Six Crucial Worklife Lessons from Mad Men

Sitting down to write this blog on Sunday afternoon it was hard not to be distracted by the Mad Men fever sweeping through, at least, my part of the world. Even the Real Estate section of the New York Times broke from their regularly scheduled program to discuss Ossining, the home of the fictional Don and Betty Draper. Mad Men is, at its heart, a workplace drama. Therefore, it seems appropriate to spend this article looking at what we can learn from the world of Sterling Cooper.

**Note: the following may contain “spoilers” regarding seasons 1-3 but will not refer to the new season**

  1. Discretion Is A Virtue: one of Peggy’s most redeeming characteristics is her ability to exist as a woman in the Sterling Cooper offices without becoming involved in the office gossip. Additionally, the characters who are able to keep their emotions under wraps when receiving negative career news are the ones most able to bounce back.
  2. Know When To Advocate For Yourself, And When To Back Off: just because it is the right time for you to take the next step professionally, does not mean that it is the right time for your company. This was exemplified by Peggy who made the mistake of demanding an increased salary just moments after her boss had been forced to fight for his staff to have enough pencils and paper during cutbacks.
  3. Always Be Prepared: nobody embodies this lesson better than Joan Holloway/Harris. Not only does she know exactly how the office functions and can anticipate every need, she knows CPR and how to tie a tourniquet. Don’t put off learning these skills and taking control of your organizational tasks – you never know when they are going to help your career.
  4. Getting Romantically Involved With Co-Workers Is Generally A Bad Idea: Enough said.
  5. Too Much Distance Between Management And Employees Creates A Terrible Working Dynamic: if the British takeover in season 3 taught us anything, it’s that attempting to run a company from halfway across the world without attempting to understand the working culture is a recipe for disaster.
  6. Words Mean A Lot: In the season 3 finale, Don tries to convince both Peggy and Pete to join him in his new venture. They initially resist but are ultimately persuaded when Don finally tells them how much he values their work and is able to specifically enumerate their value to the business. Take the time to learn what the specific values of your employees are and share this information with them – a few well timed words can go a long way.

Are there any Mad Men fans among our readership? Do you have any lessons to add?

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