A controlling and inflexible leadership style is making U.K. employees feel powerless and devalued, according to global research by workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner. The findings reveal that 41 per cent of U.K. employees have their working time strictly monitored with 39 per cent admitting that leaders are always watching whether they’re on task during work hours. A mere 53 per cent are given freedom in how they accomplish their work, and when workplace flexibility is provided, it’s all too often given to a limited number of job roles or ‘favourite employees’.

These are the findings from O.C. Tanner’s 2024 Global Culture Report which gathered data and insights from more than 42,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and executives from 27 countries worldwide including 4,818 from the U.K.

Robert Ordever, European MD of O.C. Tanner says, “Work realities have shifted over the past few years. Employees now expect some level of flexibility and autonomy over their working day, including the tasks they focus on, and when and how they accomplish them. Whether they work behind a desk, on a construction site or in a factory, employees need to feel empowered and considered, not micromanaged. Unfortunately, there are still leaders who believe power and control gets things done, signalling high levels of distrust and a lack of care.”

The report reveals the damaging impact of a command-and-control leadership style, with employees that have little or no flexibility in their roles feeling that their opportunities for personal and professional growth are limited. 38 per cent of U.K. employees even admit to having their break times strictly monitored, making them feel undervalued and mistrusted, with burnout and exhaustion more likely. In fact, burnout is five times’ more likely when employees are dissatisfied with their level of flexibility at work.

The recommendations from the report include giving every employee some level of job flexibility and influence, while recognising the limitations of certain job roles. It’s not possible to stock shelves or drive a truck from home. However, leaders can still empower employees, such as by adjusting work schedules, accommodating changing life circumstances, providing time for personal appointments, and giving employees a greater say over their workload.

As it stands, organisations commonly provide job flexibility to some but not all employees with 56 per cent of U.K. employees saying that flexibility is not available in the same way across all job roles. Plus, 36 per cent admit that leaders only allow ‘favourite employees’ to be given flexibility and freedom in their role.

Ordever adds, “Providing all employees with some level of autonomy and flexibility at work is key, ensuring they feel seen and valued, which in turn leads to thriving workplace cultures and better business outcomes.”