Staff’s ethics sometimes clash with those of their employer. It is vital to air these differences, writes Meic Phillips
While supportive management and a clear code of practice are crucial, it’s been my experience that also having an internal grievance procedure and, if nee ded, access to Public Concern at Work (an independent authority on public whistleblowing) offers staff the re-assurance that concerns can be raised at team meetings, supervision sessions or when the issue occurs at the front-line.
An environment where questions, complaints or misgivings are invited and treated as constructive and potentially practice
improving offers a key to “comfort”. Where personal values create discomfort, it has still been my experience that allowing them to be raised often allows a greater diversity of views to be valued and to contribute to good practice. Yet the time and place issues are important. We use our staff induction process to explore relevant codes of practice and we use team meetings to address and evidence standards expected by contract monitoring, regulators or inspection processes.
During a recent team meeting, a practice dilemma was discussed. In a supported living project, all existing tenants and service users are Muslim. A new tenant was a non-practising Muslim and was gay. The staff who are practising Muslims accept diversity training and corporate values, but struggled to find a way to support a man experiencing discrimination from fellow residents after the residents became aware of his sexuality.
Staff who found the need to explain to the majority that their beliefs should not lead to discriminatory, intolerant or antisocial behaviour were themselves being influenced by their own beliefs. The fascinating debate saw practising Christians in the team sharing a similar dilemma to their practising Muslim colleagues. They explored how their personal faith, which found certain practices unacceptable, could be balanced with their “organisational citizenship” where the values of anti-discriminatory practice required them to avoid colluding with intolerance.
We eventually agreed upon our corporate and contract duty.
Encouraging staff to ask why is it done that way has been the key for significant improvements to practice. In a team that
is very diverse through gender, sexuality, culture and faith I have found that an exploration of uncomfortable feelings has
provided a great tool to re-explore some cases where front-line staff have concerns about the effect on an individual of the
application of processes and procedures.
Taking every chance as a team to explore areas of discomfort has proven beneficial to service users, staff themselves and the organisation.
Meic Phillips is assistant director of Epic Trust, a care and support provider in London
This article appeared on page 41 of the 12 October issue, under the headline My Practice