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The Four-Way Stop

November 30, 2010

On my way home from work yesterday I was sitting, along with some of my fellow citizens, at an intersection with a 4-way stop.  It was actually a fairly pleasant commuting moment and therefore somewhat out of the ordinary.  We worked in harmony.  All drivers stopped and started in turn and in sync.  There were no delays.  The heavens parted and the angels sang.  Well, OK, not quite.

But it was a perfect moment of driving bliss, memorable as an event because so often confusion reigns at the 4-way stop.

“Who got here first?” Should I go?”

“I can’t believe I’m stuck sitting here; why won’t that guy next to me get moving? He has the right of way!”

“OMG; if no one starts to drive, I don’t care who was here first – I’m outta here!”


On a daily basis, we interact at work with co-workers, customers, clients, and  colleagues.  We approach each other at these intersections when our responsibilities or goals overlap.  We look left, right and left again.  We encounter confusion, lack of urgency, and periodically a disdain for the laws, rules or policies. 

  • At a 4-way stop, the motorist is required to come to a full stop, not a rolling stop, before the crosswalk or stop line

At work, we may appear to be “stopping,” perhaps in an attempt to demonstrate we’re listening or caring.  But are we truly giving our full attention? Do we sometimes just want to get moving again?

  • At a 4-way stop, vehicles have the right-of-way to proceed through the intersection in the order that they arrived.

At work, we talk about paying one’s dues and waiting one’s turn before a promotion or an opportunity for advancement.  This model is in place on the road… is it still in place in our organizations?

  • At a 4-way stop, if vehicles arrive at approximately the same time, drivers should yield to the drivers on their right.

At work, it’s helpful to be aware of how our behavior appears to others or affects others.  And sometimes, simply being courteous can go a long way. 

  • At a 4-way stop, when a traffic signal is flashing red, it operates as a stop sign and drivers should treat it the same way as a stop sign.

At work, we may encounter people who see no sense in following the rules – especially if they believe no one is really watching.  Sometimes, a reminder to act as if someone IS watching can reinforce positive behavior/actions.


Courtesy.  Timing.  Working together so that we all move through the intersection smoothly and without incident.

Can it be as simple as that?

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 14, 2010 9:16 pm

    This is a great post, Robin. I like how you use it in a business context. I love your creativity!



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