We need to talk about the Post Office... 

It’s time for toxic workplaces to become a thing of the past
Emma Bridger

12 Jan 2024
The new year has got off to a good start in the UK for those Post-Office sub postmasters (and mistresses) who were wrongly accused, and prosecuted, of fraud, theft and false accounting. News was out this week that the UK Government have passed a law to overturn the convictions and offer compensation to everyone affected. The catalyst for this was the TV show Mr Bates vs The Post-Office, and if you haven’t yet seen it, make sure that you do. 

For those of you not UK-based, here’s a quick synopsis – the TV show tells the shocking story of one of the biggest miscarriages of justice here in the UK. In summary, a faulty IT system implemented at the Post Office led to hundreds of false prosecutions of fraud, theft and false accounting against innocent sub-postmasters. 
Like many of us I suspect, I found the details shared in the TV show both heart-breaking and shocking. There is just so much to unpack with the way the Post Office treated the sub postmasters I don’t know where to start; the lack of trust, and respect, the absence of any listening through to ghosting and more. The ineptitude and indifference of the leadership team was one of the most shocking elements of it all, but sadly something many of us have seen before. And the Post Office brand has gone from one of the most trusted, to in ruins – and for what?  

The most heart-breaking part is that all of this could have been avoided if the Post Office had put their people, their wellbeing, their experience, and their engagement, at the front and centre of the way they did things.  If they had created a place where people could speak up and raise issues. If they had listened, and believed what they were being told. If they had just treated their people well, things would have been very different. 
This is all so obvious to those of us working in employee engagement and employee experience, but the sad fact is that it isn’t at all obvious to leadership teams in many organisations. You only have to look at the current economic climate, with budgets and teams relating to the people side of the business being the first to be cut. The Post Office tragedy must never be allowed to happen again, and we are the people who can work towards making this so.

So are you with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Post Office scandal and where we go from here. I’m working on some ideas to get CEOs, the c-suite and leadership teams to sit up and take notice of the vital work that we all do, to help them understand the power of getting it right with their people vs the huge risks if they don’t.

Watch this space if you’d like to be part of the movement to make toxic workplaces a thing of the past.