As George Papendreou contemplates the political wreckage of the last week he may well agree with the maxim that there should be “no surprises” when you are negotiating.

Mr Papandreou’s announcement that the latest EU bail-out deal would require a referendum took the Eurozone by surprise. It totally overshadowed the G20 Summit and disrupted the financial markets. A no-confidence motion ensued in the Greek Parliament, amid rumours of impending Government collapse and a military coup. Papendreou narrowly survived the no-confidence motion, but has now bowed to the inevitable and agreed to step down and make way for a government of national unity.

The problem when you spring surprises in negotiations is that you upset the climate and create suspicion – and if nobody believes what you say in a negotiation then you are in trouble. All constituents in this negotiation immediately became even more frustrated by and suspicious of Mr Papendreou, including the administrations in France and Germany, the Greek opposition, his own party, and the Greek public. Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy in particular were reportedly incandescent with Papendreou, and that is not surprising.

In this negotiation Greece has been “pushed” relentlessly by the Eurozone to accept the bleakest of austerity programmes, and has been negotiating hard to minimise the impact of that. By disengaging and referring the decision to a referendum, Papendreou effectively employed “parting” negotiation behaviour – taking his energy out of the negotiation with the Eurozone. When someone has been “pushing” you in a negotiation and you take your energy out of the negotiation without warning, it can cause the other side to “over-balance” – it’s almost as though they topple over in the sudden absence of your resistance, which is not a comfortable feeling. No surprise then, that Sarkozy and Merkel gave Papendreou a dressing down at the G20 and strong-armed him into changing his mind on the referendum.

Too late, by then the damage was done, and the parties in Greece, including his own, decided that they could no longer negotiate with him.

If you play “Surprise, Surprise” when you negotiate, you have to be prepared for the consequences…