In his novel ‘The Myth of Sisyphus,’ Albert Camus talks about the Greek legend of Sisyphus. Sisyphus is condemned by the gods for eternity to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again once he got it to the top.
There is this fundamental conflict between what we want from the universe (whether it be meaning, order, or reasons) and what we find in the universe (formless chaos). It becomes more apparent to you as time passes by.
The protagonist in the 1993 film ‘Groundhog Day’ had a similar conflict. Bill Murray, the protogonist in the film, has to relieve the same day every day. Bill is stuck in a time loop and continues to live the same day despite his many unsuccessful attempts.
If all of this is some form of formless chaos how do you live it? Existentialists believe there is no meaning or order to our existence and one has to find some sort of meaning or transcendence in this very meaninglessness.
Navigating the Absurdity of Work
Ask someone around you whether they find their work meaningful? The chances are that most of them will say that they don’t see their work being meaningful. Yet most of us like to believe that our work makes a difference to people and the world around us. Even if it is the absurdity of digging a hole only to replace the dirt again.
Workplace absurdity is very common, especially at organizations that avoid a culture of confrontation. Indians are known to avoid difficult conversations with staff or sometimes refuse to accept staff feedback.
Organizations that avoid addressing workplace absurdity see the following issues:
- Performance evaluation is based on subjectivity and not on the actual effort or potential of the employee.
- Maintain the status quo and are reluctant to change established processes and beliefs.
- Management doesn’t listen and adopt employee suggestions.
- Lack of trust between employees and managers.
Perhaps the best way to deal with this absurdity is to accept the meaningless of the tasks assigned to you instead of giving up or quitting. Albert Camus wanted us to emulate this resilience that Sisyphus had despite knowing the meaninglessness involved.
It is essential to become conscious of this absurdity. Once we acknowledge, the world is fundamentally at odds with our calculating minds; we began to live more honestly.
A larger number of jobs today are menial and meaningless. If you believe that your job is meaningless, then it is important to acknowledge the fact and be resilient in the situation.
It is essential to acknowledge the fact that not every task has a certain outcome.
In Groundhog Day, Bill accepted his life’s absurdity and realized that perhaps the best way to live it was to become the best version of himself.