Last week’s episode of Mad Men had a lovely little scene in it that perfectly demonstrated the power of having an atmosphere of support in the workplace. Peggy was considering doing something in her personal life that would have been seen as somewhat taboo in the 1960’s world in which the series is set. She confides to Joan who, instead of saying something judgmental or catty tells Peggy that she should go for it.
Shortly after that interaction, Megan, a woman who works for Peggy has a professional success and receives the kudos of all the men in the office. Instead of being jealous of Megan’s success, Peggy is genuinely happy to see another woman succeed in her male-dominated world and congratulates Megan wholeheartedly.
The kind of feel-good interactions described above are not Mad Men’s usual fare nor do they happen often enough in the real-life workplace but they can be very powerful when they occur. The workplace can be a place where competition prevails over relationships, particularly in situations where people are trying to succeed against the odds like Joan, Peggy, and Megan were as the only women in the office who did not have secretarial positions.
In these types of environments it can seem as if there is only so much praise and so many resources to go around and as such, it can feel like any support for a coworker who is in a similar position to us will deplete those resources.
In reality, nobody thought less of Joan or Peggy for giving a kind word and if anything their actions increased the amount of goodwill in the office. As demonstrated in the scenes above, support can beget support and goodwill can beget goodwill. In the end, Peggy’s support empowered Megan to facilitate something that ultimately helped the whole organization and helped insure that all three women could keep earning their paychecks.
What do you think?
Does supporting your coworkers in a competitive environment have a downside for you?
Or is it a win all around?