Wednesday, 3 March 2010


I promised sometime ago that I would write a series of articles on dysfunctional behaviours and how to beat those.

In the first three articles I shall address the core characteristics of dysfunctional behaviour. The first one is on secrecy.

I chose secrecy because it is one of the core features of dysfunctional families/human social units/organizations that enable victimization, and give power and control to the abusive people. Secrecy is essential for the dysfunction to continue.

The best way to understand it is in terms of fear which drives the need for secrecy. Thus, for example, a child who suffers abuse is sworn to secrecy or something terrible would happen to somebody they love and depend on e.g. parent, for example the abuser threatens to kill one of the parents.

In fact, secrecy enables the abusive person to continue his/her abusive behaviour as they are basically not found out.

Organizational secrecy is also based on the same principle that if something was to become known the whole organization would be shut down i.e. seize to exist.

Truth has not stopped people believing all sorts of things that are not true because human beings can be driven by emotion alone. Therefore, mere disclosures do not necessarily have profound effects.

In medical institutions there is a lot of secrecy. There are various files that various people keep about various people. One does not know until it is too late or even ever what defamatory comments might have been planted there for keeps.

I discovered only recently, that it is perfectly possible for Medical Directors to telephone the General Medical Council and chat with investigators fishing for information on doctor they may not like and fear before they decode to stab the doctor in the back. Verbal complaints and various false assertions have been made which are never communicated to the accused but have prejudicial effect on the investigator(s).

Surely, there must be something in the mind of the person accepting false allegations readily without questioning them?

There could be quite simply prejudices such as that women are mad and one should expect irrational behaviour from women doctors. This is, certainly, reflected in the irrational referrals of women doctors for psychiatric examinations by the regulatory body's Expert Witnesses who do not adhere to any internationally accepted diagnostic criteria. Women who have their own political opinions have become subjects of hideous allegations before the regulators who keep many allegations just to themselves.

Secret meetings have taken place between the professional regulator and National Health Service Trust managers that doctor knows nothing about, and is not represented in any way during those meetings. Prejudicial material can be discussed freely and no charges ever made, but the bad impression about the doctor remains nonetheless.

One way to break the secrecy is to be open about it whenever one finds evidence of such behaviours.

Data Protection Act 1998 allows access to data held on subject if he/she asks for it in writing from the Data Controller and pays the fee.

There are also Freedom of Information Acts which allow public access to some information held by public bodies.

Using both Acts one can find more information but dysfunctional people do not provide it readily. Seeking information can precipitate destruction of documents, new breaches of both Acts (FOIA and DPA) as well as the disclosure of some of the documents. It can take a long time to obtain the documentation. There could be various appeals and court hearings. Some staff run away to seek employment somewhere else in order to avoid having to provide the documentation.

Some organizations do not provide anything at all or refuse for many months to accept requests even by registered post. It is good to see that Information Commissioners publish who has been found guilty of offending.

Another favourite are the secret references which should be illegal, in my opinion. I met someone who was given a reference in a sealed envelope to give to a prospective employer, but she had a bad feeling about the manager who wrote it. She asked me what to do. I told her to open the envelope. When she did she found her manager wrote that she lacked mathematical ability. In fact, she had a degree in mathematics and an IQ so high that it was outside the reliable range. Now, she is a Chief Executive of a large organization and has excellent reputation, but she had to ask someone else for the reference first.

There are many secrets such as secret discrimination in public policies which are against the law, secret bonding (eg old boy networking, racism, sexism and so on) or secret support for the offenders (protectionism).

When it comes to discovering secrets have at least two plans and do not rely on authorities. Even if you have the support of the authority such as courts you may find that some people do not respect their orders at all. So have a plan B and C.

No comments: