Views, loos, choose

    Ian McMaster
    Von Ian McMaster


    Two key recent issueFrage, Problemissues have made me think about how decisions should be made, whether in a family, an organization or a country.

    There are two basic models, with variations within each model. On the one hand, a single person or very small group of people can decide what should be done — a dictatorship. Second, some attempt can be made to involve the people concerned — democracy.

    Most people would regard the second model as generally preferable, although we all know situations in which it is more efficient to have decisions taken by a smaller group or an individual.

    Within the democratic model, there is a further question about how decisions should be reached. Is an absolute majority of more than 50 per cent needed for a proposal to be successful? Is a bigger majority — perhaps two thirds — necessary? Or is a relative majority enough, so that the plan that gets the most votes wins even if it receives less than 50 per cent?

    Another key issue is how we protect minority rights within a system where the will of the majority, however defined, rules the day. A further question is that of who gets to vote: the people directly (and which people?) or their elected representatives via a parliament or other body?

    If the majority decides, how do we protect minority rights?

    These are not new questions, but have been brought into focus by two recent events. The first is Britain’s vote in the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union. The (non-binding) vote was 52 per cent for Brexit and 48 per cent against. The debates and negotiationVerhandlungnegotiations over the past two and a half years have shown how difficult it is to to translate sth.hier: etw. umsetzentranslate such a close “people’s vote” into action, to take account (of sth.)etw. berücksichtigentaking account both the will of the majority and the wishes of the (very large) minority.

    The Brexit issue is complicated by the fact that there is currently no majority among the people’s representatives in parliament for any of the specific Brexit proposals. A second “people’s vote” is a possibility now that the options are clearer. But that is also unlikely to to resolve sth.etw. lösenresolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction.

    The second key issue is a more basic one: the question of how many men’s and women’s toilets there should be at Spotlight Verlag’s new offices.

    When we moved into the new offices three weeks ago, there were two toilets for men and two for women. That sounds fair, but women make up around 70 per cent of all staff members. The result was long queueSchlangequeues for the women’s bathrooms — something I observed every day as one of their loo UK (ifml.)Kloloos is opposite my office. (On the other side of my room, I have a view of the Alps on a clear day, so it’s not all bad.)

    Last Thursday, however, one of the men’s toilets — the one closest to my office — was suddenly turned into a women’s loo. This brought the allocationVerteilung, Zuordnungallocation more or less in line within Übereinstimmung mitin line with the staff breakdownhier: Zusammensetzung, Schlüsselbreakdown. The men were brieflykurz(zeitig)briefly (and jokingly) in an to be in an urproarin (heller) Aufregung seinuproar, but we knew that this was a fair and sensiblevernünftigsensible decision. Minority rights — in this case, those of the men — have not been disregarded, even if some of us now have to walk further. (The issue of gender-neutral toilets was, I believe, discussed, but to reject sth.etw. ablehnen, verwerfenrejected, despite their potential advantages.)

    This decision to to rebrand sth.etw. umfirmierenrebrand one of the four bathrooms was not taken on a people’s vote. Indeed, most of the people (including me) weren’t even aware that discussions were taking place. Instead, the decision was taken via the people’s representatives — the works councilBetriebsratworks council — although a referendum would no doubt have produced the same result.

    If only the UK could resolve the Brexit issue as quickly and efficiently. Because with the Brexit deadline of 29 March looming, there really is little time to loos — sorry, lose.

    In his blog, Ian McMaster has been commenting on global business issues since 2002. You will find more of his blog posts here.