Unsupportive working cultures are leaving managers to struggle with the fallout of workplace crises, according to new research.

Most managers (94%) have faced crises during their career, but only half (55%) said they handled them professionally, according to a new report published by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

The absence of professional management ranked as a major factor in the cause of crises in the survey. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) blamed a lack of support from senior management and 68% of managers cited company culture failure as a main reason.

The most common workplace crises are significant conflict with a colleague (54%), unfair treatment (49%), closely followed by project failure (36%). Managers struggled to deal with these crises - 81% of managers said their confidence suffered as a result and almost two-thirds (63%) said their capacity to do their job suffered. This was worse on a personal level, only 36% believed they dealt with the emotional impact well and 82% of managers described this emotional impact as severe or very severe.

Ann Francke, CEO of CMI, said: “Surviving – and, in time, bouncing back – starts with destigmatising adversity and making it easier to learn lessons. We need to have more open and inclusive cultures that tolerate risk and learn from challenges. On a personal level it means learning to accept, to look forward, and to become more self-aware as a leader. We can learn as much – if not more – from defeat as from victory. Managers need to build resilience so they and those they lead, can achieve more, survive better and bounce back stronger.”

Lord Browne of Madingley, who lost his position at BP due to misrepresenting his personal circumstances, said: “The future is the only thing that matters, the past is not important. It is what it is and we move forward. Those at the top of an organisation should set the right tone, that inclusion is the single most important feature of leadership.”


  • Make it okay to fail - Failure as a step on the way to success should be the new normal. Over half of managers (52%) say the one thing that would have helped them at a moment of crisis was more support from their managers.
  • Develop risk tolerance - Don't manage risk by avoiding it. Build up risk tolerance through creating a culture geared towards accountability. Managers exposed to crises become better at managing them. Sixty-one per cent take a more proactive attitude in the future.
  • Encourage managers to accept, re-evaluate and face forward - Help managers to gain a sense of perspective by stepping outside the situation. Six in ten (57%) managers said a crisis gave them a fresh sense of perspective. Employers though should note that 38% subsequently changed jobs
  • Foster a balanced mind-set and humility - Ensure a dose of realism and measured reactions by regularly reviewing best and worst case outcomes. Over half (54%) of managers become more empathetic and self-critical after a crisis, highlighting humility and collaboration as key lessons
  • Offer mentors - Recognise the power of learning from mistakes. Just 41% of managers currently have access to a mentor. Two thirds of those that do say they were important in handling a crisis
  • Build support networks - Strong personal networks can soften the blow of a crisis. Four fifths 83% of managers agreed personal networks were helpful in dealing with adversity