You are currently viewing Doing things right or doing the right thing – When is it acceptable to disobey corporate leadership?

Doing things right or doing the right thing – When is it acceptable to disobey corporate leadership?

  • Post author:
  • Post category:News
  • Post comments:0 Comments

Much has been written about the shenanigans at the various UK ports that P&O operate out of, and the incredible events we saw a few weeks ago at the “no notice and illegal” announcement of the incredible decision by P&O to what, in effect, amounted to the summary dismissal of some 800 staff across the UK. Incredible in that there was NO consultation as required by law, incredible that we heard security staff were forcibly removing P&O staff from the ferries, incredible that the CEO and nay the HRD who was tasked with delivering the final coup de grace via Zoom, both had the bare faced audacity to deliver a message in such a callous, insensitive and frankly brutal way, showing little regard for the lives they had just ridden a coach and horses through.

As a former HRD with Eurotunnel, I know the cross-channel market in particular and the ferry market in general takes no prisoners.  Consolidation of the market was always likely with the ability of the market to sustain multi options severely compromised. So, it has proven with P&O resorting to an almost “elizabethanesque workhouse” mentality to “save” the business. Will it succeed? Mmm? I wonder how the reputation of P&O will survive? A PR disaster in the making, not dissimilar to the fall of the Ratner jewellery empire many years ago.

There are all sorts of angles one could comment on these recent shambolic events and I’m not going to get into the legal tooings and frooings, but the events had me reflecting on something far more relevant and topical for leaders. And that is, where on earth the boundaries sit for leaders facing these kind of situations? Boundaries between towing the company line, doing “one’s job”, doing the dirty work that often accompanies restructurings on the one hand and frankly doing as one is told  and on the other hand, the principals one holds as a leader to do the right things, to act with moral integrity, to act with compassion and humility even in difficult situations and to maintain your reputation as a leader.

At what point would a leader faced with the challenge of acting illegally in announcing the culling of 800 jobs say, “no, I’m not doing that… s not consistent with my principles and values and you can find someone else to do that!”  Is it not better to fall in honour on your sword, maintain your integrity as a leader and protect your brand as a person/employee/Director, as a human being? Would you rather be true to yourself? Or sacrifice yourself in the name of corporate progress? As we know, when questioned by the select Transport Committee, sadly the CEO couldn’t even commit one way or another whether he’d take his bonus.  I suspect we know his answer, eh?

I am staggered at how so called “professional” Directors have resorted to such “unprofessional” behaviours, no doubt calling into question their qualifications to act in the UK as Company Directors. We know Grant Shapps, Transport Minister, and the government are considering whether the two Directors have breached the standards required to hold a UK Directorship. I think we all know the answers to that?  Had either any sense of decency, they would resign their posts and join the wave of abhorrence that has accompanied this announcement. I’m not holding my breath, but I can tell you for my personal perspective, the maintenance of my professional integrity and reputation, upholding a moral position and simply through an act common decency, I would have walked from such a role and not submitted myself to this heinous act.

Have you ever walked? Considered your position? I’d love to hear from fellow HR professionals and business leader colleagues as to their experiences and whether and where the boundaries do actually lie? It’s not just about personal integrity! It’s about common decency.

Leave a Reply