Woman hangs herself on television

There was an interesting ‘whistle-blower’ documentary on television last night about Barclays bank, an organization which made five billion pounds profit last year. It included covert filming by undercover journalists, which I adore because it represents empirical evidence and not hearsay which can be easily refuted by the injured party. The programme was supposed to highlight the corruption in the banking system aided and perpetrated by some of the bank staff themselves but it inadvertently uncovered the selling pressures applied to the staff by their managers. The staff have selling targets which they have to meet otherwise their jobs are in jeopardy. As a result we see bank staff trying to sell unaffordable products to people who neither need nor want them. In some cases the staff fraudulently foist products onto their customers with the excuse that it was a ‘mistake’ if the aggrieved customer complains.

What was also apparent was that it was the poorest who paid the most in penalties (where have we seen that principle at work before?), the richer customers had the clout to withdraw their custom if exorbitant charges were not waived (which they usually were). These admissions came from the managers themselves, caught on video. A damning piece of evidence.

After the denouement was revealed to the bank’s head office a brave (or coerced) representative agreed to be interviewed by the programme makers. She valiantly tried to defend the bank’s position by trotting out the platitudes she had learned in her media training course. The problem she had though, was that we had seen the video evidence which was irrefutable (unless it was a huge hoax by the BBC involving actors). There was simply no denying it. Her position should have been ‘Sorry, we got it wrong, we will have a massive shake up, heads will roll’ etc. She was in a no-win situation and she should have debased herself as grovelingly as she could in front of the outraged masses, instead she decided to hang herself. Not literally of course, more’s the pity, that would have been sensational television.

By generally denying the evidence she was admitting one of two things;

  • higher management had no knowledge of such practices because they were on another planet completely out of touch with the day to day activities of their own organization and should therefore be sacked for gross incompetence,
  • or

  • higher management had full knowledge of the policy, in fact they were the architects of it, and so any denial was simply a deceitful lie, confirming the unscrupulous behavior of the organization.
  • My guess is the latter is the real explanation. All my dealings with large organizations has shown me the ‘vision thing’ within the organization comes from the top and the attitude drifts down like detritus in a column of fluid.

    From this evidence, it would seem Barclays ‘vision thing’ is purely one of unbridled greed.

    Well, they are a bank, what do you expect?

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