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Managers Get the Blame for Workers Who Don't Know Roles

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In your career, are you in the loop -- or in the dark?

Surprisingly, many career professionals say they're in latter, dimly lit category. A Florida State University study of 750 blue- and white-collar workers says that 80% of respondents say they don't know fully what they're accountable for at work.

The study says that while every employee is accountable for something, only a handful are certain what that is.

That's not only bad news for employees, who grow frustrated without clear objectives and find it harder to climb the career latter; it hurts companies too, since they lose money from less productivity with all of those "in the dark" staffers.

"It seems the more that communication is needed, the less likely it is provided -- no wonder so many employees feel completely lost at work these days," says Wayne Hochwarter, a business professor at Florida State and lead researcher on the study.

"When employees aren't sure what's expected of them, the results simply just cannot be positive, especially when the complexity of work and the pace of change is taken into consideration," adds Allison Batterton, a research associate at the university who helped on the report.

There is plenty of clarity on whom workers blame for their accountability problems. The FSU report says that most staffers pin the blame on managers who can't or won't be "forthcoming" on communicating workplace responsibilities.

Executives know what they're accountable for, but the study says that knowledge and resulting effort distances them from their workers and keeps them from communicating better with their staffs.

According to Hochwarter and Batterton, only 20% of U.S. workers are "fully certain" of what's expected of them on the job on a day-to-day basis while the rest are either "somewhat" or "completely" in the dark. In addition:

  • 60% say they have higher levels of mistrust with leadership as it relates to communication.
  • 50% say they experience higher levels of overall work frustration.
  • 45% report having less control on the best way to complete their work.
  • 40% say they have higher levels of work overload.
  • 35% report fewer work accomplishments to the organization.
  • 33% say there is a greater likelihood of searching for a new job within the next year.

Altogether, those "in the dark" employees cost U.S. businesses "hundreds of millions of dollars" on an annual basis, Hochwarter and Batterton state.

They advise companies to establish formal lines of communication using technologies such email and texts to guide workers to meeting desired goals. It's also a good to idea to make accountability a priority in employee and manager job evaluations.

"Most employees want to do a good job and contribute to their organization," Hochwarter says. "Perhaps it's overly simplistic, but this can only take place when employees know what's expected. Sadly, many do not, and the situation appears to be getting worse rather than better."