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Why the Godfather is the latest inspiration for public sector managers


by Blair McPherson, a former local authority director of community service

“No-one leaves this room until…”  I didn’t hear the rest of the sentence as I was pondering the menacing tone and veiled threat of these words. 

The suits sat round a large, long table.  At the top of the table sat the boss of bosses and next to him the money man. We were all playing the numbers game but the take was down. The capital projects would have to be put on hold. Contracts were to be taken out. Some people didn’t realise when they were on to a good thing – may be someone should tell them. We would negotiate by making them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Accept the new terms and conditions or join the unemployed.

A reporter from the local rag was asking questions. Make sure people know what to say. Would the politicians play ball? They want to get re elected don’t they! Word had come back that some individuals were taking liberties; bosses were told “keep your people in order”.

It’s just business

Money or the lack of it and fear for your own future meant these senior management team meetings were becoming more like something from a mafia movie. But as the chief exec said “it’s not personal it’s just business”.

Is this the new business model for the public sector? Is strong management back in fashion?

How would this more confident and assertive style of management deal with issues like high levels of absenteeism, poor performance, staff questioning management decisions and budget cuts?

High levels of absenteeism? Just let it be known that attendance is a factor in deciding who is to be made redundant. 

Performance targets dipping? Link pay to performance by keeping basic salaries low and bonuses subject to hitting demanding targets. 

Staff no longer keen to volunteer for extra work?  Make it clear promotion is dependent on “attitude” and your recommendation. 

Staff starting to question your decisions?  Use the annual appraisal process to make the individual justify their post and salary. Obviously salaries are an individual and personal matter so people don’t need to know what someone else is earning. 

No explanations needed

Reinforce your position by communicating on a “need to know basis only”.  Don’t give explanations. You’re the boss - the fact that you want it done should be enough.  Explaining only makes you look weak. Any really unpopular decision and you should make it clear that this was down to senior management – “take it up with them, if you don’t want a future here”.

You have the strength of character to make the difficult decisions, cut pay, make people redundant, reduce services to vulnerable people and renege on deals with partners. After all it’s not personal it’s just business.

Blair McPherson now swims with the fishes having been “retired” following the publication of People management in a harsh financial climate by

(Pic: Everett Collection/Rex Features) 

About Simeon Brody

Community Care managing web editor

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