Backing off from a commitment when the going gets tough makes you more of a David Brent than a Maggie T
Consultation is one of the most abused words in management.
It means seeking the views of those likely to be affected by a decision, before finally taking that decision. It means bringing an open mind to a big choice.
The prime minister today announced that the government would shortly be publishing a Green Paper on corporate governance reform . “This will be a genuine consultation,” she said.
But in the next sentences she went on to say that the direct appointment of employee representatives onto company boards was not about to happen, even though this was something she had referred to in two speeches earlier this year. This put her in the unfortunate position of sounding like the stereotypical bad boss, who makes a promise at the staff meeting only to renege on it when the going gets tough.
We will wait to see the specifics of what is being proposed. But the government should proceed carefully. It is no use setting yourself up as the worker’s friend, or claiming that your government wants to listen to neglected voices, before slamming the door on those same people and inviting others to represent their views.
The voice of employees is what has been missing from the board level discussion on executive pay over the past two decades. That lack of voice has led us to where we are today, where almost everyone agrees that top pay has become absurdly excessive. It would be a great pity were the government to surrender to the inertia that has prevented substantial progress on excessive pay during that time, and snatch ignominious defeat from the jaws of something close to a worthwhile victory.