Facilitator What Goes Around Limited
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Blog: When did you last challenge wrongdoing around you?

12th Oct 2012
Facilitator What Goes Around Limited
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So the USADA report is out and it makes it abundantly clear that the sport I enjoyed watching for years has been a dirty cheating farce (like I didn’t already know right?).

The situation surrounding Lance Armstrong is a great example of the danger of a typical hierarchy. The person at the top takes ultimate responsibility, sure. And what happens when that person is operating on the wrong side of the tracks? Very few people question them, and those who dare are often quickly silenced or dismissed. In the UK another altogether more sickening story is unfolding around the late Jimmy Savile. I’ve no wish to go into the details but it seems to be another example of what can happen when a ‘cover up’ culture and a powerful, influential person come together. If your company surveys its employees – I wonder how closely you and others look at the responses to questions like ‘It’s OK to speak up around here’? I’ve seen data from tens of thousands of responses which shows that over a five year period, negative responses to questions like the ‘speak up’ one, and similar ones about managing change well and keeping things simple are on the rise. Moral responsibility A challenge we have when times are tough, is that it can feel even harder to speak up for fear of reprisals and possibly losing your job. So we let stuff go. Stuff we know to be wrong, and the uncomfortable reality is that when the truth comes out, those who saw yet said and did nothing share at the very least, a slice of the moral responsibility. Last July, Rick over at FlipChart Fairy Tales wrote a great post when News International was under the spotlight for phone hacking, and it in he says that: 'When companies get caught doing things that are illegal or immoral, they often try to individualise the problem, expecting us to believe that it was just one or two bad apples in an otherwise decent organisation. Investment banks blame rogue traders , newspapers blame rogue journalists. 'It’s all rot, of course. High performance cultures, by definition, monitor performance. Their managers might not know exactly who has done what but they set the targets and they know what people do to achieve them.' It’s all very well plastering posters with company values like ‘Openness’ ‘Honesty’ and ‘Transparency about the place, but do they really accord with ‘the way stuff gets done around here’? If they don’t, you might as well take down the posters, roll ‘em up and use them to gag those who might dare to challenge the status quo. When was the last time you saw something you knew to be wrong happening around you? And what was your reaction? Doug Shaw is head of employee and customer engagement consultancy, What Goes Around. We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section.

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By SBoot
15th Oct 2012 17:55

Over the years as a HR professional I have often spoken up whenever I have seen unfair treatment and attempts to cover up but often been a lone voice.  This was harder to do when in-house as any attempt to present a moral/ethical rather than pragmatic commercial perspective has been labelled as 'pink and fluffy' and lead to being marginalised and career prospects thwarted.  One particular situation involved speaking up to support an employee after she reported allegations of fraudulent behaviour by her senior manager, which were not taken seriously.  The manager simply denied any wrong doing when asked informally about it. His seniority compared to her's meant she was not believed and nothing was put in place to monitor the situation.  The employee later experienced racial abuse within her team but due to her previous attempts to whistleblow her allocated HR Manager refused to take her allegations seriously, fearing falling out of favour with the senior manager who was the subject of the earlier whistleblowing attempt.  The matter was instead escalated to raise counter-allegations against the employee of 'insubordination' for refusing to attend a meeting at which the same senior manager would be presiding. She was issued unfairly with a final warning and I was then asked to hear her appeal with the CEO.  The employee and her TU representative approached me prior to the appeal hearing to seek assurance that the appeal hearing would be neutral and provided evidence of racial discrimination which had been rejected by my HR colleague who failed acknowledge her own unconscious bias as well as lacking the courage to challenge local management.  The Senior Manager fearing I would overturn his earlier decision privately threatened me not to advise the CEO on this basis (which I refused to do) but when I attempted to bring balance to the appeal hearing I found the Manager had already lobbied the CEO who was more concerned to stand by his senior manager's earlier decision than judge the matter on the facts and keep an open mind.  The CEO also used bullying tactics to intimidate me before the appeal hearing but during the hearing I did the best I could to allow the TU official to make his representations and took comprehensive notes of the hearing which the CEO did not approve me of doing  as the notes showed the inherent bias and pre-judgement.  When the appeal was not upheld the employee lodged an ET claim and the case was settled on the first day of the hearing as the TU Representative disclosed I was willing to appear as a witness. Since this incident I have preferred to work independently with organisations who truly want an independent, fair and evidenced based investigation, although it is an arena not without its own challenges.

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