The heraldscotland.com provides an account of a situation in which colleagues’ concerns about a nursery worker appear to have been dismissed, when in fact he was abusing two young boys.
Reports of fellow workers’ ‘discomfort’ with the man are said to have been confused with the mistaken belief that there was discrimination against a male worker.
This is a good example of not being able to see what is happening despite there being some clear evidence that things are amiss. It is only too easy in an institutional context for a ‘corporate view’ to emerge which seems reasonable at the time, but is hard to justify with the benefit of hindsight.
Confirmation bias – our natural tendency to find evidence that supports our beliefs, rather than information which refutes them – and fixation/distraction error – in which an individual or group focuses on the wrong issue excluding other possibilities - were probably factors in the apparent short-sightedness of managers in this case.
The authors of the Serious Case Review report also note how difficult it is to whistle blow, arguing that whistle blowers often fear receiving a 'shoot the messenger' response.
There is no point blaming individual managers in this sort of case. We need to consider how we can create organisational cultures in which decisions are properly explored, challenged and reviewed and in which people are able to feel safe in raising concerns.