Why the Bathroom Sink is Always the Wrong Choice

Or, the Power of Policies

Policies get an awful rap. Whenever you run up against a dumb decision or intractable functionary the response is often “I’m sorry, that’s the policy.”

But policies don’t exist to make our lives harder. They are, in fact, a valuable resource in mitigating vulnerability and being smart with risk.

A policy is basically making a decision before you encounter the situation where it’s relevant. Pro-active decision making, if you will. This is extremely useful when you’re going to be making decisions while you’re under some kind of stressor – whether that is a time crunch, an angry client, interpersonal stress, or personal stress. You can trust that past-you (or the legal department, or your supervisor, etc) has thought the situation through and made a good decision. You don’t have to take all the current variables of the situation into account, you don’t have to rely on mental faculties that may be in some way handicapped, you don’t have to worry about why the policy was decided the way it was, you just have to follow it.

As an example let me give you one policy that has served me well: “The bathroom sink is always the wrong choice.”

In life, whether due to cross-contamination in the kitchen, a flu bug, or intemperance on a Friday night, we all occasionally have to make a dash for the bathroom due to gastric distress. Not only is the decision you are about to make extremely time-critical, but there are frequently additive conditions (exhaustion, illness, having drunk too much, etc) that further hamper your ability to make a good decsion. This is not the time you want to consider all the pros and cons of the options available to you. Nor is this the time for an elaborate if-then decision tree.

Much better to make the decision while sober-minded and with plenty of time to consider the consequences of various possibilities.

And I can tell you one thing – the sink is always the wrong choice.

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