A familiar stranger

I hate it when it rains. It’s not the rain in itself that irritates me. It’s the fact that everything seems to go slower. Cars are more cautious, traffic jams are the order of the day and the buses. The buses never arrive, and when they do they are overflowing with people. These were the thoughts coursing through my mind as I stood there in the pouring rain while I waited for my bus. In my general grumpiness and overall hurry I hadn’t realized I wasn’t alone on the bus stop.

An increase in the rain made me overcome my issues with small talk and sharing tight small spaces with adult men. As I rushed under the balcony I parted a quick

“Terrible weather we’re having”

He agreed. After a few niceties, we introduced ourselves and without a thought I asked

“And what do you do for a living?”

“ My work centres mostly about risk analysis.”

“Risk analysis, that sounds technical.” I retorted.

He smiled and countered that most of his job is about creating “what if” scenarios, in which a problem is created and he would need to find a solution.

My curiosity got the better of me and I asked, “But what is the point of creating problems and then trying to find a solution? Why don’t you actually try to solve problems that actually exist?”

“Well, sometimes I do look at old problems that have occurred in the organization I work in and re-hash them trying to solve them, but mostly I do what I do to provide a sense of control to my employer.”

“And do you? Do you find solutions to the problems?”

“No, the problems are so hopelessly contorted and unnecessarily complex, that it is impossible to find a solution.”

“That doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever. So you are telling me that you are employed by your organization to come up with impossible scenarios which you can never solve?”


“But that makes no sense whatsoever. Why would a company employ you to do something which is artificial and useless?”

I realized my voice had gone up a pitch and that I was getting more excitable.

“My job is not useless. My work gives my employer a sense of relief.”

“Relief, how so?”

“It gives my employer a sense of control. The economy has not been good to my employer, resources are scarce, there is a lot of pressure and there have been many occasions when the company came close to bankruptcy.”

“But doesn’t your employer realise he is, excuse my bluntness, wasting resources on this kind of risk analysis that he could allocate towards resolving the other issues in his company?”

“I suppose he could, but he still can’t forget that incident last year which almost drove him to bankruptcy. He got so scared that he wanted to ensure that it would never again happen again. In fact he talks about it everyday, and he has become obsessed with a future crash in the economy. In fact he makes me spend most of my day imagining what possible problems might arise?”

“How does re-living that moment when he almost went bankrupt and imagining all the future ways he might go bankrupt contribute towards him not going bankrupt?”

“It doesn’t.”

“And this bankruptcy incident, was it the employer’s fault?”

“Well, there were certainly some things he could have done better but no one was expecting this incident and no one could truly be prepared for it.”

“So why does he keep reliving it as if it is entirely his fault?”

“Because he believes that he should be in control of everything. He believes that he should have anticipated the incident, prepared for it and weathered it better.”

“Are those expectations a bit too unrealistic, we all know that doing business is continuously dealing with risk. Sometimes it works out and others it doesn’t.”

“Yes, but my employer can’t accept that sometimes things will not work out quite like he expected to. He expects to get it right every time, on the first try. That is why he has employed me, so that I think of a solution for every possible problem that might ever arise, even if it is impossible.”

“I truly can’t understand your employer. It is so rare to get it right the first time and it is definitely impossible to get it right every time. It seems like if your employer set more realistic expectations on himself and his business and accepted that failure is a part of the process, even when he’s tried the best he can, he wouldn’t need you. Or at the very least he could use your expertise to work with problems he actually and currently has instead of these completely unrealistic scenarios he ask you to conjure up.”

“Perhaps, you are right. I tried to tell my employer that the bankruptcy incident, actually made the company stronger because we explored new markets, thought up of new ways of doing business and got better results. However he still insists that I come up with these ridiculous scenarios, when I could be helping him develop new ways to thrive in the new economy.”

“If only your employer let go of his pride more often and focused more on learning and adapting, especially listening to you as you seem to know what you are doing, he would do so much better.”

“True, if only.”

“By the way who is your employer, friend?”

“You are. I am your anxiety.”

Andrew is the founder and coordinator of STEPS (Seeking Together to Enhance our Potential through Service). STEPS is an organisation that provides formation and training to volunteers. For further details visit https://www.facebook.com/stepsprojectmosta/.

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