Retail staff, whose morale is already suffering under the weight of recession, are under further pressure from demotivating bosses.

An independent poll of 1,600 people conducted by the Keep Britain Working campaign found that in retail and sales, one in three bosses (33%) had become worse at motivating since the recession began. The only consolation was that retail bosses fared better than bosses overall, more than half of whom had become less motivational.

Retail staff complained of being made to clean toilets in place of sacked cleaners and having to endure hearing bosses talk about their bonuses while staff had taken a pay cut.

Bosses were also found to have become prone to extreme behaviours, with one in three more inclined to criticise and blame others, or fall into apathy and denial. Others had started shouting and raging. In one extreme case, a boss had even simulated firing a rifle at employees to make them work harder.

"Bosses need to realise they have a huge effect on those around them," said campaign founder James Reed. "It is their first responsibility to do more to motivate staff."

Most workers felt lack of motivation affected productivity and more than a third thought it made company failure more likely, according to the survey, based on the book How To Win Friends and Influence People by management guru Dale Carnegie .

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