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Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A Theory on New Workplace Stress
There are anecdotal studies suggesting workplace stress has increased. I'm certain this might also have been a theory a few decades ago. However, new stress incidences may reflect the recent and rapid proliferation of new technology in the office, combined with a general depersonalization of human communication within the office and even within core relationships.
I end up studying such phenomena in my role as an investigative attorney. The truth will rarely reveal itself voluntarily and people hiding things will almost never confess. Thus, social cues and behavioral patterns open a window into what might really be going on. In the course of compiling these observations, I have sensed a noticeable and drastic deterioration in behavior. It presents quite a paradox, in that politically correct society puts a premium on "living for others" and being "outerdirectedness," even at the cost of subordinating one's needs, wants and goals for the "greater good," yet at the same time people become increasingly individualistic. In fact, this self-centered behavior, which comes across from several age groups and income and economic demographics, might be a strategic defiance, a primordial desire to assert one's individuality within one's own "space" (although that space often invades the space of others) at a time when the pressures to conform and apprehension about being under constant watch and judgment from others are arguably never greater than the present.
Technology may thus be the gateway to deteriorating behavior and increased social discomfort, including increased anxiety-related disorders. The increased addiction to gadgets has made people less "aware" of their surroundings, and this comes off increasingly as an indifference or rudeness towards colleagues. The perceptions of hostility (whether overt or passive-aggressive) now extend to the commute, to the bus or train or sidewalk, and certainly within the office, whereas even five (!!!) years ago you would hear about such behaviors only in the context of "road rage." In addition, written communication does not allow for subtle nuances in voice inflection to be transmitted, so there are more opportunities for people to feel offended or hurt by harsh-appearing written words. The root cause is the technology which has encouraged people to avoid face-to-face or voice-to-voice communication.
The opinion leaders in the audience are a fraction of the "one percent" and their awareness will not halt the trend among the larger population, which is too dominated by people of questionable education, average to below-average intelligence and prone to quick distraction. This trend will continue.