Every night since March our national broadcaster has solemnly announced the statistics of COVID 19 deaths which have occurred in the UK. Periodically also, because the governments are devolved, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments have pointed out that their fatality rates from the disease in their respective countries have been less awful than those in England where many have rationalised the difference as being affected by the size of cities, the make-up of the population or the density of housing. The figures showed strange fluctuations – up one day and down the next. Then, just a few days ago, a disturbing truth came to light – COVID 19 is something from which, if you live in England and register with the health authorities as having the disease, you can never recover. Public Health England (PHE), the quango charged with regulating our well-being in England, decided, in reporting its figures on COVID, that if you had been recorded as having the disease, you would always die from it. Even if you had had the disease in March, recovered and been hit by a bus in July, COVID would be recorded as the cause of your death.
The fact seems to be that PHE decided the criteria for recording the fatalities and so we all duly heard the daily figures and believed them, at least until someone smelled a rat. No doubt the figures were, by PHE’s definition, correct but their basis was not understood and so a false impression of the truth was created. We shall have to wait to see what the real comparative data tells us.
You may recall that in my last blog here, I was telling of the reluctance a caravan park owner was showing in entering into dialogue with people who owned homes on his park about the potential for a rebate of fees due as a result of the forced closure of the park and its consequent unavailability to those who had paid in advance. Just a few days ago, that same park owner sent a letter to all of the homeowners seeking their understanding of his position as his ‘turnover had been halved’. No doubt some of them sympathised. Me? I thought that it was not unreasonable for his turnover to be half last year’s when we are only halfway through the season when he earns his money!
Back in 1992, a British government minister, Alan Clark, was giving evidence to a trial and, in reference to the use for engineering items sold to Iraq, said that he had been “economical with the actualité” and that it was true that the Iraquis would use the orders for engineering purposes - it was just that he omitted to note the fact that they would also be used for munitions. Not a lie – just a part of the truth. As with PHE, obscuring a part of the truth leads people to draw the incorrect conclusion.
One of the things we learn from Scotwork’s extensive international Negotiating Capability Survey is that there is a tendency for negotiators not to prepare thoroughly the questions to ask of their counterparty in a negotiation. We should all be curious in our negotiations and prepare to probe diligently for what may be beneath the “facts” we are told because there may lie the truth.
About the author:
My background is human resource consulting, I am a former KPMG consulting partner and head of global HR development with the firm. I began my interest in negotiating as an industrial relations specialist in the early part of my career and have spent many hours with trade union representatives practising what I now preach! I am also a coach and use these skills in my work with Scotwork’s clients.