Wider lessons from the review into Amnesty International’s staff wellbeing
19th February 2019
The damning report, which was commissioned after two staff took their own lives last year, has threatened to seriously damage Amnesty's credibility after it highlighted multiple cases of management using bullying and public humiliation to belittle staff. Perhaps not surprisingly, employee feedback has highlighted a severe lack of trust in senior figures, with management culture and heavy workloads both contributing to the top five reported sources of stress.
As the report acknowledges, Amnesty International's "ambitious human rights mission naturally carries with it considerable and unusual pressures" and this probably goes part-way towards explaining the exceptional levels of stress reported. But what the case also illustrates is that even the most virtuous employers can make their people ill through putting unrealistic pressures on them and failing to install an adequate safety net when they can't cope. In fact, it emerged that Amnesty lacked a comprehensive and integrated approach to supporting staff wellbeing.
Despite this, many staff reported having a good relationship with their individual line manager. Some were highly regarded for their compassion and attention to wellbeing and several had shown a flexibility that had contributed significantly to employee wellbeing.
It would be remiss of me at this point not to thank Louis Wustemann for his excellent stewardship of IOSH Magazine from its inception in 2016. As a former editor of SHP, I intend to maintain the superb blueprint that he created for this publication, albeit with some minor amends, one of which will be to share this comment every other month with IOSH's president, Dr Vincent Ho. I hope you enjoy this issue and I welcome your comments.