Bullies and harassers love one thing more than anything else: status. The above industries/employers provide that status, so they attract abusive personalities. A minority, yes, but a minority that causes untold misery to their colleagues and the people their jobs exist to serve. That is why all of the above should have careful vetting processes and recruiters trained in profiling to know when an applicant is being evasive. HR should be trained in profiling.
Bullies and harassers also want the power to do what they have been repeating and refining from school onwards: to bully and harass. That is why once they have access to employment that provides status, they will want power – promotion after promotion. Anonymous staff surveys are crucial for catching what is happening in a workplace. Bullying can and is used to cover practices that are negligent, breach regulations, and even the law. There is never anything good about bullying. At the heart of most NHS scandals is a culture of fear whereby clinicians are too afraid to challenge practices that might not be in patients’ best interests. Bullying in the NHS costs lives.
An additional problem is that all of the above industries/employers are great cover for abusive personalities – no one wanted to think that a police officer was a rapist, no one wanted to think that a family entertainer on their telly was a paedophile, no one wants to think that hospitals cover up mistakes that caused patient deaths, but all of these things have and do happen.
Perhaps a new set of ‘Nolan Principles’ are needed for all those working in public services to work in the public interest, with integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, and honesty – isn’t that what we should be able to demand from all public servants? When there is a scandal, the higher up in the organisation someone is, the more that scandal should impact them. For instance, police officers can lose their pensions if they bring the service into disrepute or abuse their positions – should that not be the case for those at the top of hospital trusts, those who have stuck their heads in the sand while patients die, rather than doing their job and preventing further deaths? Those who lost loved ones would agree. I’ve copied the Nolan principles for public life below. Obviously, they’d need adaption and negotiation with the relevant trade unions.
The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the Nolan Principles) apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The principles also apply to all those in other sectors delivering public services.
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Holders of public office should be truthful.
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour and treat others with respect. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
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