NLCF blighted by bullying, harassment and discrimination by managers, report finds

One in three staff at the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) say they have “either witnessed or personally experienced bullying, harassment or discriminatory behaviour”, a damning independent report into the running of the grant giver has found.

In around half of these cases the bullying, discrimination or harassment the instigator was claimed to be a senior member of staff or board member. A quarter said their line manager is the instigator.

The findings have emerged in an independent report commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) following allegations of a “culture of bullying” within the NLCF.

Their report also found that more than two thirds of victims of bullying, discrimination or harassment have felt let down by management in the way their case was handled.

It also found that black and Asian staff members were less likely than their white and dual heritage colleagues to believe the NLCF was “an inclusive and fair place to work”.

‘Lack of diversity’

Respondents criticised senior management and board members for “their perceived lack of diversity in composition”.

In addition, “recruitment, selection and promotion process were often cited as unfair”.

Poor handling of complaints attracted three times as many comments as any other topic related to bullying, discrimination, or harassment.

The report was carried out by CMP Resolutions involving feedback from just under half of the Fund’s staff. This included 65 one to one interviews with directors, senior management and a representative of staff at all levels of the organisation, as well as just under 300 submissions from staff, including six ex-employees.

Further concerns are also raised in the report, including a turnover of staff at a senior level that “has left people feeling distant from decision-makers and slightly directionless”.

It found attitudes around the running of the organisation differed depending on where staff were located geographically and structurally, with a lot of their experiences and attitudes based on the quality of local managers.

“We received a significant amount of contradictory feedback highlighting how different an experience those doing the same job in a different part of the Fund
might have,” states the report.

“For example, some felt totally trusted and empowered, while others felt micro-managed. Some felt that staff turnover was high while others believed that career development opportunities were blocked by long-serving staff.

“Some reported a high degree of bureaucracy and slow decision-making while others felt that decisions were made ‘on the hoof’ and in an ill-disciplined way.”

The report concludes that the NLCF “lacks a single, unifying culture, and instead tolerates a series of micro-cultures which differ significantly’ based on a raft of factors including the “skills of line management”.

Recommendations

The NLCF board is recommended to create and communicate a clear sense of strategic direction” and review its remit, membership, structure, skills requirement and dispute resolution procedures.

The board also needs to subject to an annual evaluation of its performance.

Meanwhile, senior management needs to “create more and regular opportunities for employee participation and feedback” as well as review the structure of the Fund, with a particular aim of “reducing the number of layers of management”.

NLCF leaders also need to tackle the “micro-cultures” within the organisation and appoint a designated “owner” of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues, who is “held accountable for agreeing EDI metrics for the fund and for developing an action plan with timescales for improvement”.

Bullying and harassment advisors need to be trained for victims to approach. These could be existing staff members or bringing in third party experts to “triage complaints”.

NLCF reaction

NLCF chief executive David Knott said: “It has not been easy hearing this feedback, but without it we cannot move forward and progress”.

“Bullying, harassment and discrimination is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated. Where it exists, it will be addressed with urgent action,” he added.

Action being taken to tackle concerns raised in the report include bringing in an “independent, expert organisation to improve culture and systems”, said Knott.

He also pledged to train managers “on how to handle and manage complaints and support everyone in how to raise a concern”.

Other measures include the establishment of an EDI steering committee, chaired by Knott.

NLCF chair Blondel Cluff said that “bullying, harassment and discrimination is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated in our organisation”.

He added: “I shall use both my personal experience of the Fund, together with my extensive experience of public life to inspire and facilitate all that can now be done to put things right.”

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