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Public Sector Organizational Failure: A study of collective denial in the UK National Health Service

Hendy, Jane and Tucker, Danielle (2021) 'Public Sector Organizational Failure: A study of collective denial in the UK National Health Service.' Journal of Business Ethics, Online (4). pp. 1-16. ISSN 0167-4544 (In Press)

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This paper argues that public sector organizational failure may be best understood from a perspective of collective denial. The rise of this phenomenon is examined using testimony from a Public Inquiry into the downfall of a UK hospital, where falling organizational standards led to unethical decision making and an unacceptable number of patient deaths. In this paper we show how collective denial, over time, became a process that resided within the fabric of organizational life. To explore the organizational processes associated with collective denial, and how and why it occurs, we identify the influence of a ‘narrative of silence’. This narrative allows ever more serious failings to be justified as organizational members lose contact with reality entering a downward spiral with no recovery. The combined impact of assumptions about leadership capability, enculturated professional identities and organizational loyalty create an environment where a narrative of silence can develop.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: public sector; organisational failure; denial; collective denial; silence; narrative; hubris; UK NHS
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2020 14:11
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2022 12:20

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