It did not come as a surprise to me to read recently in the Irish Times that over the last twelve months the ombudsman received over 7,000 complaints from the besieged clients of financial institutions. What did surprise me was the ombudsman naming financial institutions as the ‘culprits’, rather than individuals within these organisations. I have written and spoken about it many times that organisations – political, economic, social, religious and educational – cannot perpetrate neglect. An organisation has no head, no heart, no arms and legs and no voice. How then can I challenge an organisation about bullying and intimidating practices? The simple answer is that ‘I can’t’. What I can do is confront the individual heads and managers or other staff members who threaten the wellbeing of their clients. What is alarming is that, no doubt, the 7,000 complaints represent only the tip of the iceberg of cold and heartless practice.
It is clear to me that no change has occurred in the attitudes of individual heads working in financial institutions. The terrible consequences of their pre-recession actions do not appear to have triggered the much required reflection that is needed to bring about mature practice. There needs to be an absence of bullying, greed, avarice and depersonalisation of clients and, indeed, of financial institutions’ employees, narcissism, secretiveness, injustice and the mindless approach of profit before people. What needs to emerge is respect, equality, fairness, justice, kindness, unselfishness, a valuing of the fundamental dignity of every client and employee and mature negotiation. However these mature qualities are unlikely to emerge unless individual heads and managers unearth the powerful unconscious emotional personal processes that drove and are still driving their devastating actions.
It is becoming quite obvious that training for leadership and management has not created the safe emotional, social and intellectual opportunities by suitably trained professionals for heads to know self, to be able to identify their defensive actions and to bring out from behind their defences the repressed qualities listed above that will help to create the emotional, social and economic prosperity that people deserve. Other qualities that are often repressed are integrity, active listening, direct and clear communication, accountability, emotional expression and receptivity, responsibility for self and one’s own actions, compassion and an emphasis on mature relationship being the heart of a mature and progressive organisation. Colleagues of mine who are trained in relationship mentoring within work and other organisations complain that HR personnel do not want to hear of the crucial role that relationships play within organisations. The reality is that no matter where individuals live, learn, work, pray and play, it is the quality of relationships that determine the wellbeing of individual members in these social, educational, political, work, religious and recreational systems. All the evidence points to the heads’ (parents, teachers, managing directors, managers, bishops, priests, politicians and community leaders) level of self-esteem, the ability to create intimate and empowering relationships and the extent to which conflict is maturely resolved as being pivotal to the mature management of these systems. Given the political, religious, economic and public bodies’ scandals, what more evidence do HR personnel need to see the wood from the trees and people from systems? In the words of the late John O’Donohue “Wounds offer us unique gifts but they demand a severe apprenticeship before the door of blessing opens”.
There is no suggestion here that it is only individual directors and managers of financial institutions who perpetrate the defensive and catastrophic actions referred to above. As noted, too painfully we have seen similar neglectful responses emanating from heads and managers of other systems. However, it is also the case that clients of these organisations can also engage in threatening behaviours and they too need to be firmly and respectfully challenged and held accountable. Fighting fire with fire never works but there is hope for progress when individuals on one side of the conflict engage in mature responses and create definite boundaries around their own physical, emotional, intellectual and social safety.
Present training for leadership and management requires urgent examination. Training without due consideration of an understanding of self, people- management, human behaviour and conflict resolution cannot prove effective. Knowledge without personal maturity can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of those whose sense of worth is determined by status, wealth, property, control and work. What most management courses do not appear to appreciate is that participants unconsciously carry a lot of emotional baggage into the course and, later on, if not resolved, into their management roles. An appreciation of unconscious defences and the ways to bring to consciousness what lies beneath (unconscious) is essential to effective leadership and management – no matter the organisation.
Dr. Tony Humphreys is a Clinical Psychologist/Author/International and National Speaker.