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Staff Behaving (Very) Badly!

I was speaking to my mum on the telephone and she said “Laura, did you see the programme about how funeral staff behave and how they disrespected the dead?” I said “No mum, as I don’t have the time to watch a lot of television.” She then went on to say “You can watch on your computer thing.”

So, on my computer thing, I did watch the said programme. ‘Exposure-The British Way of Death’ http://www.itv.com/itvplayer/video/?Filter=325738

Oh, MY goodness!  It got me thinking about a subject that I embed into my work around organisational behaviour within organisations and how the culture of organisations from the top to the bottom should be one that mirrors the organisation’s values.

The question is, within large organisations, how does the chief executive and the senior management team check that these values are in place and that the organisation’s standards are practiced by staff?

Clearly, these funeral staff felt over worked, understaffed; they questioned the quality of the equipment and did not feel valued by their employers and the culture was one where respecting the customers meant nothing to them. Organisation values should include how staff are valued. If staff do not feel valued they will not, in turn, be able to value their customers.

We only have to look at the Plymouth Review which obviously had issues around organisational culture and the impact and outcome that this had in practice around child protection/safeguarding children.

The culture within any organisation is therefore imperative and can either enhance quality and standards or, in the worst case scenario, the organisation becomes known for providing poor quality and poor standards. In other words profit before customers.

For as long as I can remember I have shopped at a well-known high street shop. Let us call this store ‘sometimes oversold!’ For the first time I had to question in one shopping trip, two incidents of poor customer care. Of course, I brought this to the attention of the manager and I pointed out that this was the first time that I felt that staff did not mirror their excellent customer care and a gentle reminder to the staff concerned was needed.

My consultancy work ranges from acting as an expert witness to trouble shooting within settings. Often , when I begin to unravel the layers of issues, the main factor is that negative culture has had a part to play. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing settings out there and the ones where there are issues are in the minority.

So, how do we create a positive culture within our workplace? I say, as a starting point, we need have a set of firm values, vision and mission and staff must have clarity around these in order to deliver excellence practice.

My definition of what needs to be included within your values, vision and mission:


What do we attach importance to?

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Environment
  • Each other as a staff team


What is our task or goal?

  • Children reach their full potential
  • Provide high quality childcare
  • Parents as equal partners
  • Qualified and experienced staff team


What is the future?

  • Where are we going as a staff team?
  • How do we make continuous improvement?
  • How do we see our relationship with children, families and the local community?

Only when we have transparency around what the organisations stands for, can we then influence how staff behave.  Thereby, making a difference to how staff behave towards customers, or in the early years sector – children and families.

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  • Jenny Barber

    Hi Laura, all so true! I was watching the workplace choir programme last week on the Royal Mail, and that was really interesting from a perspective on organisational management as well. Interstingly only one member of senior management was up for being in the choir and it really changed his perspective and relationships with staff. Something had got lost for staff in terms of the vision. Jenny P.S I’m a fan of that store as well and is my go to store, as you can usually rely on the quality and service!

  • Sarah Steel

    I really enjoyed reading this post Laura, you speak a great deal of wisdom. I also agree with Jenny’s points above – as I was reading I also thought of the Royal Mail, as I am a huge Gareth Malone fan! The organisational culture left a great deal to be desired in the programme last week and did make me question how we would stand up to that sort of test. I can only conclude it’s a good deal I can’t sing for toffee, but will definitely discuss with my team how we make sure we have a positive culture from top to bottom. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Paulette B.

    Thanks Laura, as usual words of wisdom. I have a staff meeting tomorrow and this is one of the topics on the agenda. I too believe that if a business is to be successful it is important that everyone is singing from the same hymn book.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Anne Parker

    Hi Laura, I totally agree. We are in a time when many staff are still on low pay and poor terms & conditions, tey parents are still charged whatever the going rate is. However, even where staff are payed at a better rate moralle is often rock bottom because the owners/managers are focused on making profit. And all this at a time when settings are under pressure to have better qualified/ developed/trained staff!! May I suggest a slight change to your sloggan – instead of customers can we say Children before Profit?

  • Tracy Seed

    I absolutely agree that identifying common values and evolving a mission and vision is essential work for any organisation and team: to know what is important to them and what they are aiming for is key to their performance success. This is the work I have been undertaking recently with many private, independent settings and those led by local authorities, during my Journey into Leadership Programme (My next three day programme commences in Bromley this week. If anyone would like to join this please do let me know).

    Sometimes there are layers to pass through before this work can be undertaken.
    What I am hearing and seeing more frequently, is how the staff in many early years settings are feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the changes and expectations and I hear that many leaders are fearful of people expressing their feelings, they say things like:

    “I can’t hear what is going on for my staff or what is important to them, if I do it will turn into a counselling session and I dont have time for this, I have enough to deal with!”

    ” they need to be able to leave their feelings/baggage on the door step”,

    “cut off” –

    I havent watched the clip above about how the staff were disrespecting the dead, but I did watch the choir in Lewisham Hospital and how so many of them found it difficult to connect to emotion!

    This has so many implications for the people themselves and for their patients.

    So, whilst I absolutely agree with the importance of elciting common values etc, and the importance of this work, there is more too, concerning:

    How to support emotional maturity and expression of peoples values and expectations in the workplace?

    How do we create environments where people will trust that emotional articulation will be contained, valued and respected as offering insight into what is important and why things work or donts work?

    How to build on peoples strengths so that they shine as well as develop in areas of weakness?

    Time out for staff to reflect and process their thinking and emotions, personally and professionally as individuals and together is essential and these sessions require skilled facilitation/not counselling!.

    When individuals and teams have emotional competence and the social skills and vocabulary to express themeselves authentically, even in the most stressful situations, anxiety is lessened and mindful practices of working together are much more likely.

    I do believe that we have a responsiblity to speak up, whenever we witness dishonour and disrespect in our professon and in any profession that supports life during birth, early child hood, primary an teenage years , young and middle adult hood, the elderly and dying. Developing our practice to communicate honestly with each other, to work together interdependently for the good of the whole is the way foward.

    These are the competencies, skills and attitudes that I work with and I know you do too Laura, thanks for writing a blog that stimulated me to respond.

    Warm wishes,


    • laurachildcare

      Thanks Tracy and excellent points made around – Emotional maturity, which should be top of the tree when supporting staff to support children. Like you soft skills are a central part to my work. In addition, the ground breaking way of ‘Maslows hierarchy of needs’. Keep up the good work-making a difference.

  • Ni

    Thank you Laura for this. I am going to give it a go. When we are on our feet financially you are coming to help us further!

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