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American Workers are Anxious, Losing Sleep and Considering Jumping Ship Due to Unprepared First-Time Managers

Oji Leadership Poll finds skills deficit in newly-minted managers negatively impacts teams, careers, and business results

Oji Life Lab, the creator of mastery-centered leadership learning solutions, today announced the results of nationwide research that examined how the performance of first-time managers impacts their teams. The research, conducted with 2,066 American adults by Harris Research in June 2023, is one of the deepest investigations of the skills and impacts of first-time managers.

The Oji Leadership Poll found that 4 in 10 employees felt “stress or anxiety about going to work” due to a first-time manager, more than a third lacked motivation, and 1 in 5 had trouble sleeping as a result. These factors and others ultimately resulted in more than a third wanting to leave their companies entirely.

These impacts, with real business and human costs, are the result of new managers’ inadequate skills and training. Oji found significant skills gaps, with 4 in 10 workers rating their first-time managers as being weak at “reducing conflict”, “handling difficult situations”, “providing quality feedback”, “running a productive meeting” and “making decisions”.

Older employees were especially likely to rate first-time managers negatively with more than half of workers 55+ rating them weak on these skills. Women over 55 were the most likely to rate new managers as weak at “handling difficult situations” (62%) and “providing feedback” (59%).

For women more broadly, first-time managers had an even greater negative impact, with nearly half of all women feeling stress or anxiety when working for a first time manager, making them substantially more likely than men (40% vs. 29%) to want to leave their companies. Three in 10 workers of all genders felt working for a first-time manager had a negative impact on their relationships, either at work or at home.

Linda HillHarvard Business School professor and best-selling author of Being the Boss, commented: “In my research, I’ve seen how strong individual contributors are often promoted to management roles with little or no leadership training, with a ‘sink or swim’ philosophy. It’s no surprise that these untrained leaders often struggle in many areas, compromising the productivity and agility of their teams in these very competitive times.” Dr. Hill’s work underlies Oji’s newly-announced learning program for new managers, Oji Foundations.

Oji’s research showed a striking contrast in respondents’ opinions regarding new managers and their best managers, who were rated about twice as favorably across the same skillsets of “reducing conflict”, “handling difficult situations”, “providing quality feedback”, “running a productive meeting” and “making decisions”. Between 80-89% of workers rated their best managers as strong in each of these categories.

“We wouldn’t ask a surgeon or a pilot to learn on the job but that’s what we do every time we promote someone to be a first-time manager with no training,” said Matt Kursh, co-founder and CEO, Oji Life Lab. “It’s no surprise that these freshly-minted managers have anxious teams that want to quit; the managers are unskilled at decision-making, cultivating good communications, coaching people to success, and a range of other universal leadership skills. The good news is they can all be mastered, step-by-step.”