The RCMP: Showcasing a “Culture of Trust”?
I’m not sure whether I should congratulate RCMP “E” Division Human Resources for duping the BC Association of Human Resource Professionals (BCAHRP) or question what planet the latter has been living on for the last 10 years. It seems that the BCAHRP is going to host an “HR Community Showcase” where its members (and any interested RCMP members willing to pay $10) will be treated to “. . . a rare glimpse inside this multifaceted Canadian icon [the RCMP] to learn how their HR team cultivates employee trust and confidence through their various programs”. Those in attendance will hear “… how the panel connects their expert area within the framework of cultivating trust, which engages employees and impacts the overall effectiveness of HR service delivery”. In general, these “shmoozfests” provide “an opportunity for organizations to highlight their HR best practices”. (Just out of interest, BCAHRP, have you checked out how many people on the RCMP panel have post secondary degrees or certificates in business, human resource management, personnel- management, or industrial/organizational systems? Or are these professional police persons with, at best, a 3-4 week “scratch-the-surface” course from a police training institution?).
Okay, now that we’ve all composed ourselves after choking on the image of at least two RCMP managers on the panel who are alleged, in a recent harassment lawsuit, to have bullied and harassed a female member, here are some things for the BCAHRP to consider:
RCMP denial keeps its dysfunction hidden
The rules of any organization’s culture are similar to the rules of interaction in a dysfunctional relationship. The abused employee is made to feel responsible for being abused; just like, for example, Mom and the kids being made to feel “bad or crazy” for Dad’s abusive behaviour. This dynamic in RCMP culture has become endemic , that is management (read Dad) defines how the rest of the organization (read family) will view reality.
RCMP employees (i.e. “worker-bees”) have developed, through necessity, methods of coping with the toxicity of their workplaces; much like those in a dysfunctional family, they just go numb. Each morning when they step off the elevator they deaden themselves in the face of what seems an endless impossibility (or at least until retirement).
RCMP members, who attempt to deny how bad things are, often end up getting sick. They get depressed, anxious, develop addiction problems, cardio-vascular problems, relationship problems, or they entertain suicide. They may be forced to access their medical leave; and now they compound things by feeling guilty as their employer harasses them about being “off duty sick”.
Those RCMP members who are off work are just “disgruntled employees”
RCMP senior executive/management delights in suggesting that those who are on (long term) medical leave are simply “off duty mad”. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how pervasive the denial around this issue is among the RCMP executive and its minions in RCMP Occupational Health and Safety. Just like an alcoholic daily denies the pain he/she hauls around, in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other, entire organizations (read RCMP) must constantly deny their culture of fear in order to continue operating. Toxic, pathological workplaces, like those of the RCMP, are often managed by those who require weak ineffective employees to make them feel superior.
Many of those who are labelled “off duty mad” could be regarded as the “canaries in the coal mine”. These individuals who have become physically or mentally ill, often those with strong moral structures, are treated as scapegoats within a culture that cannot face its own dysfunction.
Could it be that the healthiest RCMP members become the most troubled in the organization’s culture of fear?
Harvard University’s Project on Technology, Work, and Character suggested that it was those with the highest sense of responsibility and imagination who end up being the “trouble makers” in toxic workplaces. Initially they are well reported; but then it is these very same qualities that don’t allow them to tolerate the excessive stress and dysfunction of their workplace. This then results in opposition, defiance, or illness as they struggle to remain sane in an insane environment.
The public’s lack of confidence in the RCMP has something to do with the way it treats its employees
When an organization, like the RCMP, fails it likely has something to do with employee morale; and employee morale is related to how employees are treated in the workplace. Most organizations (especially government ones) frown on employees “blowing the whistle” and drawing attention to incompetence, corruption or inadequacy. Rather, employees are rewarded for their loyalty; for “transferring” problems to far off places, or “promoting” them into innocuous positions. Everyone plays the game because they have learned that to survive in this authoritarian environment one must employ the ruthless tactics of an assassin.
These bloodthirsty tactics are rampant in government at all levels. Did you happen to catch the Fifth Estate’s “Silence of the Labs”? The documentary provided a very clear picture of our federal government’s “hatchet-men” silencing scientists as their work might interfere with the government’s view of history or its business plans. Why would anyone follow the order to muzzle science? Why would an RCMP member refrain from “blowing the whistle”?
How could the BCAHRP be so deluded as to think that the RCMP had any “HR best practices” to “showcase”?
The first thing that comes to mind is the bad stuff is oppressed by authoritarian RCMP managers. These individuals deny the levels of toxicity and stress in the workplace to perpetuate a doctrine of over-control and motivation by fear. In many cases these RCMP “leaders” cling desperately to this management style in order to meet their own needs for esteem, recognition, identity, or power. We might speculate (interpret?) here and suggest that at least some of these “leaders” were ignored or shamed as children and now scramble after power/control in an effort to keep feelings of worthlessness and humiliation at bay.
In an attempt to remediate their own sense of inadequacy they will oppose vigorously any attempt by employees to gain some independence (control); for example the senior executives’ (and their “toadies’” – the DSRRs) attempts to squelch the Mounted Police Professional Association.
I’m sure you (BCAHRP) can understand how an organization that employs harassment, bullying, intimidation, etc. would not like these issues raised publically any more than they have been. With a modicum of investigation you likely would have discovered that what the RCMP is now calling a “Culture of Trust” used to be called a “Respectful Workplace” and before that “Anti-discrimination” and “Anti-harassment” and “Anti-bullying”. And all of these had policies, training, advisors, and investigators involved. Do you wonder why none of them worked? Will you be surprised when this shade of lipstick on the pig has little or no effect?
The second thing that comes to mind is the survival needs of RCMP members. These people are so frightened and abused they have become hopeless. In many of them, their hopelessness is now masked by denial. They could not drag themselves to work on a daily basis feeling as hopeless as they do – so they deny, rationalize, justify, minimize, or ignore their misery.
Denial can be such a powerful force, it will lead some to actively oppose efforts to bring about change. (You, BCAHRP, may run into some of these folks when you visit Green Timbers). Their attitude has been cobbled out of disappointment. They have heard so many times from so many “leaders”, that things are going to change….. and they never do. Members of the RCMP have developed a “bunker mentality”. They believe that if they keep their heads down, this latest effort at “change management” will just go away like those before it.
In closing, BCAHRP, I will ask you a question. Have you read Duxbury (2007)? On this topic (i.e. the RCMP) she commands much more respect than I do. If you have read her you may remember her criticizing RCMP HR practices as being “siloed” and “less than agile”. Her (well respected) opinion regarding change revolved around the transformation of the organization…..that is, “turn around change”. Can you point to any changes undertaken by the RCMP since 2007 that we could regard as transformative? Or have they all been instrumental (like this “Culture of Trust”) where those in charge simply tinker with existing programs, policies, structures, procedures etc. where to their benefit, nothing really changes?
I thought so.
Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.