I was taken aback at the recent revelations about Jimmy Savile. Or Sir Jimmy Savile as he was labeled in the UK. I grew up tuning into this unusual DJ who stamped his own style on the Radio and in the unique delivery of Top of the Pops on TV. Over a couple of years, I happily followed him on the 10-mile walks from Dublin to Baldoyle to raise funds for the CRC (Central Remedial Clinic, a brilliant organization, still heavily involved in the disability space). I’d always thought that Jimmy Savile was a bit odd, but more in the sense of being a ‘character’. The gold chains and general bling along with the talk about how much he loved his mother seemed eccentric, but not sinister. I had zero inkling that he was a pedophile. When the recent revelations were made, I felt terribly sad for those kids (girls and boys) who were abused by him, probably too afraid to report the behaviour of a ‘Saint’ who raised money for so many charities. Turns out that Jim was ‘fixing it’ for himself.
Who Knew? The most worrying aspect of the entire Jimmy Savile story was the amount of people who were aware of this deviant behaviour over many years and still did nothing. I’ve previously written about how such behaviour is often ignored in organizations (Whistleblowing: Why so few ever shout Stop! – January 27th 2012) and don’t need to repeat the central points. Message: If you don’t speak up, you are part of the problem. Those of us who are charged with managing or leading organizations have a particular duty in this regard – to ensure that there are solid mechanisms in place which allow ‘speaking up’ to happen.
New Service: In November 2012 a new company, Protected Disclosure International, is being launched in Ireland. This is in advance of the Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest legislation that will soon be in force. The core mission of the company is to protect whistleblowers that speak out against wrongdoing, or cover-ups, whether in public or the private sector. This could encompass, for example, criminal misconduct, corruption, the breach of a legal obligation, risk to health and safety, damage to the environment or gross mis-management in the public sector (web address:
Personal Interest: Let me declare a personal interest. I am a Director of this company and want to see it doing really well. Beyond personal interest, none of us want to see deviants operating with impunity. While the issues are not always sexual, none of us want to be party to abuse where staff are afraid to raise concerns or even express options, which would see them subject to bullying, intimidation or harassment. I have used this powerful quote before but it repays a second outing. 300 years ago. Edmund Burke the Irish politician and philosopher said: “For evil to happen, all it requires is for good men to do nothing”
Protected Service: But there is a contradictory point at play here. If there is something happening in your organization that’s not kosher, how should this be managed? And, how do you deal with vexatious claims, which are simply taken to damage the organizations reputation, because of a personal grievance? It’s a difficult line to walk and needs careful consideration. What you cannot afford is to ignore this. We have seen the reputational damage outcome for the BBC in relation to the Jimmy Savile case. Hopefully, you will never be faced with managing that particular storm, but you need to have a system in place if it does happen. We can’t always predict what will happen in the future. But we can plan for some scenarios and have the infrastructure in place to deal with this.
PS Lighter Note: Given the seriousness of this week’s topic, I debated whether to add in any humour. But this one, courtesy of Joe Bell, is lighthearted: “One of my friends died last week. Of Heartburn… Yes, poor old Gav-is-gone”.
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