One of the headlines on the BBC News web site this Sunday was “Foreign Office apologises for Pope ‘condom’ memo“.

It appears that a department within the Foreign Office held a brainstorming session to gather ideas for themes to promote during the papal visit due to take place in September this year. Evidently quite a few of the ideas were less than appropriate. But it wouldn’t have been much of a brainstorming session if all the ideas put on the table were sensible and obvious.

According to the BBC news web site, Foreign Secretary David Milliband ‘is said to have been “appalled” by the incident.’ I would have been more impressed if he had simply said he was disappointed with the people involved for being inappropriate, insensitive, insulting or just plain stupid. The junior civil servant responsible for the document has received an oral and written warning and ‘been put on other duties’. Was anything more than a few sharp words necessary?

Thanks to social media, we have more opportunities than ever before to witness stupidity in action. It’s called being human and is a theme Euan Semple shared in his talk ‘Being Human at Social Business Edge‘. It’s a great talk from start to end, but particularly relevant to this post is Euan sharing his own experiences of becoming a manager and the behaviour that emerged:

The reaction to a stupid brainstorming session shows how inhuman so many of our organisations are still trying to be.


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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hello, I know exactly what your talking about, I was in a role once where I was permanently employed as a consultant. During this time I installed exchange and asked the outsourced company that looked after a parellel system to add a DNS entry to allow their servers to see my internal mail server.
    They then sent an email to my boss questioning my training and ability at managing such an environment.
    Being a techie I posted said email on a website asking my peers if this email was out of order and I should be as annoyed as I was.
    A month later I had a meeting with my boss about the email being published online and was told how inappropriate it was, I apologised and removed it from the site and thought nothing of it.
    Another month later, I was suspended for 4 weeks (ended up being almost 3 months) and after an investigation, thousands of pounds of public money, I was told I was allowed to return to work and all “charges” had been dropped and to continue as normal.
    Over reaction big time. It happens across the board in the public sector and explains the millions of pounds that are spent on those that are suspended from work on full pay.

  2. Crikey, that is definitely a case in point. There is countless evidence to show that more human organisations perform better in every respect – value created, costs saved. Yet most work places are reluctant to change the habits of a lifetime. Will a generation shift in management bring about the change? I hope so but see my own peers falling into the same traps as they dine on feelings of power that come with responsibility.

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