Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The problem with being too personal

It's with a certain sense of irony that I write this blog, and once you get into the meat of it, you'll understand just why.

That's because I've started to wonder just how possible it has become for a professional person to split their personal and working lives. In an era where tools like social media are a 24/7 instrument, and blogging is for all, the lines are becoming - perhaps somewhat dangerously - blurred.

But is it important to split these two potentially competing things, and is it even possible when a person's views will inherently bias them in their professional setting? It’s a debate I not only think we should have, but must have.

We all need to think more carefully about personal comments being made in a professional capacity
So what’s galvanised me into action on this topic? Some of the recent comments made by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the man who heads up Ofsted are responsible for making me reappraise how the personal and professional intermingle. The comments Sir Michael chose to make in a very public manner took aim at the world of further education institutions, despite the fact that his organisation is responsible for inspecting, and grading, those very establishments. Those remarks, it could be argued, are at odds with the impartiality that his office demands. And yet Sir Michael, a man held in great esteem by many, still thought it was appropriate to make them. And not just make them, but defend them in the face of a veritable onslaught from the further education sector. His defence was that the remarks were not a bias, stating “it’s criticism of what we see — and have seen for a number of years.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw Pic credit: UK Government
And while I may not agree with Sir Michael’s statements – in fact, I absolutely disagree with all of these particular pronouncements – and think that his attempt to defend them was poor, there’s clearly a bigger issue at play. Namely, that the real problem is not what he said, but how and when it was said. He chose to air his very personal views, not on a blog like this one, or on his Twitter feed (both of which are fairly clearly forums for opinion), but during an evidence session to the Education Select Committee.

That is where the real issue lies; the fact that he made very personal comments in a very professional setting. And his comments were presented as being fact, as if all of the FE sector was “in a mess.” In my view (and I recognise that some will disagree with me) the platform which he has as a consequence of his job shouldn’t be used to make a case which is inherently personal. Nor indeed should anyone’s position be used to make personal comment.

With that said, the issue of making personal comments in a professional context is one which needs more debate. That is because our lives are becoming ever more blended, with professional aspects mixed more fully with our personal lives. As this professional and personal integration speeds up due to technological advancements and changes in working styles, it will become an issue which grows far faster.

So what are your views? Let me know in the comments below.