Many of us have witnessed this spectacle in workplaces across the world: everyone seems more interested in how other people are doing their jobs than in doing their own.
This practice can lead to a drop in productivity, a rise in workplace tension, and a decrease in overall job satisfaction.
Enter Stoicism, an ancient philosophy with a surprisingly modern relevance, particularly when applied to the work environment. A stoic approach to work can be encapsulated in a three-word mantra: "Do your job."
Stoics believe that by focusing on what we can control and accepting what we cannot, we can achieve peace of mind and a sense of fulfilment. This approach lends itself naturally to the workplace.
"Do your job" is an encapsulation of the core stoic belief in focusing on what one can control and accepting or letting go of what one cannot. In the context of the workplace, the phrase translates to concentrating on the tasks and responsibilities within your purview and letting go of the anxiety and stress about factors outside your control. It encourages individuals to put their energy and focus into performing their tasks to the best of their ability and not getting sidetracked by others' performance or the overall trajectory of the company, which are elements typically beyond their control.
Embracing a stoic approach at work could mean several things. For one, it could mean that instead of worrying about whether your coworker is pulling their weight, you focus on ensuring that you're doing the best work possible. It could mean that instead of stressing about the company's future, which is beyond your control, you concentrate on performing your current tasks to the best of your abilities. This mindset doesn't encourage complacency or negligence about the larger picture; instead, it promotes personal responsibility and effectiveness.
The beauty of this philosophy lies in its simplicity. By adopting the Stoic mindset, we avoid the common traps of workplace politics, comparison, and undue stress. We foster a culture of personal responsibility, where the focus is on individual tasks and less on interoffice drama.
Stoicism also emphasises the importance of recognising and accepting our limitations. We can't control everything, and trying to do so only leads to stress and burnout. We can, however, control our actions, responses, and attitude towards our work. By maintaining a level-headed focus on our responsibilities, we can not only improve our productivity but also our overall job satisfaction.
Adopting a stoic approach doesn't mean ignoring issues or allowing others to shirk their responsibilities. Instead, it's about realising where your sphere of influence begins and ends. When faced with a coworker not pulling their weight, a stoic approach may be to have an open conversation with them or bring up your concerns to a supervisor. This approach doesn't let you become a passive observer but encourages active engagement within your control sphere.
Try it out. See how it goes.