Stoicism: The Ultimate Coping Mechanism in Today's Digitised Workplace
In this dynamic digital world that is supposedly making everyone's lives better working has become more stressful, we only have to look at the exponential increase in mental health issues over the last 10 years with evidence to suggest there's a direct correlation with the digitisation of society.
The pressure of modern living is taking its terrible toll on people and their families in May 2019 the news broke of the tragic death of a 63 year old man who was a guest on Britain's guilty pleasure-Jerry-Springeresk Jeremy Kyle show. Steven Dymond was found dead at a block of flats less than a week after his appearance on the show having failed a lie detector test for cheating on his girlfriend.
This seemed to be the last straw for the Jeremy Kyle show as ITV executives axed the popular day-time programme permanently as it followed two other suicides over the last two years of people who appeared on another reality show; Love Island.
The world we live and work in has become almost unrecognisable to the "good old days" where an embarrassing mistake would be restricted to a small social circle and disappear into the historical mist of the past without the whole world noticing. Social Media has totally changed the social landscape of how information is distributed and relayed and has a powerful latent reach where an emotional outburst or unsavoury behaviour gets a digital backlash which manifests into the physical realm.
We are hard enough on ourselves when we make a faux-par where the aftermath makes us reflect and hopefully learn from the bad decision made, however the digital realm has opened a complex avenue for mistakes to be replayed and relayed over and over again presenting the issue of past mistakes being constantly present.
Speaking of the past being present a recent Dragons Den episode (another popular show using the reality format) showcased two young digital entrepreneurs seeking funding for their business brandyourself an online reputation management service which helps people clean up their rep online.
Online reputation management is growing as more employers comb the web to profile potential candidates. Imagine rolling up to an interview for your dream job, you absolutely smash it impressing the employer with your intelligent answers and intoxicating charisma with a resume to match, you're confident you have it in the bag.
A week goes by and you start to worry as you were told by the potential employer they would be in contact with you within a couple of day's. Mid-way through the second week you're a worrisome wreck racking your brains as to what the hell happened as you were adamant that the job was yours.
Then it dawns on you like a dark tempest ominously looming over you, your eye focuses within the digital storm you've left in the wake of your twitter account replete with unflattering photos and video clips of you totally blotto singing "We are the champions" in only your beer-soaked underwear. Of course you can delete this part of your past but the damage has already been done, it has had a direct impact on your life and hindered progress in your chosen career.
This brave new irksome world has cut deep into the psyche where multiple personalities, sociopaths, narcissists and egoists dwell. The work place has become a breeding ground for digital whispers, manipulation, subterfuge, and subtle revenge. This cultivates a newer palpable and powerful sense of paranoia. Depending on the culture of your work environment one would feel the need to be mindful of their behaviour and what you put out on the world wide web as the karma it harbours can manifest in various way's.
Your work colleague is still feeling the repercussions of her racist drunk outrage at a waitress that was filmed unbeknown to her at a swanky restaurant in the west end but has already done the rounds on socials which has made an interesting yet uncomfortable atmosphere in the office. This makes you wonder how she still has her job which leads to thoughts on what she might have on the boss...Mm!
So, how can we deal with embarrassment the shame of making a silly mistake where you were caught with your guard down which has been broadcast online to thousands including the boss and your colleagues.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.— Marcus Aurelius
Stoicism has seen a steady rise in recent times as more people seek answers to being more resilient to judgements and wicked comments of our behaviours and mistakes being under the microscope that come our way through a slew of online channels.
Marcus Aurelius the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire seems to be the most well known for the practices of this ancient coping mechanism to existential angst, however there are others (Epictetus, Rufus, and Seneca) his book meditations has become a modern guide in building and sustaining an ironclad facade in the face of public shame and ridicule in this modern iteration of society one of the fundamental notions of Stoicism; is to look upon something greater and higher in order to overcome the pain and suffering of the world.
One thing humans are good at is adapting which in these times has a certain lag when you consider how fast things are changing with new technologies seemingly appearing every week and the pressure to keep up and fit in. Looking into these ancient stoic philosophies of the past to cope with the evolving cruelty of the future can provide a form of strength you may not of known.
You're at work to impart your expertise to the best of your abilities and to develop cordial relationships with your co-workers but the workplace has a new layer of a socio-digital framework that has added a sneaky inhibiting pressure. Besides your motivations and behaviours, there are externals like; how much you get paid, does it matter if the boss says "no" every time you ask for a legitimate raise? (Of course it does).
Your extra efforts being taken for granted; the workplace takes its toll on your body with repetitive motions and other subtle physical stresses, your reputation, how people treat you, the fear of a role completely defining you, workplace bullying. These are a few things that are out of our control to some degree which is why we have to be a bit self protective, these are challenges that stoic practices can help to counter.
What is quite un-looked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of the disaster. The fact that it was unforeseen has never failed to intensify a persons grief.
This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. we should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of the only usual course of events— Seneca
Meditations Marcus Aurelius
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Daniel Sevan