Crisis of confidence | Middle manager confidence hits record lows, 47% of Gen Z prefers ChatGPT for career advice

Middle manager confidence hits record lows, 47% of Gen Z prefers ChatGPT for career advice

Employee confidence has dropped to an eight-year low according to research from Glassdoor, with the most severe drops for those in middle management roles.

Across all levels of seniority, the share of employee confidence fell to 45.1% in February, the lowest level since 2016, when Glassdoor started the index.

The Employee Confidence Index measures the share of U.S. employees, full-time and part-time, who have a positive six-month business outlook for their employer.

This was a further drop from the 45.7% share in January 2024.

Since early 2022, the mid-level employee group has seen the most severe drops in employee confidence, which continued in February 2024. Confidence among mid-level employees, or middle managers, has plummeted in the past 12 months, from 54.6% in February 2023 to 48.3% in February 2024.

Daniel Zhao, Lead Economist at Glassdoor, attributes the drop to “year of efficiency” mandates extending into 2024. “Middle managers are under more pressure to do more with less,” Zhao writes, citing the ongoing need for “managing demands from leaders while placating anxious employees.”

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These historic lows in employee confidence at all levels of seniority may explain, in part, findings from an INTOO and Workplace Intelligence report. According to the study of 800 HR Leaders and 800 full-time employees, close to half of Gen Z employees (47%) say the career advice they get from AI technology such as ChatGPT is better than the advice they get from their manager.

However, as the Employee Confidence Index reflects, this lack of confidence in managers is not isolated to Gen Z. A similar proportion of all employees (46%) say their manager doesn’t know how to help them with their career development.

The report also finds employees with a fair degree of support, from their manager were nearly seven times more likely to say they made a lot of career progress in the last year than those with no support. This indicates the scale of the issue if employees do not feel confident to turn to managers for support or if managers do not feel confident to support the needs of their team.

It also has severe knock-on effects on HR teams. “Employee satisfaction and loyalty is tied to the support and investment that companies offer to their employees, and even a competitive salary can't overcome that hurdle," says Mira Greenland, Chief Revenue Officer at INTOO.

Beyond Zhao’s observation that there is increasing pressure on managers to provide more support with fewer resources (including career development), the decline in confidence amongst employees, managers, and leadership can also be attributed to the impact of layoffs.

Layoffs are knocking the confidence of employees whether they are directly affected by the job cuts or not, particularly in industries such as tech, the media, and gaming where they are most prominent.

The mention of “layoffs” from tech employees in Glassdoor reviews has grown 358% in the past two years. This is higher than pandemic levels despite the fact the prevalence of layoffs was greater at this time.

Zhao attributes this inconsistency to a significant drop in the confidence of layoff ‘survivors.’ The share of employees who mention layoffs but are currently working for the employer and rate their employers’ future positively has dropped from 25% to 20% in the last year.

“This suggests that even employees who were not laid off are becoming increasingly pessimistic about their employers’ prospects whether because of their opinions of the overall economy or their direct experience with anxiety, lower morale or burnout after a round of layoffs,” says Zhao.

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