Regulations are so ever-present that we don’t usually identify them with stress. Yet they steadily raise the stress by adding to our daily burden, often to no purpose. Too many regulations can stifle decision-making initiative. There is also a danger in simply having too many regulations on the books, with many staff motivated to preserve them, or even create more of them if possible.
I was describing this type of person to a senior UAE government minister, Shamsul, who was chairing a special committee monitoring the huge increase in city traffic. He said his problem was curiously different – a road-safety crusader, Tahlia, who didn’t seem too interested in her pay and position, but had a fanatical belief in the link between regulations and safety. He said she was always repeating “Even if it only saves a single life …”
Well, as a keynote speaker with a speciality in counselling I had learned that repetitions can be revealing. Before I left for the day, I had managed to arrange an unofficial session alone with this formidable young lady.
Choosing my moment carefully, I plunged in and said what was in my mind. “There’s something personal behind this, isn’t there, Tahlia?”
“What’s wrong in saving lives?” she said, rather too automatically.
“You don’t know whether you’re saving lives. Believe me, I come from the congested South-East of England, and too many traffic-regulations can just make things worse. The more of them you have, the less they’ll be enforced. And if anyone can tell you about the non-stop stress of driving, it’s a stress relief professional like me.”
Eventually it came out. Her father had been killed in a big pile-up when she was eleven, and ever since then, she had wanted to devote her life to road safety. To her, regulations equalled safety – no argument. I realized I should not lecture her too much. I suggested she studied the Dutch road-planning models of the late Hans Monderman, which have overturned virtually every assumption about driving psychology, and reduced driving stress in several cities. And I reminded her that Dubai is a young community, motivated to avoid the expensive mistakes of its older counterparts.
Have you heard … of someone suffering a lifelong obsession based on an early trauma? Tell us what happened – or just what you think and feel about common workplace situations like this. In our readers-comments box. Now.
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