Friday, December 01, 2006

Target-Related Stress

From Public Servant Weekly. Anyone who does a lot of box-ticking will relate to this.

I primarily treat people suffering from stress-induced mental disorders, such as depressive illness and anxiety states. Twenty years ago most of my clientele were business executives, but they aren’t now. Businesses have long since recognised that it is their best employees who are at highest risk of stress related illness and they mostly nurture and protect them.

Now it is public servants who form the bulk of my practice. My largest represented occupational group is doctors (I have 44 on my books), followed by teachers, social workers, police officers, tax and benefits workers, ambulance crew and members of the fire service. Twenty years ago these workers had a pretty good reputation for quality, diligence and effectiveness.

What these professions now have in common is that they are all victims of the craze so loved by recent governments for regulation and its attendant bureaucracy. Politicians need to be needed and for us to believe that they can stop things going wrong. They can’t, of course, but they have to be seen to be doing something, or their opposite number will call them complacent.

One person gets one thing wrong with terrible consequences. Here’s how it goes. First, set up an inquiry; second, find and punish a scapegoat; third, introduce a whole ream of bureaucratic structures and paperwork to increase the profession’s/industry’s regulation; and lastly, set up auditing systems to monitor the regulation you have set up. Oops, I’ve destroyed the service in the meantime ...

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