Is public service the place for coulrophobics?

Alf was bemused by the story of the Department of Labour’s dealings with a staffer who suffers coulrophobia.

Her ailment has resulted in the department’s social committee removing posters advertising a staff Christmas function from the floor where she works.

This curious saga started with the social committee deciding this year’s Christmas party would have a circus carnival theme and put up advertising posters depicting a clown.

A female staff member who suffers coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, was not amused. She said she could not bear to look at the posters and asked that they be removed and replaced with a new design.

When her request was initially declined she took matters into her own hands and put Post-it stickers over the eyes and face of the clown. After other staff members removed the stickers she took her complaint to a supervisor.

According to the department’s acting head of corporate, Ben Bush, the staff member had raised concerns with the social committee about the theme of this year’s end-of-year function and asked if there were other posters which could be used to advertise the event.

“The social committee acted professionally and promptly in replying to the staff member, and pointed out that it was never its intention to offend anyone with the poster. Due to time and budget constraints it was not possible to redesign the poster, but, in recognition of the staff member’s concerns, all posters advertising the function have now been removed from the floor where she works.”

Coulrophobia apparently can be triggered by a bad experience with a clown, or even watching a horror movie featuring a clown.

New Zealand’s Phobic Trust founder and chief executive Marcia Read said phobias affected 25% of the population, and could be extremely distressing.

“If a person is phobic of people or clowns and they see clowns all around them, everywhere they go, then they’re not going to go out the door, are they?

“A clown phobia is no different from any other phobia…”

Read said the social stigma for those who suffer phobias was part of the problem. “It’s shameful that a person with a phobic disorder cannot say `look, I can’t go into lifts or I can’t go flying’, because they are frightened of people criticising them.

“The stigma is enormous. These people suffer in silence.”

Alf has just one question: if you have a fear of clowns, why take a job in a public service which is infested with clowns?

He also has some advice for the woman: she should not join political parties which attract clowns. That’s most parties, come to think of it.

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