HR’s conflict management is lacking in charities

The bullying of marginalised people working in voluntary and not-for-profit organisations has raised critical questions about the state of equality and inclusion in the third sector.

An independent review into the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has found that bullying and harassment has taken place at the umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in England.

Prevalent across all levels of the organisation, the report found that NCVO employees have been subjected to bullying and harassment on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation and disability.

It also uncovered overt and covert oppression, favouritism and institutional gaslighting of junior members of staff.

David Liddle, CEO at mediation and resolution consultancy The TCM Group, said the report’s findings are an illustration of the systemic failure of HR policy across the third sector and beyond.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “The way HR has traditionally managed conflict, complaints and concerns simply isn’t fit for purpose in today’s diverse and complex voluntary organisations.

“The standard disciplinary and grievance and bullying and harassment policies HR relies on are damaging and divisive. They provide a mirage of justice and an illusion of fairness and have a direct, negative impact on employee wellbeing and workplace culture.”

Liddle said that HR, managers, employees and unions need to work together to shape an organisational response.

“One which is based around early identification of issues and fast and effective resolution, through approaches such as facilitated conversations and mediation, with formal investigations and sanctions reserved for serious cases,” he said.

The NCVO said in a statement that it accepted the findings of the report.

Priya Singh, chair of the organisation, said: “We shared how shocked we were by the findings and we also acknowledged publicly that NCVO is a structurally racist organisation and that the same is true for sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism and disablism.”

Further reading:

One in five Brits quit their job due to toxic culture

What we’ve learned about culture over the past 10 years

Creating an inclusive culture at Thames Water

The hashtag #NotJustNCVO was created on Twitter on 5 February so that people could share their personal experiences with workplace discrimination. It began trending shortly after.

Sophia Moreau, public affairs and policy manager at charity Small Charities Coalition, started the hashtag.

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “I started the #NotJustNCVO hashtag to show how prevalent discrimination and harassment is in the sector."

In a tweet sent from her personal account, Moreau said: “The discrimination I face as a minoritised senior leader in the charity sector is blatant. It has been made abundantly clear that they’d be comfortable with me had I been a junior staffer or beneficiary.”