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Posts Tagged ‘“The Office”’

If you haven’t checked in on AMC’s television show, Mad Men, where have you been? America has a new television love affair. It has even enthralled Oprah, the reigning Queen of Television! I openly admit that I, too, have been captivated. The show is set in the 60’s in a time-appropriate but politically-inappropriate Madison Avenue advertising agency, hence, Mad Men.

I’ve always been interested in the workplaces of the 60’s. Mad Men contains all of the usual sexism, racism, debauchery, and disregard for human sensibilities that you would imagine could exist at that time and in that place. Given this, why is America so caught up in this, dare I say it, madness? It is a well-written show with New York gloss but it is also something else. It’s an escape. It does not reflect our present reality and allows our minds to take a break. We laugh at issues and occurences that if faced with in today’s reality would appall us, anger us or at least make us a bit uncomfortable.

Being an HR professional, this show along with another of my favorites, The Office, provides comic relief to my work. I sit and for the length of the show I escape and laugh with the rest of America. However, since my vocation was derived from much of who I am, the show also puts my mind to work. I find that even as I laugh, I am looking for the one who will step forward and “do the right thing”. I am evaluating the situation and working out how this would be and should be handled in the workplace.  The assessments I find myself making center around  not just what would be appropriate today but also at that time and place.  This is the kicker, the responses are not always the same. 

As HR professionals, we are not merely called upon to apply unilateral and rigid rules to every situation. Although, I will admit there are some, even within our profession, who do think so. Each situation calls for an assessment of the factors that are present and at play within it at the time and in the given place. The factors may be internal and organizational in combination with or separate from possible external, legal and regulatory factors. We must also toss in societal factors. All of these impact workplace situations and occurences, to not take them all into consideration is to not craft the best possible response for the given situation.

The next time you’re watching AMC’s Mad Men, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I do, but I also want you to try this exercise.  Imagine yourself as the smartly-dressed (they all are)  HR professional who has the task of working alongside the Mad Men of Sterling Cooper! How would you handle the various situations that crop up? Who would ever think that watching television could help you to make better human resource decisions?

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Why does HR exist? I think that was your question. If not, enjoy the tangent.

Yes, “The Office” is a show designed to get ratings and entertain us. Real Life is not a show but it can entertain and appall us just as much as “The Office” does. Along with many of my HR colleagues, I love the show because it allows us to laugh at so many of the things that we are unable to find humorous as we face them in our work lives. The show more often than not pulls from real life accounts of office happenings. Take my word for this! Walking through the office door at 8 AM doesn’t suddenly result in a transformation of personality and approach. We bring who we are to the office with us. The jerk in real life doesn’t suddenly become the greatest team player ever. She remains a jerk and it shows up in how she works with others. The bully doesn’t become a buddy. He probably becomes your boss and continues to bully. His methods may change but the results are the same. HR sets about assisting the organization in remaining productive given the interpersonal dynamics that are wildly at work while we are “at work”. But think of HR not necessarily as a buffering device but as a device designed to actually make good use of all those personalities by helping to point them in a direction that adds value rather than detracts.

I’m looking forward to addressing other work and career-related “Why” questions or even just a few random questions. Keep ’em coming!

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