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"Dysfunctional" AOC out of step with Olympic ideals, review finds

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Australian Olympic Committee staff believe the organisation’s culture is out of step with Olympic ideals, describing it as dysfunctional in a wide-ranging review which details poor workplace culture.

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The independent review found the AOC’s culture is out of step with Olympic ideals and modern workplace practices.

The review, released publicly today, highlights disillusionment of staff with their treatment from AOC leaders.

Staffers tell of senior leaders undermining each other and being openly hostile; of widespread concerns about favouritism; a lack of transparency in decision-making; and poor communication.

Many staff also hold a view that some people had stayed in the organisation too long, which was a key plank in the failed campaign to win the AOC presidency by ex-Olympian Danni Roche.

Roche challenged John Coates for the AOC in May, with the incumbent Coates retaining the role.

The review, by The Ethics Centre, was commissioned following bullying claims within the AOC which came to light during the presidency campaign.

The review found staff described the AOC as “out of step with both their ideals and the minimum expectations for a modern organisation”.

“The principal cause of disillusionment is the way the organisation’s leadership treats staff and external stakeholders,” the review findings said.

“All stakeholder groups were able to provide examples of senior AOC officials acting poorly,” adding staffers described “deceitful”, “two-faced” “egotistic” and “belligerent” behaviour.

Staffers also pinpointed a lack of governance.

“A number of staff described the AOC as “the most dysfunctional” organisation that they have worked for,” the review said.

“Staff described a ‘command and control’ structure that is akin to that of a conservative family business.

“There was a widespread feeling that difficult conversations are avoided by senior leaders in favour of short-cut ‘work arounds’ that minimise the need to engage directly with staff.

“Less than one in three staff surveyed felt that people… are able to have difficult conversations in a constructive and respectful manner.

“Poor behaviour is not directly dealt with.”

The review said the AOC “needs to answer the question of how it can play a leadership role as an organisation in the Olympic family while, at the same time, progressing the interests and ambitions of Australia”.

“As it happens, the majority of the AOC’s values are neither strongly nor consistently expressed in practice,” the report said.

“Indeed, the AOC values are not widely recognised by staff, nor do they resonate strongly with them.”

The review found the AOC’s ideals are not consistently put in practice.

“While staff and stakeholders hold the AOC in high regard and express immense pride in what the organisation has achieved over the years, they describe the organisation as being out of step – with both their ideals and minimum expectations for a modern organisation,” said the investigation findings, which were released by the AOC today.

“Instead of seeing the organisation as celebrating the best of the Olympic ideals, staff and stakeholders speak of a more immediate horizon of challenges and difficulties that stem from a culture that is not aligned with the ideals that the organisation aspires to uphold.”

The review said the AOC “needs to answer the question of how it can play a leadership role as an organisation in the Olympic family while, at the same time, progressing the interests and ambitions of Australia”.

 

“The AOC’s staff identify strongly with the spirit of Olympism and staff and stakeholders feel more closely connected to the ASPIRE values created for athletes.”

The Australian Olympic team’s values have been termed ASPIRE – an acronym for attitude; sportsmanship; pride; individual responsibility; respect and express yourself.

The independent review was commissioned in the wake of bullying claims within the AOC which came to light during the bitter ballot for the AOC presidency, retained by incumbent Coates.

Several claims centred on long-time AOC media director Mike Tancred, who remains stood down from his position.

Tancred stood down from his job during the presidency campaign and has been reprimanded for his conduct regarding ex-AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong.

Mike Tancred with Rio chef de mission Kitty Chiller at a media briefing last year. Photo: Dan Himbrechts / AAP

Tancred was cleared of a bullying allegation made by de Jong but was reprimanded by an separate investigation which found he engaged in disreputable conduct.

Tancred stood down from his position on April 26 following de Jong’s claims that he threatened her while at the AOC.

De Jong’s allegation prompted a series of other accusations from former AOC employees and concerns among athletes and sports about the culture of the organisation.

-AAP

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