Five Important Business Lessons We Can Take From Mad Men

They say art imitates life, but the reverse is also true: the things we absorb through music, movies, books, and television shows often find their way into our own daily lives. Just as we might feel motivated to get back in the gym after watching Rocky or feel inspired to try a new recipe after seeing a fun food video, the lessons learned through pop culture can impact our performance in the workplace. For fans of the television show Mad Men, this is especially true. Airing from 2007-2015, the show details the office politics of a 1960s era advertising agency. Critically acclaimed and still considered the gold standard of television, Mad Men’s influence on our culture is undeniable.

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Courtesy of Fortune

Though a lot has changed since the ‘60s, the lessons we can learn from Mad Men are timeless. A far cry from a comedy like The Office, Mad Men takes a hard look at the way our values, creativity, and talents are used for profit. Viewed through the lens of an entrepreneur, these lessons are certainly applicable to modern business.

Recognize Talent

Keeping an eye out for talented employees is crucial in any line of work. It’s not always easy to spot them in a crowd. In fact, they can be found in the most unexpected places. Take Peggy Olson, for example, the young receptionist who is promoted to copywriter after she pipes up with an exciting idea for an ad campaign. Though women are treated much more equally in the modern workplace, there are likely junior employees who see themselves in Peggy’s shoes. By staying open to the idea that every colleague has value and greater potential than their current position, you’ll stay ahead of the hiring curve.

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Courtesy of Time Magazine

Respect Workplace Culture

In season two of Mad Men, we see the advertising agency bought out by a larger company. With differing values and objectives, the two companies struggle to come together as a united team. This comes as a direct result of management ignoring the cultural incompatibility at play.

What can we take away from this plot point? Workplace culture can make or break a team’s spirit. By recognizing the need for both transparency and synergy, you can ensure your office has a culture of respect and honesty. Of course, creating that culture is easier said than done, but tools like MAP Communications’ whistleblower hotline services can help keep your team honest and on their best behavior.

Choose Collaborators Wisely

It would be nice to place your trust in each of your colleagues without question. Unfortunately, though, not everyone is a team player. As evidenced in virtually every season of the show, Mad Men characters each have their own motivations and secrets. While not every workplace will have the degree of backstabbing and secrecy that Sterling Cooper features, it’s important to recognize that not all your co-workers will do right by you all the time.

That’s not to say, however, that you should trust no one. Instead, take time to get to know your colleagues before sharing your trust. While it’s true that some teams are more like families than co-workers, those kinds of relationships aren’t built overnight. Take your time to find your allies and do right by them whenever possible.

No Matter How Tempting, Avoid Office Romances

Related imageMad Men wouldn’t be half as popular without the womanizing ways of the main character, Don Draper. His trysts with secretaries, clients, and subordinates are fun for viewers but rarely result in anything but trouble for Draper. By consistently crossing professional lines to seduce co-workers, he not only jeopardizes the success of his company, but he risks his own personal life, too.

While many people do indeed meet their spouses at work, it’s a good idea to keep romance out of the office setting. When things go well, such a flirtation can be fun, if not a little distracting. When things go poorly, though, the consequences can be dramatic. With so many fish in the sea, it’s just not worth risking your job for a fling. If you feel truly compelled to enter into a relationship with a colleague, check your company policy to ensure you’re not violating any human resource rules. Things have changed a lot since the Mad Men era, and you could find yourself facing all sorts of backlash if you don’t navigate these waters perfectly.

Technology Isn’t Always Necessary

If you’re like most American workers, you’d be nothing without your computer. Most white-collar workers are glued to their keyboards each day, hammering out emails and submitting assignments virtually. While it’s true that computers and smartphones make some work easier to complete, Mad Men reminds us that such tools aren’t always necessary for productivity.

In fact, without the distractions of social media notifications and news headlines, the Mad Men team likely produced more each day than modern workers do in a week. Before you rush out to buy a typewriter for your office, though, bear in mind that the connections and conversations we see on shows like Mad Men are what lead to success, not the tools surrounding the workers.

No matter how you interpret Mad Men’s philosophies on office culture, there are lessons to be learned in virtually every episode! Whether you work in the advertising sector like Don Draper, are part of a law firm, or have a career in healthcare, Mad Men has crucial advice for professionals in every industry.

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