Openness and honesty breading fear and bullying!

North Yorkshire Police - Central Area Road Pol...

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One of today’s predominant management ethics in the modern police service, is a drive for openness and honesty however, is it genuine and is it really working? In my experience, I would suggest not…

Any real acceptance of openness and honesty, from both sides of the management and workforce divide, can only exist with mutual trust and respect. That and the fact that both sides of the equation have to be actually all working towards the same common goal(s) of the organisation.

Unfortunately, the openness and honesty ethos tends to be a smokescreen for business as usual amongst many managers, a statement without substance and certainly without any genuine desire to achieve it. A kind of do as I say, not as I do thing.

As I’ve said previously (on more than one occasion), it appears the further up the management chain some officers go, the less they appear to be actually attuned to what policing is ultimately about any more, let alone the concerns of those actually performing the task..

There is a tendency to become focused more upon personal gain and achievement, as opposed to the issues affecting your subordinates and the public you supposedly serve. I would like to think that this methodology isn’t actually an inherent trait however, I fear the current leadership selection process actually inflates and exacerbates the problem.

Many police managers will say they fully support and promote openness and honesty, they will court feedback from their workforce and then simply ignore it but why? Opinion is only valid if it fits the one they hold. Individuals who make adverse observations about their management are chastised and/or bullied into accepting and following the corporate line.

Yes it is a hard job to be an effective and competent manager and yes, there will be decisions that need to be made from time to time, ones that don’t please everyone. That said, if you make those decisions openly, honestly and with full consultation with those who are affected by them, there is far more chance of commanding a little respect and support for your role. The more complicated the decision, and the more negative impact upon individuals or groups of people involved, the greater need for openness and honesty, and consultation about why the decision has actually been made. It is insufficient to purport to be open and honest yet do all in your power to deceive those affected. Take the cuts in policing and in particular, the proposed closure of a North Yorkshire Police control room, as a case in point.

From the outset there has been a cloak of deceit in the management methods. Staff and the public have only been feed with the absolute minimum of facts, they have been left with a myriad of questions and concerns about the raison d’etra behind the thought process. People with a lot of experience and knowledge of the systems, the financial situation and service delivery quality have been left trying to understand the reasons behind the proposal. There appears to be very little logic involved, the financial arguments are wide open to legitimate question, many of the technical and process considerations appear to have been ignored or not fully worked through. And, because the intention was widely rumoured long before it was ever made official, those affected quiet naturally suspect the validity of any subsequent consultation process.

It may well be that the original ‘idea’ was a valid one however, that doesn’t mean it still is. Neither does it mean it has to be a fait de compli. That said, due to technicalities, training and process, there are many decisions that have to be made in todays policing that, quiet naturally, can take some time to implement fully. Some will be succesful but unfortunately, many are not. Far too often police managers tend to drive things forward simply from a personal perspective, with little or no consideration for the overall effect. They simply couldn’t get it wrong… Could they? And in any case so what? After all, it’s not their problem once they have moved on, or retired. To try to hide that flawed thought process behind a smokescreen of openness, honesty and consultation is unethical and ultimately breads distrust and contempt.

The distrust in management by the workforce has been compounded by half truths, decite, the exclusion of union representatives from consultation meetings and probably, some down right lies and all to what end? Managers may spout about being as fair as possible to all under difficult circumstances however, I don’t see any of those managers loosing their jobs, I don’t see any concerns about the negative impacts upon service delivery to the public. I don’t see any concerns for the impacts upon officer safety, I don’t see any of those managers working increased hours for less pay and with less days off.

If you want to run your organisation on half-truth and bullying that’s fine but be honest about it. Carry on with the ethos of do as I say not as I do, don’t pay lip service to consultation and don’t try to dress that ethos up in a nice pink fluffy blanket, provided free of charge by a caring competent employer, because you are not.

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 04-04-2011, in Business Babble, Leadership & Management, Police and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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