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Senior HSE managers ‘not challenging toxic attitudes’

There is a “worrying trend” of senior HSE managers “not being inclined to challenge toxic attitudes and relentless negativity about the health service”, the then interim Director General was told by a national director colleague last year.

In December, the then HSE Director for Organisational Culture, Ms Kirsten Connolly, emailed the temporary head of the HSE Ms Anne O’Connor, stating that survey data from the Values in Action ‘culture change’ initiative showed HSE Assistant National Directors (ANDs) as “feeling unsupported”.

In addition, there was “a worrying trend of this important group of leaders not being inclined to challenge toxic attitudes and relentless negativity about the health service, which should be a key part of their role as leaders.”

Ms Connolly cited feedback from Values in Action champions that “they feel unsupported by senior leaders, as well as some stories about senior leaders not living the [Values in Action] behaviours themselves, etc”.

A survey of ANDs in 2018 found only 12 per cent reported that their colleagues were good at putting themselves in other people’s shoes.

However, a self-reported behaviour that showed a positive result was that 100 per cent of respondents said they would offer to help and reassure new colleagues.

Some 68 per cent said “toxic attitudes are sometimes challenged, but sometimes they are ignored”, up from 62 per cent the previous year. Only one-in-five said “disrespect for others, relentless negativity and cynicism are always challenged” (down from 27 per cent the previous  year).

Ms Connolly cc-ed HSE colleagues and Dr Leandro Herrero, CEO of the Chalfont Project, which has earned substantial fees for its consultancy work for Values in Action. Ms Connolly suggested to Ms O’Connor that she speak with Dr Herrero about culture at senior level.

The email was part of handover communications by Ms Connolly, who has since departed the HSE.

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