Australian Taxation Office : Awesome abusive managerial culture exposed

What is awesome – in a negative sense – about what is described in this post is the fact that abusive cultures such this are allowed to flourish in the first place.

Over the past month and a half I have been working with Serene Teffaha and others as a result of disclosures that point to serious systemic and cultural issues within the ATO.

This post provides an overview and links to the full posts on OZloop. If you wish to comment please do so on Govloop or, if you wish, OZloop.

Communities have a vested interest in seeing that public service agencies have a healthy organisational culture. Ugly managerial cultures and the practices that characterise it are unhealthy. They undermine efficiency, cost individuals and the community and have no place in the public service of the 21st century.

As pointed out in my various posts this is not a problem that is confined to the ATO. Though I do believe that treatment Serene Teffaha has been subjected to sits at the worse end of the scale.

Looked at through an employee engagement lens it is pretty clear that cultures and practices such as this are a recipe for disengagement. Even the ATO’s approach to employee engagement is contrived and controlled. And since leaving the Taxation Office I have had a lot of calls from people describing the shocking state of the corporate culture of the place.

I have also been informed that the organisation has gone into lock down mode so far as access to social media is concerned. That purpose of that is to simply to control messages and prevent open conversation.

What are your views? Would this sort of culture be tolerated in the organisation you work for? Does this sort of culture have a place in the place in the public service?

Tax office faces accusations of abuse of power

7.30 Interview. In the many months prior to this Serene and her colleagues initially raised issues associated with due process and natural justice within the ATO. Due to the response of ATO management they then decided to raise these issues under the auspices of the whistleblowing provisions of the Public Service Act (1999).

Silence is Consent

Public letter to the Taxation Commissioner. This letter describes in detail the treatment Serene has been subjected to by the ATO since raising these important issues. What this letter reveals, along with a plethora of additional documentation, is the ugly managerial culture that pervades the ATO.

Attached is a briefing paper I provided to the Assistant Treasure’s Office and the Inspector General of Taxation.

Understanding root causes of what bureaucracies do to people

A piece by Graham Gourlay explaining why bureaucracies operate in an abusive manner.

Australian Taxation Office – Ugly Managerial Culture Revealed

A piece my me describing the systemic nature of this abuse.

Managerial mobbing and the perversion of human resources

A piece by me highlighting the mobbing behaviour and how the HR function has been perverted by such behaviours.

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David Dejewski

Mixed feelings about this.

My first reaction is – this sort of thing happens. It doesn’t “spill over into the public” as one of your pieces states, but I have witnessed several similar abuses of power in my 20 years with government. For years, I worked to try to change it from the inside – growing less careful as I matured.

My second reaction is – good on you for having this discussion. I don’t like anything about the case itself, but I do like the fact that people find it appalling, that actions are being taken, and that these whistle blowing employees are still speaking and clarifying their message. If nothing else, our right to be critical of our own system is being exercised.

My third reaction is – the size of the microphone often makes a difference. Those with the larger microphone (and the presumed authority) tend to drown out or discredit those who would speak out. While many people who speak out are not practiced or very articulate about what they are trying to speak out about, the organization typically has conferences, competent legal help, and lot of press opportunities to “drown out” or minimize whistle-blowing activity.

My final reaction is that Paul Hogan needs his hat and his “that’s a knife” knife. Man… we’re all getting old.

Thanks for sharing, Steve!

steve davies

Thanks David. The argument about it spilling over is a vexed one for sure. You could argue that whistleblowers are, in this instance, treated like recalcitrant taxpayers. Yep. The discussion needs to be had four sure. Hopefully, there will shortly be a feature in one of our national papers on this nonsense.

If I had to sum up the what these events says about the corporate culture of the Australian Taxation Office it goes like this . . .