So yesterday I tweeted that the poll that rates Ed Balls highly shouldn’t bother Ed Miliband. That Balls is seen as doing better than his opposite number is good news – for Ed Balls, for Labour and for Ed Miliband. We are – after all – a team whose collective success comes together or not at all.
Sadly it seems some of those close to both Ed’s didn’t get the memo. They have allowed their egos to elevate their petty office politics over the essential national politics of removing the corrosive Tories from office and getting our economy working again for everyone.
Mark Ferguson is right – these people should shut up. Not least because in acting the way they are, they demonstrate little understanding of politics nous; something I would have thought pretty essential in a “senior advisor” or Shadow Cabinet Minister – even an unnamed one. Guys, you’re making fools of yourselves; sadly you’re making fools of the Party too.
Ed M’s team have demonstrated before a lack of discipline. Both Ed’s have come from the worst possible experience of rancorous personal relationships and the mismanagement of petty squabbling. They more than most must know how divisive and ultimately counter-productive it is. They are the ones who will need to get a grip on this now. In essence, the failures of their staff lie with them and their cultural leadership; the buck stops with them.
I’ve worked in a lot of different office places with a lot of different management structures. One thing I have learned is that you cannot and will not stop staff gossiping with each other and having opinions that often differ from management as to how things should be run. It’s perfectly natural for those at the sharp end to have such opinions, but where things are well managed, they don’t feel the need to share these thoughts with outside organisations.
Good managers work with their staff to ensure they are able to have an input and feel a part of the organisation. This ensures they excel at their jobs and have the ability to learn and develop as they do. If they don’t, these frustrations spill over into tensions. In this case, they seem to have manifested in anonymous briefings. I guess that’s more likely in politics than in any of the other places I have worked. The political lobby act as if every day is a basically a gossip session behind the bike sheds and being listened to by a big name journalist can make you feel very important, especially if no one else is listening.
I was going to write a post about my anger and disappointment in those who have been briefing, but Mark has already done a superb job of articulating how let down Labour members are by this kind of behaviour. Ultimately though it is the responsibility of the leadership to change what is happening. They must instil a culture where this kind of thing is not just not tolerated, but is not necessary.
I have also worked for a real variety of managers. I know good management when I experience it. I’ve been very lucky in that I have experienced it often. Sometimes I have been less lucky. I have also been a good and a bad manager.
Good organisations recognise and cherish the art of management. Management should not be an add-on to a promotion – a hoop you have to jump through in order to earn more and progress through an organisation. Management is a skill that must be developed and nurtured. It must be supported by proper management systems that are embedded and respected within the culture of the organisation.
There is no shame in not being a born manager. It is not the same thing as being a born leader. It can be learned and should be developed. It must be valued. Learning how to give and receive management advice, to give and receive feedback and appraisals and to ensure a continuous open and trustworthy relationship between line manager and staff is vital. It aids productivity and the positive feedback loop that a decent working experience can bring.
Recent changes at our Head Office seem to reflect this and have – as I understand it – made the chain of command clearer and brought management responsibilities into sharper focus. The same must be done with our party in Westminster – particularly it seems with those close to the leadership.
Yes, our staff members should not be running to tittle-tattle to the newspapers. But do they have a forum for constructive criticism? Do they have a space when they can tell their manager their concerns and know how those concerns will be addressed? If not, this is not just a failure of the staff members, but a failure of our culture. That’s what has to change.
This post first appeared on LabourList.