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GB’s Olympics, fewer medals but a better story

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

I read that a British Olympic gold medallist summed up Team GB’s  performance is his sport at the Tokyo Olympics  as , “ Fewer medals but a better story”. I am guessing he was referring to the revelations of bullying and ill treatment of athletes that emerged following the previous Olympics in which a record number of medals were won.

We now know that physical and emotional abuse has been a part  of the training methods of some of the most successful coaches. Athletes suffered unnecessary pain forced to train whilst carrying injuries , were routinely  verbally abused, threaten and humiliated in front of other team members. And if they complained their dedication and commitment was questioned. Whilst the coaches justified their methods by the improved performance the sporting body turned a blind eye due to the prospect of increased medals.

There are parallels here with the actions of senior managers prior to the pandemic and the shift in some quarters since. The chief executive as a bully,  who intimidates, threatens and abuses, who insists in total commitment, who does not tolerate questioning of their methods or decisions,  who constantly demands more of individuals often at the expense of family and any life outside of work. Justified in their minds by the improved performance whilst the board turns a blind eye seduced by increased profits, or a dramatic move up the league table.

Just as some within sports governing bodies are acknowledging that the end does not justify the means and that they have a responsibility for the health and mental well-being of athletes some organisations /businesses are deciding that success should not be at the expense of the individuals wellbeing.

The pandemic and being furloughed  or required to  work from home has led many within organisations to question their relationship with work, do they want to go back to how it was before ? Whilst at the same time there has been a significant raising of awareness around mental well-being leading apparently successful people to question whether the way their organisation expects them to work is doing them harm?

For the individual this may be trading status and financial reward for a better quality of family life. For an organisation it may be fewer medals but a better story.

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