News and Comment from Roy Lilley
The goings on at Westminister are pretty grim. First, the expenses stuff, now this...
All the time there are humans in a system there's a human potential for bad behaviour; malevolent, sinister, criminal, deliberate, casual or unintended.
Some will say, if we can't rely on common-sense and integrity in the workplace, we need regulation.
The problem; MPs are the employer. Six hundred and fifty-odd, small businesses running the country and if one of their employees wants to complain about the boss... the MPs are the boss. Fat chance.
Solutions? Ask a politician; they'll say more law, because all they do is law. Ask HR and they'll say training. Ask a landlord and he'll say, sort it out over a pint. Ask a Vicar and the answer will be prayer. It depends where you are coming from.
More public money (the MPs won't pay for it), will be used to set up a bureaucracy to make sure they behave themselves. And if they don't? More law.
Because MPs were not trusted to administer their own expenses we have IPSA costing us north of £200m a year.
Now, we can't trust them to employ young talent or use their influence benignly. Expect a similar bill. Enough to employ 6,000 nurses every year?
You have ask; what the hell can we trust MPs to do?
A simple solution; turn all Westminister staff employment over to the HoC HR department. They're already tooled up for it.
HR systems don't guarantee good employment policies and good employment policies don't guarantee good employment or good behaviour.
We know this. In the course of a week I can expect to have three or four emails about people being treated badly, working in the NHS... that has comprehensive employment regulation.
We know about the door-slamming, order-barking, aggressive manager but the work place is complex and subtle.
'Let's go for a drink after work... talk about your promotion....'
'I think you've done a really good job for us and I'd love to see you get the new job. Why don't we find a quiet moment, at the end of the day and have a chat about how you will approach the interview...'
'I know you don't like what's going on but if I were you I wouldn't make it too obvious... a lot of senior managers think very highly of you...'
What if the boss genuinely wants to see you do well? Friends and ex-colleagues, spread across a large organisation, in key roles, is called building a network.
We need rules, reference points and boundaries. Or, do we? Don't we instinctively know what's right and what isn't.
If someone uses personal pressure, asks for inappropriate favours and hints at promotion or a job... it is because they have the power and influence to do that. The system fails to protect the vulnerable, the innocent and the naive.
My guess; MPs, here and there are still fiddling the odd taxi fare and no amount of HR policy will end the prospect of a drunken grope...
... any more than NHS's rules have ended bullying, the suffering of whistleblowers or laws encouraged a medic to expose the bad practice of their boss.
Regulation doesn't protect people, it protects the system of regulation.
What is the point of regulators punishing a Trust boss for not having enough nurses, when there is a world-wide shortage of nurses? None but the CQC still do it, to protect the system, the regulator. Futile.
Show me the evidence regulation makes things better. The banks, schools. prisons and the NHS, no better for it. Add to the list MPs and film producers.
We have to ask why things go wrong and keep asking why, until we get to the root cause of the problem.
We might start with a film producer with a mental health problem and a workplace with more bars than a cruise liner.
Real integrity comes from doing the right thing when no one's going to know whether you did it or not.
If we think only rules and regulation will make things better, we'll have a shed-load of rules and things will never get better.
It is we, us, all of us who must get better.
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