Maybe it’s middle managers that we’re all so scared of

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend a guest lecture at Bournemouth University, in which the climate of silence was discussed with regard to workplaces.

I’m not even going to attempt to recreate the science behind it in this small space. But, as I understand it, many of us build ourselves invisible cages at work where we think we are bound by rules that do not, in reality, exist.

It made me think, really think, about the way in which we work

This very much hit home to me as the report about Stoke Mandeville was released – the details of Jimmy Savile and his relationship with the hospital, and of course the victims of his abuse.

I cried when I heard about it on the radio. The youngest victim was eight. The abuse took place over many years, with hundreds of cases, yet – and this is what really struck me – senior management at the hospital weren’t aware.

How is that possible? When I heard the lecture it made me think, really think, about the way in which we work, and what invisible rules I have made up around the way in which I currently live.

Who amongst us isn’t scared of causing a problem? Who has a good idea, but doesn’t put it forward?

I’m as guilty as many for thinking that putting ideas forward – or complaints – will get me into trouble.

I’d like to think that as a society we’re tackling this and are enabling a whistle-blowing culture of some sort to develop.

But will it ever be enough? Without clear and open routes of complaint, creation and challenge available in organisations, we run the risk of losing so much. Ideas and solutions, concerns and so much more.

The lecture also talked about questioning those we worked for, and stated very clearly that those in management should understand – even welcome – challenge from those below them in the chain and see it as a developmental tool for business, not as a personal affront.

Those that don’t, the lecture argued, are unprofessional. But while those at the top might welcome challenge and insight, it’s still those grasping at the slippery pole in the middle who are the issue.

Maybe that’s what we’re all scared of, the management in the chain just above us.