Measuring the upheaval wrought by the pandemic in the world of work is by no means an easy task. In addition to smart working and forced digitisation, reference points, links and expectations have changed. Few expected the phenomenon of the so-called great resignations (fenomeno delle cosiddette “grandi dimissioni”), even though for some time there has been talk of new approaches and new forms of leadership, and in general there is a deep fatigue, both physical and mental.
It can happen that “after hours spent on Zoom in videoconferencing, one feels exhausted and wonders why. Or that we find ourselves unsuitable, or, even worse ‘not functional‘” explains Maura Gancitano, who together with Andrea Colamedici founded the Tlon Project (progetto Tlon). A project serving as school of philosophy, publishing house, theatre bookshop and outreach plan that has a large social following (Instagram profile here [qui]) and a tried and tested method: to reuse the tools of both ancient and contemporary philosophy as a means of providing a pathway to personal blossoming and addressing each person’s problems, including everyday ones.
But can philosophy help in the workplace? What should one do in these moments of exhaustion or bewilderment? As is often the case, it is the question rather than the answer that counts. Or rather, there are others that need to be asked first. “What do you want at work? What values are cultivated? And why these in particular?” asks Maura Gancitano.
The individual and collective spheres often blur and it happens that we absorb socially induced expectations and behaviours (and demands on ourselves). “Not feeling ‘functional’ is just that. An external imposition has been adopted, which has placed the efficiency of production as a value”, in a chain of actions in which the individual is inserted as a cog, to the point of contradicting even his or her own nature. “This has been confirmed by studies by neuroscientists. Even knowing that such research exists is, in our view, a step forward: it helps not to feel wrong, limited or, indeed, unsuitable”.
Weighing up the pros and cons, not only the objective ones, requires a clear understanding of one’s vocation and desires. The problem is that we, as a society, are not taught to recognise them
However, that’s not enough. To understand what you want to do, choose the right path and understand your preferences (should I leave this job or stay?), you need something else. “How to act? Weighing up the pros and cons, not only the objective ones, requires a clear understanding of one’s vocation and desires. The problem is that we, as a society, are not taught to recognise them. Instead, we tend to repeat the values of others, the dominant ones”.
Philosophical methods are helpful for self-discovery. “We ask people to recount their day, as Marcus Aurelius did. But it does not have to be a classic diary. Instead, things can be told from the last to the first; backwards“, explains Gancitano.
This curious chronological reversal unhinges an established mechanism of repetition and consequence. Starting from the end “reveals the meaning of our actions, makes us see the results of what we do and its true causes. It shows what we really want when we start an action, and whether the outcome of this action corresponds to what we set out to do. In other words, it reveals our values and it also reveals ourselves, what we have done and what we have been”. One suddenly has a new perspective of oneself, “which helps to understand what changes to make and in which direction”.
Social media are also influencing choices and behaviour. This is an unavoidable dimension which also has an impact at work. “Social media are not neutral. They are private platforms conceived to turn a profit. They are also environments with other people, and where there are others, with their own ideas, prejudices, moods, there can be no such thing as neutrality”. They are certainly “the world’s biggest meeting points, where you can encounter people from far away from what would be their normal physical or social radius”.
We are unable to inhabit social media well. We take refuge in bubbles and cultivate com-paranoia, i.e. paranoia arising from confrontation
An enormous building that, unfortunately, “we do not know how to inhabit well. We shy away from surprises, we take refuge in bubbles, characterised by group truths that must not be questioned, and because of the halo effect (we only see what users choose to show about themselves) we cultivate com-paranoia, i.e. paranoia arising from confrontation”. In other words, this is an opportunity that risks being wasted.
“When it comes to work, the social reference is LinkedIn“, he explains, “what one of our articles refers to as an exhibition of inauthenticity“. The prevailing trend there is to try to appear brilliant, to sell yourself as much and as well as possible. As a social network, LinkedIn is also a backdrop against which everyone projects a constructed image of themselves. “A space focused on work and work-related issues could be used in a more useful way, e.g. by discussing specific problems and issues. It could be a place of dialogue where the contribution of multiple users could provide experiences, advice and even solutions”, both for individuals already working and those seeking it.
Instead, people prefer to use it as a personal showcase, an opportunity to boast, even exaggerate, about their own merits, in an attempt to prove that they are suitable, fit and right to work. Or rather, ‘functional’.