The FCA aren't joking when they say conduct matters...

Richard Thompson




"We do not look only at issues and their root causes when things go wrong, but consider how a firm's culture is shaped"

Today is National Stress Awareness Day and next week is Anti-Bullying week. In the current global landscape, creating a balanced workplace culture that reduces stress and eradicates bullying and harassment has never been more important. 

Here at byrne.dean we regularly talk about the significance of focusing on how people feel at work; it is a key factor in determining performance, productivity, retention and engagement in any workplace.  In addition, #MeToo has highlighted the importance of speaking up and challenging negative workplace behaviours and cultures. But that takes a supportive workplace culture in the first instance, one where people do not fear repercussion or ridicule for challenging behaviour they don't like. So the case is clear - all organisations must work hard to create the right workplace culture; one where employees can have fun, feel engaged and enjoy coming to work but one that makes it safe for constructive conversations about workplace behaviour to take place.

If you work in the financial sector, there is another element to consider - the expectations of the regulators. The last decade has seen regulators across the globe take a more intrusive approach; there is now widespread recognition that some failings within the industry have, in part, resulted from pockets of poor workplace culture. To highlight this point, an extract of a letter from the Financial Conduct Authority to the House of Commons, in response to the Women and Equalities Committee Report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace makes for powerful reading. The extract reads as follows:

"Culture in financial services is widely accepted as a key root cause of the major conduct failings that have occurred within the industry in recent history, and we expect firms to foster healthy cultures which support the spirit of regulation in preventing harm to consumers and markets. A culture where sexual harassment is tolerated is not one which would encourage people to speak up and be heard, or to challenge decisions. Tolerance of this sort of misconduct would be a clear example of a driver of poor culture. It would be an obstacle to creating an environment where the best talent is retained, the best business choices are made and the best risk decisions are taken".

The extract above focuses on sexual harassment but the same thought process is applicable to a wide range of potentially disruptive behaviours. Whatever behaviour we are looking at, the FCA's stance is clear - tolerance of poor workplace culture is not okay.

On a positive note, I have seen lots of incredible work happening within many organisations to promote healthy and balanced workplace cultures; there is a renewed appetite to bring the discussion to the table. However, if there are any last bastions of resistance, hopefully the FCA's approach provides a highly persuasive argument that we should all be talking more about this stuff!

If you would like to find out more about the workplace culture work we do, we'd be delighted to hear from you.