Managerial Ideologies in the Probation Service 11

These three themes can all be seen as a response to an anxiety about control or about failure to control destructiveness, and are apparent at all levels of the Service. At central government level, the environment is perceived as being actually or potentially out of control, as expressed in rising levels of crime and fears about delinquent frustration. The prime ministerial reaction to the televised pictures of football violence testifies to this anxiety, as does the rapidly rising expenditure on the means of crime control. Probation management has to operate without direct control over the work of probation officers, and yet with a responsibility to respond to governmental anxiety, on the one hand, and the confusing and demanding nature of the local environment on the other. Individual probation officers have to work with no techniques proved to be successful in controlling delinquency, facing frequent re-offending by clients or ex-clients, but with a feeling or responsibility for failures to control that offending behaviour.

It may seem unnecessary to point out that the management of crime involves confronting real destructiveness and behaviour that is out of control. Nonetheless, there is an irrational element to this as with any anxiety, and the means of managing the fear and anxiety generated by crime and by close relationships with offenders, can be generalised to apply to the total functioning of the agency. What I have said refers to what might be regarded as the unconscious life of the agency and its employers, or at least to the extent to which debates about policy or management derive their energy and significance from largely unacknowledged emotional forces. It is my belief that too much emphasis is generally given to the intellectual content of decisions about management, and too little to these powerful emotional forces. However, it has also been my experience in becoming a manager that remarkably little attention is paid to the intellectual work that has been done on organisations.


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