The time warp that occurs when flicking through the TV channels and you find yourself watching 1960s-based office drama ‘Mad Men’ is amazing: a trip into the world of sex-based roles, both at home and at work, and ruthlessly driven competitive men and women of Madison Avenue. The sexy, stylish and provocative show might seem like a world you wish you were a part of but, thinking about it, office life in the 60s is a little less than ideal.
When it comes to smoking, aren’t we all glad that the smoking ban is now in effect? Imagine the smell of the cloud that used to envelope our offices before smoking was considered not only a risk to your health but a fire risk, is a challenge. Imagine not being able to tell your boss to stop blowing smoke in your face, or telling a client that he is aggravating your asthma. Free speech, health and safety and human resources are a deeply ingrained part of office life now, but who would have been on your side in the 60s?
Money and status seem to be on the line in every episode and in modern times this just isn’t a true representation of how we live in the office environment. Yes, there is a certain respect gained with keeping your cool, acting professionally and holding yourself well in the office, but this rarely corresponds to your status outside of the office. If judgements were made about your social status by the way you behave at work, it could work well for those who are exceptional at their jobs. But to think that your private life can affect how high up the professional ladder you can climb is somewhat disheartening to say the least. All of those women who, through no fault of their own, have had to bring up children out of wedlock, all of those men who happen to be gay, and all of those couples
who just don’t want to have children can now relax and thank god that their decisions won’t affect their professional growth.
Which brings me to my next point: Diversity. Do you want to work in a place where everyone is just like you? Clearly in ‘Mad Men’ the characters aren’t all the same, but to some extent there needs to be a veil of similarity whilst in the office. Divergence from this norm could cause gossip and scandal. However, we all need a bit of stimulation, whether it’s new ideas that are being danced around or challenges to promote personal growth as well as tolerance within the workplace. A little diversity hasn’t seemed to harm society since the days of ‘mad Men’ so why stop?
Thank goodness for HR. With the inability to speak your mind for fear of being sacked, sexual harassment being dealt with as though it’s a part of office life and equality being blatantly ignored, thank your lucky stars that you have a trusted friend in human resources and as long as you do everything that is required of you, you won’t be shipped off to the bottom of the social and professional ladder at a moment’s notice.