Thursday, 20 November 2014

How culture shapes the actions of an organisation.

Guest Post
Sat in my living room last week I found myself watching "It was Acceptable in the 70s", a Channel 4 program that reviewed TV shown in the 1970s through the eyes of a modern day audience. There was one scene from The Professionals where a screaming woman was slapped, her shirt torn open and then refastened by the suave detective, along with a 'saucy' comment from his colleague.

Looking back now, the whole scene is blatantly sexist, but in the 1970s the culture of the UK was still getting its head around equal rights for women and violence and sexual abuse towards women was so unremarkable that it could be included in prime time television, without so much of an eyebrow being raised. 

All of the programs shown demonstrated how sexism, was so ingrained into the culture at that point in time that it could be blatant - rather than today where it sneaks in subversively, but not without comment.

When something is endemic in a culture, it will go unnoticed as it is unremarkable. 

It's not only society that has a culture and an ethos.  Companies and organisations have them too.  The culture of an organisation shapes its behaviour and the attitudes of the people in it.  It enables certain types of behaviour and discourages others.

To understand the culture of an organisation, do not look at the words it uses, but to their actions and outcomes.  For example, the company that states it invests in its workforce, but doesn't notice workplace bullying and has a high staff turnover.  The organisation that says it prides itself on customer service, but has little repeat business and a large number of customer complaints.

In the same way, if an organisation talks of equality, but behaves in a discriminatory way,  it suggests that those attitudes are embedded into the culture of that organisation, making it unremarkable, so it passes without notice.

Is this what has happened here?  Is discriminating against women so unremarkable that it can pass without comment?

This is the question I have asked myself since reading about the Beds in the Orchard campaign.  How discriminating against one group of people in an area, solely on their sex could pass unnoticed and without comment. Perhaps I'd have been less shocked if it was in the private sector where inequality sometimes slips under the radar, but for a public sector organisation like the NHS it is remarkable that it happened at all.

The statements made by the Trust about this closure are even more surprising with no acknowledgement whatsoever that their actions could be seen as anything other than reasonable.

That is why I ask.  What is the culture of the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust?  I'm looking beyond their words in the on-line Annual Reviews and Equality Impact Assessments and straight at their actions. When I do, I am concerned about what I see.

Kath B

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