Friends of mine on their way to an Easter break in Portugal were prevented from checking in at Gatwick because one of their passports had technically expired. They had fallen foul of the ‘new’ regulation imposed on UK citizens by the EU which determines validity from the date a passport is issued, not the date it expires. You might like to check yours – if it appears to be valid for a few months more than 10 years it probably isn’t as far as EU countries are concerned.
Yet as we have discovered over the last few days getting or renewing a passport has become a task needing Herculean strength of character and Jobian patience. The current 10-week wait has been blamed on Covid, poor management, shortage of staff, and a Director General who, according to neighbours, still works mainly from home, although yesterday she was apparently at the Passport Office headquarters in Pimlico (surely that can’t be right – it was the title of a movie. No, I checked - it is correct!).
Which brings me to the point. Has anyone in government heard about proactivity? Did anyone in the Brexit Office recognise that the passport punishment inflicted on the UK by the EU was likely to catch people out, so perhaps an advisory advertising campaign would be appropriate? Did anyone in the Passport Office, (and for that matter Border Security, BAA, EasyJet, British Airways etc) consider that as life returned to normal after Covid lots more people would be travelling so working practices would need to change and staffing levels would need to increase, and training of new staff need to be completed, or there would be meltdown.
The mantra ‘it will all be OK’, which relies on faith that in a topsy-turvy world things naturally revert to ‘normal’ so proactive behaviour is simply preferable but not mandatory seems now to permeate life. We apparently don’t need to be proactive about a nuclear attack by Russia because it never happened before so ‘it will all be OK’. Early in the pandemic, the Government sent Covid infected hospital patients to care home with few measures in place to prevent cross-infection because asymptotic spread of a coronavirus had never happened before so ‘it will all be OK’. Except that it wasn’t OK and many people died as a result.
Here are 5 instances where negotiators must dump the ‘it will all be OK’ philosophy and be proactive:
- When neither side seems to be prepared to put a firm proposal on the table, step up. It is a great power-play and is rarely negative in tactical terms
- When you can see that the stumbling block in a negotiation is a personality thing take yourself out of the mix.
- When your indications of flexibility are missed or ignored by the other side, make them louder and clearer.
- Where you know the deal is based on a mistake or misunderstanding which the other side is unaware of, be proactive. If you wait for them to find out they are unlikely to trust you again
- Where you know that the other side are really hurting in a deal, don’t let the wound fester. Do something, however small, to alleviate the pain.