Social:Tick-box culture

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Short description: Bureaucratic and external impositions on professional working conditions

Tick-box culture or in U.S. English check-box culture, is described as bureaucratic and external impositions on professional working conditions, which can be found in many organizations around the world.[1] Another related term is the culture of performativity.[2]


According to David Boyle, the tick-box culture emerged with the introduction of targets and key performance indicators in corporate governance and official bureaucracy; it resulted in overzealous focus on rules and regulations rather than issues and people.[3] For Boyd, the tick-box culture is associated with dehumanized decision-making in organizational settings that manifests itself in the growth of management consulting, the pervasiveness of employee monitoring, and identity politics, among others.[1]

Tick-box culture is studied as a contributing factor in a number of fields, such as education, criminal justice, management, and medicine.[4][5][6]


In social work, tick-box culture means there is too much emphasis on following rules instead of actually helping children.[7]

In the US criminal justice system, some performance measures appear to have more influence on outcomes than others, and police targets have led to the criminalization of greater numbers of children, while goals for reduction youth in detention remain unmet.[8] In England, probation officers reportedly spend 75% of their time on red tape, and the tick-box culture was blamed for the growth in bureaucracy.[9] In Europe, crime prevention is thought to have shifted away from reducing opportunities for money laundering towards an emphasis on the demonstration of compliance with systems and procedures (tick-box culture) with the expectation that they will prevent money laundering from occurring.[10]

Tick-box culture in medicine is seen as a system increasingly engineered to medical technicians rather than to professionals.[11] In Scotland, a study found that clinical audit are perceived by practitioners as time-consuming and a managerially driven exercise with no associated professional rewards.[12] For example, a hospital in England was investigated over the death of young woman who was being monitored by hospital staff, the tick-box culture was blamed in part for the woman's death.[13][14]


Darren Mccabe, professor of organization studies at the University of Lancaster, wrote that "the shift towards a 'tick box' culture was a particular source of cynicism because it has created a shadowland where things are not as they seem or as they measured and represented."[15] Other commentators also criticized a tick-the-box approach in the workplace and beyond.[16][17][18][19]

In 2015, Theresa May stated that she wanted to stop the "tick box culture" of policing in England.[20] The Daily Express blamed the tick-box culture for embarrassing incidents in the English health-care.[21]

In England, in an effort to reduce formalistic, tick-box inspections of schools, official on-site examinations were greatly reduced and more emphasis was placed on professional judgement.[22]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Steven Poole. Tickbox by David Boyle review – thinking inside the box: From call centres to management consultancy to government, decision-making is being dehumanised. We need to take a stand against the culture of targets, The Guardian, 16 January 2020
  2. Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity, Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215-228.
  3. Boyle, David. Tickbox. Little, Brown Book Group Limited, 2020
  4. Marshall, Bethan. "A crisis for efficacy?." Education Review 20, no. 1 (2007).
  5. Ball, Stephen J (2003). "The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity". Journal of Education Policy 18 (2): 215–228. doi:10.1080/0268093022000043065. 
  6. André Spicer. Stupefied: How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door, Aeon, September 27, 2016
  7. "'Tick box culture' for social workers needs to come to an end". 10 May 2011. 
  8. Bateman, Tim. "‘Target practice’: sanction detection and the criminalisation of children: Tim Bateman sets out how police targets have led to the criminalisation of greater numbers of children and dispels the myth of a girl crime wave." Criminal justice matters 73, no. 1 (2008): 2-4.
  9. Travis, Alan; editor, home affairs (26 July 2011). "Probation officers spend 75% of time not dealing with offenders, report finds". The Guardian. 
  10. Harvey, Jackie. "Controlling the flow of money or satisfying the regulators." The organised crime economy (2005): 43-64.
  11. Gannon, Craig (2005). "Will the lead clinician please stand up?.". BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.) 330 (7493): 737. doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7493.737. 
  12. Bowie, Paul; Bradley, Nicholas A.; Rushmer, Rosemary (2012). "Clinical audit and quality improvement–time for a rethink?.". Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 18 (1): 42–48. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2753.2010.01523.x. PMID 21087366. 
  13. "Hospital tick-box culture contributed to death of girl, 18". 6 July 2012. 
  14. Cleland, Jennifer; Reeve, Joanne; Rosenthal, Joe; Johnston, Peter (2014). "Resisting the tick box culture: refocusing medical education and training". The British Journal of General Practice 64 (625): 422–423. doi:10.3399/bjgp14X681169. ISSN 0960-1643. PMID 25071054. 
  15. McCabe, Darren. Changing Change Management: Strategy, Power and Resistance, Routledge, 2020. ISBN:9780367140656
  16. A tick the box approach to governance can be dangerous
  17. Box ticking is bad for corporate governance
  18. "Are You Working In a Checkbox Culture? | PMC Coaching". 2013-05-25. 
  19. Nicole Anand. ‘Checkbox Diversity’ Must Be Left Behind for DEI Efforts to Succeed, Stanford Social Innovations Review, May 21, 2019
  20. May Tells Police Officers: Stop Crying Wolf: Theresa May tells police officers to stop "scaremongering" over cuts and promises an end to "tick box" targets.
  21. Nick Ferrari. The Ashya King case shows the tick-box culture is ruining our country, The Daily Express, September 7, 2014
  22. Baxter, Jacqueline, and John Clarke. "Farewell to the tick box inspector? Ofsted and the changing regime of school inspection in England." Oxford Review of Education 39, no. 5 (2013): 702-718.

Further reading

  • Boyle, David. Tickbox. Little, Brown Book Group Limited, 2020. ISBN:9781408711873

External links