THERE was no ready way to put a positive spin on the findings we published of a staff survey carried out at Scotland's Care Inspectorate.
The leaked statistics were dire, showing, among other things, that 55% of employees responding did not feel valued, while only 22% gave a positive account of staff morale and 71% complained of stress.
Was there more to the story than met the eye? In some ways. The poll was carried out by the Unison, Unite and GMB unions, who, along with the Royal College of Nursing, represent the vast majority of staff at the care watchdog.
With a sizeable sample - 192 staff, including inspectors, managers, administrative workers and others responded - the statistics came accompanied by reams and reams of lurid quotes from angry, disillusioned, stressed workers.
"I have never felt so unwanted and cared for... in a job before in my life," said one worker.
"I came into this organisation a proud person... now I'm embarrassed to be a part of the Care Inspectorate," said another.
Overall, dozens of comments spoke of unrealistic demands, extra hours worked, and sleep lost due to worry about their job.
But were the findings representative? You might expect a union-led to deliver a less-than-kind verdict on management.
In fact, the Care Inspectorate has 596 staff, so the agency's management could rightly claim fewer than a third of staff had replied to the unions' survey. To its credit, the Inspectorate did not push this angle. In fact, unions report senior figures are dealing with them and accept there are problems that need to be addressed. A regular partnership forum means union concerns can be heard.
A spokesman for the Inspectorate stressed no grievance or allegation of bullying has been levelled against any senior manager in the organisation's history.
Some of the current problems will inevitably ease as the shift to a national specialist-based system of inspections, rather than regional teams, settles down. It seems realistic to think that difficulties with new computer software systems will level out.
That does not mean everything in the garden is rosy, or even approaching it. Stress levels are high, because the nature of the work is confrontational. Owners of care homes, for example, can get upset if a bad report threatens their livelihood, and they are often all too ready to shoot the messenger.
This can mean complaints to the Inspectorate about the ability of inspectors themselves, and regular legal challenges to inspections.
In the face of this pressure, many staff at the inspectorate feel their management have been guilty of yielding too frequently to the objections of those the body is supposed to regulate and failing to stand up for the professionalism and expertise of workers.
The Inspectorate's management has asked for an interim report on the discontent revealed by the survey, which will be delivered next week. Its response will shed light on how ready managers are to address the internal and external pressures on their workforce.
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