And so the Commission is over and the final report published …. I hope you get a chance to read, peruse and have a good muse about it all. There’s something in there that everyone can do – not least have your organisation adopt the fairness principles as your own.
I’ve been having a thunk about apologising …. I’m sure you have too given the apologies from various politicians recently. Do we ever truly accept apologies? From son and heir when he puts an empty milk carton back in the fridge (yes – he’s a teenager!), to the resulting grey (previously white) undies when someone has ‘helped’ with the washing . . . . And let’s not forget those people who simply cannot arrive to meetings on time and hurl in with a frazzled apology looking busy. Then there are waiters who apologise for the main dish no longer being available – best one for me is a famous fish and chip shop who’d run out of potatoes …. the assembled gob smacked queue booed. And finally the train announcer who repeatedly apologises for the delay of your train and hopes this hasn’t inconvenienced you … ‘not at all I was fine arriving at a time that put my entire schedule out … fine about it’ . . . ahhhh. You’ll have more examples that come to mind I’m sure . . .
I’ve come to the conclusion that apologies are only accepted if you trust it is an irregular or out of character occurrence … or if it really didn’t affect you. Justification rarely works either unless it feels both honest and unusual. ‘I’m having a busy day’ rarely cuts it …. As doesn’t oddly ‘my train was late’. And the more complicated the ‘reason’ the worse it gets …
I’ve been asked to apologise for a number of things over my professional years. I confess most of the time it isn’t an apology people are after – it’s a genuine understanding that we don’t agree or our view of the world is different. I remember being at a conference listening to Alistair Campbell – a marmite character if ever there was one – but when asked a hugely preambled question in the Q&A – he said ‘ I don’t accept the premise so I can’t answer your question’ and literally that was that. We moved onto the next question. The audience loved it and I confess so did I. Alistair wasn’t on the defensive in any way – he simply didn’t agree. It was refreshing and honest. How lovely it would be if the train announcer or the waiter said ‘we planned this badly’ or the meeting attendee said ‘this meeting wasn’t a high priority for me’.
There’s been much debate about whether culpable bankers should apologise for the recession we’re in. The cuts and ‘belt-tightening’ and so much of what we worry about today is obviously their fault. If a long row of CEO’s apologised would we feel better? Momentarily possibly …. but, more importantly, it’s how and where we go from here. Wages at the top should be reduced – huge pay outs for poor performance aren’t acceptable. Let me make it clear I’m not talking about the public sector either – their amounts are paltry by comparison. I don’t want their apologies – not interested – I want us all to own that the gap between the rich and the poor is huge and widening.
Half the children in poverty have a parent who works. Single parent benefit claimants are about to lose over £2,000 in benefits a year. The biggest reason for young people not getting out of poverty as adults is that their parents were poor. Over the last decade, the poorest tenth of the population have, on average, seen a fall in their real incomes. The UK has a higher proportion of its population in relative low income than most other EU countries: of the 27 EU countries, only 4 have a higher rate than the UK.
I could go on … and on … apologies are empty are they not?
We will have different views about how to deal with this. We will vote differently and behave differently and think differently … and that’s ok. But deal with it we must.
I commend our recommendations to one and all.
It’s been fabulous working in York and meeting so many fantastic people – I thank you all for your welcome to me and your time with us on this journey.
Yours for Fairness