Apology is the New Language of the Office

The office is a different place since Covid.  It isn’t just the rise of hybrid working arrangements, or the increased reliance on virtual environments, there is a different atmosphere about the old place.

When I first began my tentative journey into the world of work, the most typical background sound in the office was one of argument: raised voices; high emotions; freely-expressed opinions and expletives.

Decades pass, and the arguments become less vociferous replaced, instead, by the sotto voce sound of cliquey disaffection; whispered back-biting; hushed gossip; plots and intrigues around the water-cooler.

Now, the prevailing sound of the office is one of apology: softly-spoken thoughts; ready words of contrition; a ‘sorry’ accompanying every statement.

As someone who values good manners, I should be happy with this workplace transition, but I find myself conflicted.  Because behind this penitent culture lies not an inherent politeness but fear.  Fear of saying an incorrect word; fear of voicing an incorrect point of view.

Sometimes there is nothing healthier in an office than a proper expletive-laden stand-up row to clear the air, or to come up with a fresh initiative, or to reject an old one, but the fear of sanction has cast this normal form of human interaction into the realm of posterity.

A puritan mob-rule morality has sucked the freedom of expression from the workplace and I, for one, think that is a fucking shame.

© Simon Turner-Tree

Simon Turner-Tree is sorry for being unapologetic.

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