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Is there an adult present?

In this editorial, Dorrit Brandt, president of Finansforbundet in Nordea, asks why requests for help from the employees disappear on their way to decision makers

1. Dec 2021
3 min

When I was a child in kindergarten, the adults were people I could go to if I couldn’t figure things out on my own, had problems or needed to be praised or comforted. I was also told that I should call an adult if somebody got hurt or there was trouble in the playground. So I approached the adults with unconditional trust.

A lot has changed since my kindergarten days, but the opportunity to approach somebody to get help or tell them that something isn’t right should also be available at a workplace.

Red light in the cockpit
In other professions than ours it can be absolutely fatal if you discover an error and do nothing about it. Imagine a captain on an aircraft who doesn’t go through all the safety procedures or ignores a red warning light. This will not happen! If a red light is flashing every effort is put into localising and correcting the error. And the aircraft will not take off until it is 100 per cent certain that the flight will be safe. Imagine a nurse who doesn’t fix a blockage in an oxygen tube, or ignores that the seal of sterile instruments is broken.

One of our values at Nordea is Ownership. “I take responsibility” – and “It starts with me”. Nordea’s Code of Conduct mentions several times how we as colleagues have an obligation to speak up about things that may constitute a security risk for Nordea.

During recent months’ many dialogues in Finansforbundet in Nordea with colleagues, at meetings of members or webinars, we’ve heard many stories of erroneous procedures – which have been clearly pointed out. For example when data are transferred manually from one Excel sheet to another because the right technical solution is not available – or no longer supported. We’ve also heard about test environments for IT projects or digital solutions that have been closed down, which means that customers get to experience our errors first hand.

The red flags HAVE been raised, but ...
Advisers in the banking sector have recently participated in a large survey conducted by Finansforbundet about the terms of competition in the financial sector. The findings will be used in a dialogue with the Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs. One out of three advisers responded that they “rarely” or “hardly ever” have enough time to provide adequate advisory services. Not only does this affect their professional pride and well-being; it also quite often results in errors in one or more links of the value chain.

And just to make it absolutely clear: the colleagues who took part in the survey did take ownership and did do everything right: said it out loud! asked for help! warned about the danger! But the message is lost on its way to the decision-makers. And unlike the swift action taken to correct errors in the cockpit, the preventive measures are very slow, which could worsen the situation: we stop using mistakes as learning or stop speaking up about things that don’t work.

It may not be life-threatening for our customers when we make mistakes, but over time the accumulated consequences could irrevocably damage our relationships and business.

So that’s why I’m tempted to ask: is there an adult present?


Dorrit Groth Brandt
President, Finansforbundet in Nordea

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