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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 about CBI's toxic culture 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?

More about toxic company culture:

Third of workers have experienced bullying disguised as banter

Sue Gray report uncovers insidious effect of work drinking cultures

Does the Raab affair clear up the definition of “bullying”?

Elizabeth Gardiner, CEO, Protect

Changing the boss is no quick fix. In our experience, tone from the middle also has a key part to play.

Both previous CBI director generals say they knew nothing of the rape allegations now revealed in the press. But should they have known?

If, as is reported, they were raised at the time, why were such serious concerns not escalated and addressed?

Often the answer lies in inexperienced middle managers who do not recognise the seriousness of a matter, and who are rarely trained in the difference between whistleblowing and grievances.

Those experiencing bullying, harassment or discriminatory behaviour may be reluctant to step forward, fearing that matters may get worse.

But those who witness such behaviours should come forward, and it is in an organisation’s interests if they do.

Whistleblowers can identify risks before they become crises, and wrongdoing can be stopped before it turns into disaster.

An independent whistleblowing line has now been proposed by the CBI, but it needs to be backed by effective processes to acknowledge, investigate and respond to concerns.


Michelle Last, employment partner, Keystone Law

The reality is that we do not need a fall guy when a culture becomes so toxic that cultural rehabilitation is required: we need a firing line. An exodus of toxicity and a cleansing of the cultural soul.

Toxic behaviour thrives in places where it is permitted within its culture. While the old adage ‘culture starts at the top’ remains true, often culture is the responsibility of a team, rather than one person.

If sexual misconduct is rife within a business, we must look to the senior management team.

When businesses thrive, senior management expect financial rewards for having overseen that success. The corollary must surely be that when a business is revealed to have such a toxic workplace that cultural rehabilitation is required, senior management should pay the price.

Otherwise, we are permitting management to reap all the benefits of their success without being held accountable for their failings.


Find further comments in part one of this hot topic here.

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.