Era of the sensitive civil servant dawns

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AMBITIOUS CIVIL servants will need to discover their "feminine side" if they want to emulate Sir Humphrey Appleby. But unlike him they must not be afraid to cry. The Civil Service College, where high flyers train, is to spend thousands of pounds teaching future permanent secretaries to say: "No, Minister - I have a bad vibe about this."

The Ascot college is to train top officials how to develop their Emotional IQ. They will be told that a First in Classics from Oxford is no longer sufficient preparation and that they must learn to "relate" to politicians and become "learning midwives" to other staff.

The courses will show senior Whitehall staff to stop biting their stiff upper lips when ministers criticise their red boxes, and learn to cry instead.

"We are offering two new courses on Emotional IQ," said a spokesman for the college. "The Civil Service is introducing EQ development programmes. This is a new but very important concept."

Permanent secretaries will be told they should move from "bullish macho attitudes" that "stifle emotionality and creativity" and learn to become sensitive to the emotional needs of people around them, including traffic wardens and cleaning staff. They will be told that "Yeah, Minister" can sometimes be better than "Yes Minister" and "loose" body language is all- important.

The new programmes will help male officials to learn from women colleagues who are in touch with their intuitive side. They will be told to practice "empathising".

Permanent Secretaries, renowned for their reserve, will no longer have to "leave their soul in the car park" and can "learn things at work that will be useful in the whole of life".They will be told that standing straight, with their hands behind their back sends out "closed" body-language signals and is "too male".

The courses in EQ will begin this autumn and have been approved by ministers at the Cabinet Office. The new approach, part of the Government's strategy to modernise Whitehall, has been welcomed by MPs who believe that the bowler-hatted, pin-striped image of a civil servant is outdated.

Tim Boswell, Conservative MP for Daventry and a former Education and Agriculture Minister, said: "We all remember the fictional Sir Humphrey Appleby who hid the truth in a cascade of fluent and evasive language.

"Civil servants, and indeed politicians, need to become alert to the other ways in which they can become effective communicators, for example, through their body language, style and empathy with the audience."