On the Campaign couch: How do I deal with a Brexit voting colleague?

I'm mad at my colleague for voting for Brexit.

A relationship with one of my colleagues, with whom I work very closely, has really gone downhill since I found out he voted for Brexit. How should I handle this sticky situation? Sometimes I feel mad just looking at him. 

It will be at least five years before the exit he voted for comes to pass – more probably 15. You can’t go on looking at him and feeling mad for 15 years. Come the invocation of Article 50 – and with it the interminable trail of difficulties, complexities, imponderables and intractables – try feeling sorry for him instead. You might even find it enjoyable.

I recently posted something I thought was fairly anodyne on Twitter and found myself bombarded by anonymous people calling me things like 'traitor' and 'social justice warrior' – not to mention plenty of horrible insults. Why is this happening to me and what can I do about it?

Nobody seems to know what to do about the worst effects of social media. I certainly don’t. But for a start, I’d suggest that we stop fooling ourselves that it’s somehow social media itself that’s to blame. It isn’t. It’s the people who use social media. 

If you get persistent telephone calls from an unidentified voice threatening you with spookily unspecified persecutions, you may hope that the telephone company will find some way to put an end to this deeply distressing experience  – but you won’t blame the telephone system for having created it. You know that a human person created it.

Like all media, social media started life entirely neutral, entirely innocent. The medium takes its character from how it’s used; and it’s used by people. And by providing anonymity, it frees those people from any fear of retribution. 

It’s depressing to think that, for all these years, millions of people have bottled their thoughts within themselves; not out of concern for others but because they were so ashamed of those thoughts that they didn’t dare reveal them. Only the new anonymity has given them the equivalent of committing a crime with immunity from discovery and penalty.

When they were younger, they probably knocked on pensioners’ front doors late at night and then ran away to watch and gloat. 

This is what you can do about it. Remember that every piece of communication should be rated for importance on both content and context; on both message and medium; on both what it says and on who’s saying it. Build in your mind a 10-Point Scale of Source Significance: where an opinion voiced by your most trusted bestest friend in the whole world scores nine and the same opinion, voiced by Donald Trump, scores one. Then, when you read these poisonous Twitter effusions, remember that their authors’ sole motive is to cause you hurt: so deny them that satisfaction. Give them a Source Significance Score of zero – and reach for a good book.

These are pitiful people. Don’t give them another moment’s thought.

Our company has recently decided that we will spend half our time at work standing up, based on theories that this improves productivity and creative thinking. Doing this hurts my feet but I don’t feel comfortable objecting to it. What should I do?

Oh, God. The last time that any such intervention made a lasting and measurable improvement to productivity and creative thinking was in 1949, when the newly founded Doyle Dane Bernbach lured art directors and copywriters out of their respective departments and into creative teams.

Since then, office doors have come and gone; office plans have been opened and closed; desking has been hot or not; work stations have been first personalised and then institutionalised; flexibility has throttled itself; and working from home has proved itself to be both an excellent idea and fundamentally inimical to the sharing of knowledge. 

Your company seems to believe that it can mitigate the inadequacies of its own management by instructing its workforce to spend half the week standing up. So if you can find another reasonable job, grab it: not because your feet hurt but because you shouldn’t be working for stupid people.

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