The growing crisis of “accidental managers”- and what you can do to avoid it

Burnout among managers is a pressing issue that’s holding back many businesses. A recent study from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and YouGov – surveying 2,524 employees with management experience and 2,018 employees with no management experience in the UK – has found that levels of workforce sickness, burnout, and economic inactivity are above pre-pandemic levels.

That presents a big challenge for managers – but many have never been taught how to handle it.

The CMI survey reveals that many managers don’t feel equipped to handle both the wellbeing and performance of their direct reports – especially when there can often be a lack of formal training and support provided to managers themselves from senior leadership.

This is leading to manager burnout, which has a knock-on effect on things like employee retention, engagement, productivity, and performance.

As a small business owner, it’s crucial to understand why manager burnout happens and what you can do to tackle it.

We’re seeing more and more clients ask questions about supporting and training managers on our 24/7 HR advice line, so we’ve rounded up our top tips in this quick article.

Why managers burn out


  • Lack of formal training: A staggering 82% of managers enter their roles without any formal management and leadership training, according to the survey. This often leads to the rise of “accidental managers” who find themselves in charge without the skills or confidence needed. Without proper training, managers struggle to lead effectively, increasing stress levels and the likelihood of burnout.
  • Confidence issues: Many managers lack confidence in their abilities. Only 19% of managers in the survey said they feel fully confident in their responsibilities without needing further development. This lack of self-assurance can lead to increased pressure and, ultimately, burnout.
  • Work culture: Work culture plays a big role in manager burnout, especially negative relationships and unsupportive environments. The report highlights that 31% of managers have left a job because of a negative relationship with their superior, and 35% have left due to a poor work culture.
  • Fear of raising concerns: Managers often hesitate to voice concerns, fearing inadequate support from their superiors. According to the report, 41% of managers didn’t raise concerns because they felt they wouldn’t get the necessary backing.

What can leaders do to address this crisis?

Invest in formal training

To combat burnout, invest in formal management and leadership training for your managers. Training equips them with the necessary skills to handle their roles effectively. It also boosts their confidence, making them feel more capable and supported.

Previous CMI research has shown that organisations that invest in management and leadership development programmes see on average a 23% increase in organisational performance, and a 32% increase in employee engagement and productivity. As well as this, managers who’ve received formal training are 83% more likely to feel confident in their abilities.

Foster a positive work culture

A strong, positive work culture can make a massive difference. Encourage open communication and create an environment where managers feel comfortable raising concerns. Recognise and address negative behaviours promptly to maintain a supportive atmosphere.

Promote work-life balance

Encourage managers to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If possible, implement policies that allow for flexible working hours and discourage excessive overtime. Regular breaks and time off are essential to prevent burnout.

Provide ongoing support and development

Regularly check in with your managers to offer support and identify any additional training needs. Continuous development opportunities can help them stay up-to-date with best practices and feel valued within the organisation.

Recognise and reward efforts

Acknowledging the hard work and achievements of your managers can go a long way. Recognition boosts morale and shows that you appreciate their efforts, fostering a sense of pride and reducing feelings of burnout.

Lead by example

Set a good example by demonstrating effective leadership and self-care. Show that it’s okay to take breaks and seek help when needed. Your behaviour will set the tone.

In summary…

Burnout among managers is an issue that requires immediate attention. By understanding the reasons behind it and taking proactive steps, you can create a healthier, more productive work environment. Investing in training, fostering a positive culture, and providing ongoing support are key strategies that can significantly reduce burnout and boost overall business performance.

Remember, a happy manager leads to a happy team, and that’s the foundation of any successful business.

But you don’t have to do it alone – our HR & Employment Law experts can talk to you about your business and give you bespoke advice to better support your managers. If you’re already an HR & Employment Law client, simply call 0345 844 4848 to speak to one of our friendly advisors.

If you’re not already an HR client and would like to benefit from this kind of support, simply call 0345 844 1111 to find out more about how we can help.

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