But you’ve GOT to get written permission…!

“But you should have got written permission!” shouted the Chairperson of a charity group, connected to a public sector entity, of which I am a member. “Why the hell didn’t you?”

“Permission to do what?” I snorted.

“Well, permission to take photos of that department which we were asked to critique.”

“I made sure there were no staff members or other people in the photos as the rules state, and just illustrated the problem rather than write it all out.Must get written permission“But you should have got permission!”

“From whom? We don’t need permission if there aren’t any staff members or other people in shot.”

“Oh, well, I don’t know, but you should have got permission.”

Our Chairperson at the time was a retired formed Head Honcho within another public sector organisation. Given his high-flying title you’d think he would have been very comfortable with decision making and knowledge of who needs what permissions to do what, where, when and more.

The reality is, “written permission” and its siblings are what too many people hide behind

I have encountered this issue in other circumstances, too.

Once this Chairperson had left his role, surprisingly arch-rebel Suze (who was Vice-Chair at the time which always prompted me to make jokes about being in charge of vice – not always appreciated in public sector circles…) became Acting Chair and, after an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to see if I had a mandate, was elected as the new Chair.

Yee Hah.

Before I called the EGM, I realised that my predecessor had laid plans to thwart my progress as potential Chair.

A lovely lady from the regional organisation of which our group was a part, took me aside (having been primed by my predecessor although she didn’t realise I knew that) … and said:

“You really might do better to have a man to take over as Chair. Why don’t you choose (NAME)…??”

This was a great guy who was in his 80s and didn’t know how to use email even though this was in 2013. When I did eventually ask him, out of courtesy, if he wanted to be Vice Chair he turned it down – freely admitted he couldn’t really get his head around contemporary ways of communicating.
Written permission essentialIt was fascinating to see how Political Correctness goes down the toilet when personal pet hates are involved. Better to have a lovely but inappropriate man as Chair? In 2013? And suggested by a female official?

Our group, fortunately, stuck up for me and today we are leading the way in our sphere, helping the people we represent, acting as co-ordinators amongst all interested parties, and making such a difference to our remit that we are being closely observed by a large charity with a view to their taking our methodologies on nationally.

We don’t need to ask for written permission, unless the requirement is actually specified. 

And perhaps because we’re independent, and volunteers, we don’t ever feel we have to hide behind unnecessary “written permission.”

With the recent GDPR data protection updates, wow! Written permission or what…

This obviously is a very recent issue with which my own sector has been struggling to deal with the details, and one which in Europe at least has been causing us all a lot of grief.

In the last couple of weeks we (my charity group) have received emails from one of our regional authorities.

According to the official concerned in our case, we – as an independent, autonomous charity – needed to fill out endless forms and questionnaires so we were compliant with the authority’s requirements. After I checked out our responsibilities and shared our own (independent) privacy policy, it turns out that all that form-filling would have been totally unnecessary.

Meanwhile the official concerned got quite irritated with me and sent me several rather rude emails, until his boss took over and apologised. Such a fiendish waste of time, and particularly when in this case we’re talking about wasting volunteers’ time.

Why does this buck-passing outrage happen?

Mainly, in my view, because people involved with the public sector – especially in the UK – are scared of making decisions in case they go wrong, of getting the blame, and having to carry the can. So they try their damnedest to pass the buck on to someone or a department elsewhere. Ideally, that means whoever grants their “written permission.”

Are you a victim of  a “written permission” restriction on what you do?

Please share, whether you work in the public or private sectors!