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Amnesty replaces top leaders after ‘toxic working culture’ report

After the ‘toxic working culture report’, Amnesty International has changed most of its top leaders. Yet employees at many other NGOs also face the same problems.

After the publication of an independent review of staff well-being at the London-based human rights organization earlier this year, which said Amnesty is permeated by “toxic” working culture, the Group has announced that five out of its seven-strong senior management team will resign by October.

The report said employees suffered “exceptional stress,” “bullying and public humiliation as a management tool,” mistrust, underappreciation and a “us versus them” dynamic pitting management against staff members.

The review was ordered after a well-known researcher, Gaetan Mootoo, and paid intern Rosalind McGregor committed suicide within months of each other last year. In his suicide note, Mootoo complained of work pressure and a lack of management support, while McGregor reportedly suffered from insomnia and anxiety.

Amnesty employees have also complained of abuses of power and discrimination. Almost 40% of the 475 interviewed employees said working for the organization had caused them psychological or physical problems. The report found that most “efforts to support staff well-being have been ad hoc, reactive and piecemeal.”

In January, British charity Oxfam published an independent interim report on the state of its working environment. It found that Oxfam staff had complained of racism, elitism, bullying and strict top-down hierarchies.

And last October, an independent report revealed that the work environment at British aid group Save the Children was anything but exemplary. Almost a third of interviewees said they had been harassed or discriminated against while working for the NGO over the past three years.