping to close this gap.

The full report can be accessed at

Definitely worth a read, and a ponder, if you ask us. 

Adam Pescod
Adam Pescod

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