Editorial: Amid welcome improvements to workplace environments we should not forget that some jobs will always have a hard edge

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​​News Letter editorial on Saturday April 22 2023:

Workplaces are better environments than they were only a few decades ago, in many ways. They are, for example, more equal between the sexes, with some professions such as medicine now having almost as many female doctors as men. Likewise in many branches of law.

In work places (such as newspaper newsrooms) staff can no longer chain smoke without regard for colleagues who hated the smoke. Journalists mostly accept that that was unfair. There is far more racial diversity in workplaces than there was just a handful of years ago. In some high-powered areas of work there is a higher percentage of ethnic minority leaders than in the wider population (the UK cabinet was at one point almost 20% BAME – Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority).

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There is also now decreasing amounts of bullying or sexual harassment, when both were rife in certain lines of work just a handful of years ago. Even in tough environments such as the military there is determination to end bullying. This has made workplaces more acceptable to the spectrum of 21st century UK.

There is, though, always a risk that improvements turn into zealotry. Barely a day goes by now in which there is not a report of a prominent public figure being dismissed for a transgression such as bullying or harassment (currently Dominic Raab). The ex PM Gordon Brown, for example, was accused of being abrupt with staff to the point of bullying while in Downing Street.

While it is important to strive continuously to improve workplaces and to eradicate misconduct, we should never lose sight of the fact that some lines of work are very stressful and will always have a hard edge. Whether or not Mr Raab deserved the sack only those who witnessed his conduct can be sure. But he is right to warn about setting too low a threshold for bullying.