New Research: Where Do UK Leaders Receive the Best and Worst Ratings from Workers

Leadership Dynamics reveal industries with highest/lowest senior management approval. HR & staffing and HR consulting lead with highest ratings. Sporting goods stores rate lowest.

By: Leadership Dynamics team


5 mins

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Leadership Dynamics studies the relationship between senior management and organisational effectiveness. So if a significant indicator of performance is the alignment between leadership teams and their workforce, where can we find the highest and lowest approval ratings in the UK?

This research looked at how workers in different industries, regions and cities across the country rated their senior management teams. When confronted with a scale of 1* to 5*, most people will give middling scores somewhere between 2* and 4*, but this data looked specifically at the extremely happy and the extremely disgruntled. It identifies only those management teams doing remarkably well or exceptionally poorly in the eyes of their staff.

Since Glassdoor data goes back as far as 2007, the leadership ratings analysed in this research have been posted during several periods of crisis and uncertainty in the UK. Keep in mind that staff in the public and private sectors will have assessed their leaders on anything from how they reacted to the financial crisis, took them through austerity, their efforts to catch up with digital transformation and more recently how they responded to lockdowns and hybrid working.

Key findings:

  • Leaders in human resources have the highest proportion of workers enthusiastic about their leadership, with both Human Resources & Staffing and HR Consulting in the top 2 for ratings above 4.5* (out of 5*).
  • Sporting Goods Stores workers are the least satisfied with their management teams, with 8.11% giving their leaders a score between 0* and 1*. In fact they are 8 times more likely to give a 0-1* score than a score over 4.5*.
  • Private-sector workers in higher paid industries tend to have a more favourable view of their leaders than those in the public sector.
  • Workers in retail and “blue collar” industries such as security, building services, taxi companies and agriculture tend to rate their management at the lowest scores more than those in higher paid, office based industries.
  • Organisations in the North East & Cumbria, London and the South West, are the most likely to have leaders rated at the very top of the scale. But they are polarised. The same three regions also get high 0-1* star leadership ratings.
  • East of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have the fewest 4.5+* ratings, with the East of England the poorest performing English region at both ends of the scale.
  • Security & Protective and Retail & Wholesale are the most polarised industries; they have almost an equal number of workers extremely satisfied and extremely dissatisfied with senior management.
  • Workers in Sunderland are the most indifferent, inspiring neither enthusiasm nor much anger.

Industries with the highest and lowest leadership approval ratings

The winning management teams are in the HR and technology industries while the most disgruntled workers tend to work in organisations that are known to offer lower wages, namely retail companies, manual jobs and a mix of public sector institutions.

The Winners: HR, technology and consulting

As a sector that prides itself on understanding people, workers in Human Resources & Staffing are most likely to be extremely satisfied with their leadership teams, with 35.06% of companies in this sector holding a 4.5* rating or higher for senior management. To hammer home the HR dominance, HR Consulting came second with 22.7% of company leaders delighting their workers. Not surprisingly, leaders in HR seem to understand how to lead people better than others.

Working for a company that must always be at the cutting edge of industry and organisational strategy seems to have its benefits in terms of leadership. So it’s no wonder management teams in technology and consulting companies perform well in terms of 4.5+* ratings from their workforces. Workers in Internet & Web Services (17.79% of companies), Enterprise Software & Network Solutions (17.01%), and Information Technology (15.56%) are also all in the top 5. This might be explained by the high competition for talent in the tech industry, which means companies must form and promote an attractive culture to retain a high-performing workforce.

The Losers: Retail, manual jobs and schools

While private sector companies tend to do well in the rankings, retail is notably absent from the top and notably present in the bottom. Retail companies have famously suffered the most from the digital revolution as e-commerce has pushed down their margins, which has contributed to  the closure of many major UK chains in recent years, including Topshop, House of Fraser, BHS. Even though high-street footfall was already in decline before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a spike in store closures in 2022 with 17,145 stores going under. According to this data, the upheaval has translated to a disconnect between management and their workforces. Sporting Goods Stores and Department, Clothing and Shoe Stores are both right at the bottom when it comes to  ratings above 4.5* (at 0.98% and 1.52% respectively). Sporting Goods Stores perform particularly badly, taking both first place for their 0-1* reviews (8.11%) and last place for 4.5+* reviews (0.98%). 

Several so-called “blue collar” industries, involving more manual roles, are more likely to have strong negative views of their bosses, giving them 1 star or below. Building & Personnel Services is the second least satisfied with 7.96% of companies receiving the most negative ratings, while Agriculture (6.89%), Taxi & Car Services (6.6%) and Security & Protective (6.38%)  are all in the top 10.

Also at the bottom of the table, unsurprisingly, after years of public sector cost saving pressures, education performs poorly, with 7.73% of Primary & Secondary Schools rating their senior management between 0 and 1 star. In fact, the public sector performs poorly in general with National Services & Agencies and Government & Public Administration workers in the bottom four for 4.5+* ratings.

The table below shows rankings for all 66 industries in the data, with a column for scores above 4.5* and one for those below 1*:

How do workers view leadership regionally? 

The North East & Cumbria has the largest proportion of companies that are highly satisfied with their leadership, with 11.9% receiving a higher than 4.5* rating. The region is also home to the most leadership teams with a high approval rating at 12,510, most of them located in Middlesbrough. Digging into the data on the region’s industries, it’s evident that the main drivers are the same as the nation’s: Human Resources & Staffing (43.40%), HR Consulting (27.25%), Internet & Web Services (20.66%) and Enterprise Software & Network Solutions (19.66%).

 London has the second highest proportion of companies that are very happy with their leadership, with 11.10% receiving higher than 4.5*. The most favoured industries in the capital are Human Resources & Staffing (39.66%), HR Consulting (26.49%) and Enterprise Software & Network Solutions (18.63%), while its biggest industry is Information Technology, with 7,767 companies overall.

In third, the South West doesn’t buck any trends. Again, HR & Staffing (33.33%) and HR Consulting (23.21%) lead the table for top scores, with Internet & Web Services (18.64%) making an appearance too. The region’s security providers, wholesalers and building & personnel service organisations receive the most low scores.

The table below shows rankings for the 12 UK regions:

Looking outside of England, senior leaders in Northern Ireland inspire the least amount of enthusiasm; their organisations have the very lowest percentage of 4.5+* scores at 5.24%. And it’s a similar story in Wales where only 5.88% of organisations received top scores. 

Digging into both regional and industry data, we can see that the leaders with the very highest approval ratings in the country are those in Human Resources & Staffing in the North East with 43.4% of scores above 4.5*. The lowest leadership approval ratings are in Agriculture in Northern Ireland, with 22.22% of reviews giving a 0-1 star.

While there is often a large difference between the North and the South in terms of investment and access to talent, this doesn’t make a difference to how leadership teams are viewed by their staff. There is no clear-cut North-South divide coming out of the data. Taking an average of the percentages of top ratings for “the North”, including North East & Cumbria, North West, Yorkshire & Humber, West Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we landed on 7.25%. And an average percentage of “the South”, including the South West, London, South East, East Midlands and East of England, came to 7.46%, a negligible difference.

Cities where staff rate senior management highest

The relatively small north-eastern city of Middlesbrough comes out on top with 12.24% of organisations receiving the highest ratings; and since the vast majority of organisations (that have Glassdoor ratings) in the North East & Cumbria are located in Middlesbrough – 95% of them in fact – it’s fair to say that the industry rankings in Middlesbrough mirror its wider region. Human Resources & Staffing (43.40%), HR Consulting (27.25%), Internet & Web Services (20.66%) and Enterprise Software & Network Solutions (19.66%).

The only city that has the same results as its region, both being one and the same, is London. Coming in second with 11.10% of organisations in the capital rating their management teams above 4.5*.

In third place is Bristol with 8.79% top scores. Since Bristol accounts for 80% of the South West’s top ratings, we are supposing that they come mostly from HR, technology and consulting.

The table below shows the rankings for 31 UK cities:

As well as a north-south comparison for regions, we also looked at small versus big cities, separating out the 12 “core cities” as defined by the government. They are Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. An average of 7.41% of their organisations received a leadership rating above 4.5, compared to 6.16% of employers in the smaller 19 cities surveyed, such as Middlesbrough, Norwich and Stoke-on-Trent.

The road to leadership success

Running a successful organisation goes beyond effective administration. Leaders establish the vision of the company and have the power to bring people along with them to achieve it. They drive change, resolve conflicts and inspire their workforce. And that workforce’s opinion of senior management is influenced by a confidence in their effectiveness and the environment they promote within the workplace. 

Leadership teams can improve both their organisational effectiveness and their employee engagement at the same time, but first they need a clear and objective understanding of their strengths and areas for growth.

The Leadership Dynamics PACE test is designed to uncover an existing team’s behaviours so they can understand how they operate and how they work together through behavioural complementarity, depending on their functional role and level of market and situational experience. Each individual’s PACE report can also then be used to map out career progression with areas for leadership development. 

It is completely free to try for yourself and your team. 

More resources for building a high-performing leadership team

Explore our archive of educational resources, aimed at helping future leaders, existing leadership teams, board members and private equity investors build the best possible management teams.


  • All data gathered via Glassdoor, March 1st 2023 (

  • We’ve taken the top three largest cities by population across all 12 regions of the UK (Source: Per unique combination (Region, City, Industry) we’ve looked up how many companies have 4.5 star ratings for their senior management, and how many have 1 star or below to unveil the top industries and locations, and those that have particularly bad senior management reviews.

  • We applied a statistical test on the data collected to ensure only industries with statistically significant data/results were included in the final data set, reducing the total industries from 106 to 66.

  • The data was aggregated and analysed to reveal findings on which industries, UK regions, and cities boast the best senior management teams according to Glassdoor reviews from previous and current staff.

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