When I saw this tweet recently it reminded me that I had been brewing a post about the importance of saying no for a while. Some of my thoughts were explained in this post which emerged as I embarked on my retirement. Recent events however had made me think more generally about the importance of goodwill.
What is goodwill?
According to the business world:
“Goodwill is an intangible asset that is associated with the purchase of one company by another. Specifically, goodwill is the portion of the purchase price that is higher than the sum of the net fair value of all of the assets purchased in the acquisition and the liabilities assumed in the process.”
I remember when my parents retired, goodwill was part of the negotiations for selling their business. It comprised the reputation, contacts and professional status of their hairdressing business, built up over years of service to the local community. It was translated to a financial value in the settlement of the purchase price when the business changed hands. So it became a tangible asset at that point.
In an educational context, when I became a teacher in the 1980’s I experienced goodwill as staff willingness to “go the extra mile” Our senior managers knew that we would give of our time and talents to enhance the school community through extra curricular activities, organising and planning events outside school such as trips abroad, exchanges and visits. These were done without additional payment, on the basis that they would be recognised by our managers as goodwill contributions to the ethos of the school and the cultivation of opportunities for our students. Such goodwill became tangible when our managers ensured that what we were expected to do was reasonable and fair. This has been eroded over the years with successive changes to teachers pay and conditions. Currently there is a recruitment and retention crisis in education which the government seems to think can be solved through a combination of technology and practitioner blaming. A familiar tactic and probably the only strategy deployed by this government on any issue which they fail to understand.
For anyone engaged in public service there is always an element of goodwill at work. You won’t find it written into a contract. Indeed, in all human life and relationships we make personal judgements about what is reasonable and fair, we are prepared to go above and beyond to help others if goodwill has been established between us. We even offer this goodwill before such a relationship is established, we expect others to treat us as we treat them.
So goodwill is an important, powerful concept that ensures that the wheels turn smoothly between individuals. Why then would a government systematically attempt to destroy goodwill between itself and its citizens? Recently, messaging to those who have faced (and continue to face) the toughest working demands of a global pandemic have been threatened by the new health secretary Sajid Javid as he tries to appease the electorate on difficulties obtaining face to face appointments with GPs.
Industries which have faced huge challenges as a result of Brexit, such a haulage, farming and fishing have been ignored when they have sounded the alarms, told to be more proactive and left without support until public outrage have shamed the government into some minimal action.
If you are known to be wealthy and powerful, goodwill seems to matter less in your interactions with others. If anything, there seems to be an inverse correlation between how others respect you and how you treat them. The more aloof and unconcerned you are, the more your subjects try to please you. I am mystified when I see the YouGov polls which reflect positive results for a government which not only doesn’t care, but doesn’t even hide their disdain for the rest of us.
The tweet at the start of this post reminded me that there is only one language understood by those currently in power. The removal of goodwill, the courage to say no and to demand respect for what we do may help to turn the tide. No more giving away our goodwill below its tangible value. We got through the pandemic thanks to the goodwill shown by ordinary people – volunteers and those in public service – only to have that claimed by the government as what was expected of us. We need to know our worth.