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Hot topic: Do cultural rehabilitations require a fall guy? Part one

Former head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Toby Danker, said he had been wrongly associated with the wider scandal at CBI about the treatment of female employees, claiming he was made a “fall guy”. 

In April Toby Danker was dismissed from his position as director of the CBI after an investigation into complaints about his conduct.

Danker has now said he was wrongly scapegoated for the wider scandal at CBI and used as a “fall guy”.

When businesses are in need of rehabilitation, do they also need someone to take the fall to show progress?

Turning around toxic cultures:

From toxic to trusted: how Corinne Mills turned culture around at Alzheimer’s Society

Toxic resilience and how to avoid it

What lessons leaders and HR can learn observing a toxic work environment

Jeremy Campbell, CEO, Black Isle Group

Sadly, cultural rehabilitations often only come about when companies face an existential threat. Think racism at Yorkshire cricket, emissions deception at Volkswagen and the SNP motorhomes cover-up.

The biggest issue with every one of these black swan moments is the silence and denial of the many who knew but did nothing. Had people felt the ability to speak out and do the right thing, these cultural horror stories would have never become the scandals which threatened the future of entire organisations.

Is Tony Danker the fall guy at the CBI? That remains to be seen. Many of the incidents being cited allegedly occurred before he worked there.

However, he was the leader who, by his own admission, behaved in a way which was complicit with a poisonous path.

While cultural rehabilitations don’t need a fall guy, they do need brave people to do the right thing. They also need leaders who create and foster an environment where that is entirely possible.


Kate Coulson, founder, Ena HR

A culture is created by the role models, especially leaders, within organisations because they set the standards and drive change.

Policies are vitally important to set the expectations and standards but walking the walk and talking the talk is vital.

It is the responsibility of all leaders – but most essentially the CEO, managing director or business owner – to role model an engaging, rewarding, and fair company culture.

Sometimes a leader is unable to improve culture, and they leave an organisation. Does this make them a fall guy? No, not always.

Sometimes it is just not the right leader for that organisation at that time.

Click here for part two. 

The full article of the above first appeared in the May/June 2023 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.