WORK­PLACE CUL­TURE

The HR Digest - - Content Features -

Work­place Sit­coms Re­flect­ing the Faulty Mod­ern Amer­i­can Work En­vi­ron­ment.

To­day’s work­place come­dies are able to pull in mas­sive au­di­ences, crit­i­cal ac­claim, and a cul­tural rel­e­vance that keeps them on the all­time best tele­vi­sion lists. As with most mod­ern work­place sit­coms, en­ter­tain­ment is a top pri­or­ity, and so is real­ism. It’s par­tic­u­larly wel­come as some of these shows de­pends on the fickle Amer­i­can work­place cul­ture. They fol­low the of­fice prece­dent, they fo­cus on is­sues like racial­ized mi­nori­ties, gen­der re­la­tions, and the Schaden­freude of tear­ing your col­leagues apart.

Ann-marie Slaugh­ter, the for­mer Prince­ton pro­fes­sor and State Depart­ment who now serves as the pres­i­dent and CEO of the New Amer­ica Foun­da­tion, once wrote an Op-ed in the New York Times about Amer­ica’s work­place cul­ture. The phe­nom­e­nal es­say bor­dered around the work­place-cul­ture beat. In a sim­i­lar fash­ion, some of the shows men­tioned be­low are com­ple­men­tary of our work lives.

Suits is real phe­nom­e­non. One of the rea­son­ably ac­cu­rate de­pic­tions is hir­ing the cal­iber of peo­ple. While it’s not like most top law firms only hir­ing out of Har­vard, they do only hire out of a hand­ful of schools.

An­other, work-hoard­ing. Re­mem­ber the bat­tle where Ka­t­rina Ben­nett grabs as­sign­ments from Mike Ross, and Louis Litt sud­denly de­vel­ops a real sense of “I want to work with this as­so­ciate only” is much sim­i­lar to what hap­pens. Part­ners tend to pick as­so­ci­ates over and over again to work with, even though it is of­fi­cially dis­cour­aged in most firms.

An­other re­al­is­tic as­pect is the cen­tral dy­namic – the pair of An­glo frat boys – Har­vey Specter and his prodigy Mike Ross, who’re the cool in­sid­ers. Their an­tag­o­nist Louis Litt is the so­cially awk­ward out­sider who craves their ac­cep­tance. Litt may never get what he wants, but he gets his re­venge in one sense: over half of the things he does to the as­so­ci­ates is a hu­man rights vi­o­la­tion. At the end of the day, Litt’s over­bear­ing slave driver at­ti­tude is how most part­ners, see their as­so­ci­ates. More­over, in­ten­sive la­bor-hours is a large per­cent­age of the job for ju­nior as­so­ci­ates at big law firms. As­so­ci­ates work 80-90 hours a week, are pretty much on call at the time, and are prob­a­bly mak­ing be­tween $35-45K a year. Mean­while, part­ners take

a share of $3.5 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion a year, and can eas­ily af­ford great seats to bal­let shows, spa­cious Man­hat­tan apart­ments and ex­pen­sive di­vorce pays. That be­ing said, Suits does a great job of de­pict­ing some of the less glam­orous work that as­so­ci­ates are asked to do.

And fi­nally, the sala­cious of­fice ro­mances, com­pounded by the long hours of work­ing in close quar­ters. The most fa­mous ex­am­ple is the $22 mil­lion Faruqi & Faruqi LLP sex ha­rass­ment law­suit. Since it started three sea­sons ago, Sil­i­con Val­ley has per­haps the most straight-for­ward skew­er­ing of the of­fice-tech cul­ture. There is hardly any rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women on the show be­yond the friendly VC as­sis­tant, Mon­ica and Lau­rie, the ro­botic in­vestor. For bet­ter or worse, the show deals with the is­sue in a lot of in­dus­tries with women’s growth and good pay. Women are just as­sumed to be a lot less ca­pa­ble, even though they do not have the lux­ury to be as emo­tion­ally clue­less as their male coun­ter­parts.

The show draws at­ten­tion to an is­sue that needs a ma­jor re­form. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for Women & In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, de­spite mak­ing up 57% of the pro­fes­sional work­place, only 25% of pro­fes­sional com­put­ing po­si­tions are ac­tu­ally held by women and only 17% of For­tune 500 Chief In­for­ma­tion Of­fi­cer roles are

filled by women.

Ob­vi­ously, the bi­ases faced by women and peo­ple of color can ex­ist for many in any work­place. But, for an in­dus­try like tech, it’s still a boy’s club. The stark over­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of men in Sil­i­con Val­ley is mak­ing us talk about what’s miss­ing in the tech in­dus­try: the women.

Amer­ica’s cur­rent long­est-run­ning Mock­u­men­tary, The Of­fice rep­re­sents em­ployee in­ter­ac­tions, at­ti­tudes and es­pe­cially avoid­ing work in a pretty ac­cu­rate way. In a typ­i­cal of­fice, your meet­ings are ob­vi­ously not go­ing to de­volve into Michael Scott-style ab­sur­dity, but then not much real work gets done in any meet­ing. A ma­jor­ity of us have lived the show. We have the gen­eral of­fice bitch, the dull CA, a few mi­nori­ties, and some other em­ploy­ees of vary­ing ages. Ev­ery­one do­ing their jobs and no one could care less about the overzeal­ous boss.

Think Jim Halpert and Pam Beesly are the only ones flirt­ing around the wa­ter cooler? As­sis­tant to the re­gional man­ager Dwight Schrute has a thing go­ing on with An­gela from ac­count­ing. Ryan Howard is openly in­volved with Kelly Kapoor.

De­spite all the rea­sons peo­ple shouldn’t frat­er­nize in the of­fice, the fact is, it hap­pens all the time. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey by the So­ci­ety of Hu­man Re­source Man­agers and Ca­reer­jour­nal.com, four out of ten peo­ple have dated some­one from work. As noted by a sur­vey on Vault.com, a job search site, 58 per­cent of us have had an of­fice ro­mance or a fling at some point in our ca­reers, mean­while 43 per­cent of peo­ple are cur­rently in­volved in an of­fice ro­mance.

Work­place come­dies won’t dis­ap­pear soon. We may be watch­ing to bury our wor­ries in the work sto­ry­lines of these char­ac­ters, but at this point, it’s hard to imag­ine why.

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