My boss drinks, the intern steals and every day, the team in marketing gather ’round for GossipFest. What do all of these things have in common? Well aside from being lousy for your career, they go against the Five Precepts – the basic ethical requirements of Buddhism. Regular listeners of the podcast know that I rely on many Buddhist principles to help me get through the day at work. I’m not here to preach any religion or belief, however, I will share philosophies that can help make your life (at work) a whole lot easier. I hope you join the conversation. Please subscribe, leave a comment below and tell a co-worker.
Do not take life. Can you make it through the day without shooting your boss, poisoning human resources or running over that noisy receptionist? Good. You’re 20% of the way there! Since you’re on a roll, you might even want to give that fly buzzing around the fluorescent light a reprieve. Optional: Recycle paper, keep your desk nice and tidy and enjoy a veggie lunch (you won’t get the afternoon sleepies!)
Do not steal. You’re not Robin Hood. Multiple times throughout my career I’ve heard people justify stealing by saying, “it’s only fair” since they’re underpaid and treated poorly. Wrong-o. And I’m not just talking about staplers and tape. The two most common items stolen at work are not tangible: time and ideas. Be trustworthy and limit your overall consumption by never taking what is not freely given.
Do not have sexy time. This one is for you, Office Romeo. You’ve already seen the stats: we often spend more time with our co-workers than with our significant other. All that rallying against “the man” and incessant flirting can lead to serious trouble. The third precept asks that you do not cheat or act inappropriately (yes, this includes porn). Society is already drenched in sex, why not use work as a refuge,
Do not speak mistruths. The biggest problem with lying is that you cloud other people’s perceptions, in turn, clouding up the foundation of Buddhism – mindfulness. Included in this precept is not slandering others or gossiping. The latter is a huge work epidemic. We ALL do it. Next time you catch yourself, just stop. Why create a snowball that will eventually roll out of control?
No drugs or alcohol. The goal is to free our minds from unnecessary confusion. Even consuming in small amounts can disrupt your judgment and cause you to screw up all of the precepts. It’s not a work example but here’s something I did last weekend that I think illustrates the point. A bunch of us went out for drinks and I had enough beers to feel good. Really good. On the way home I decided that an ice cream sundae would hit the spot. I scarfed that thing down and then tossed the container out the window. WHOA. While my behavior wasn’t horrendous, a few drinks had me eating poorly, over consuming and littering – three things I normally avoid when I have my full sense. A drink every now and then is just what the doctor ordered – but never at work.
These five precepts all sound like instructions, “don’t do this” and “don’t do that.” But don’t look at them negatively. View them in a positive way and try to incorporate them at work. You might find that you’ll want to live by them every day of your life.
The beauty of Buddhism is that you can work these into your life regardless of your religious beliefs. Jews, Christians and Muslims may all lean on these principles. And you’re not perfect. They’ll be days you adhere to all five, and times when you don’t. Just give it an honest try and I promise you that life at work will improve.
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