Playing catch-up as I haven’t posted in a while–
This week’s column features a duo of demanding divas–a friend who won’t shut up, and a grandmother who insists Mothers’ Day is all about her (nevermind her hardworking daughter’s needs). Last week’s column, by contrast, dealt with people who are overly generous with money or information–a bit of parallelism I hadn’t even noticed until now.
I’ve also been writing weekly analyses of the business themes in “Mad Men.” In “The Forecast,” Don seeks and gets feedback from multiple sources, and Peggy gets a performance review:
Performance feedback comes in two varieties, evaluative (focused on past performance) and developmental (focused on future goals). The phrase “performance review” is somewhat misleading, because in a business context, the point of analyzing the past is to prepare for the future. Don doesn’t bother to review Mathis’s unacceptable performance with the Peter Pan clients, he simply fires him for it. You only need to review employees’ performance if they’re going to continue to perform for you.
Peggy intends to perform for Don until she gets his job: “I’d like to be the first woman creative director at this agency.” Peggy is both motivated and competent, which is all the more reason why Don was right to focus her feedback session on the future rather than the past. Employees who are highly motivated–especially those who are motivated by the intellectual challenge or personal meaning of their jobs, and not just the paycheck–strongly prefer feedback that focuses on future goals and what they need to do to achieve them. If Don were a good manager, he would structure Peggy’s performance review in accordance with her goals. What stands between today’s copy chief Peggy Olson and tomorrow’s creative director Peggy Olson (besides Don finally falling off that balcony once and for all, which might be the kindest fate for all concerned at this point)?
For last week’s episode, “Time & Life,” I wrote about rumor control in the workplace:
Gossip fundamentally has to do with trust. Figuring out if a person is trustworthy requires multiple observations over time, and a certain degree of interpersonal risk. How much easier when we can rely not only on our own personal experiences, but on stories and evaluations passed on by others–i.e., gossip. And how much more motivated we are to behave well when we know that others hear stories about our behavior! Hence, gossip is frequently studied as a positive force, one that weeds out bad apples and rewards good behavior. As the title of a recent paper in “Psychological Science” puts it, with admirable punch and clarity: “Gossip and Ostracism Promote Cooperation in Groups.”
Situational uncertainty exacerbates gossip, and can magnify intragroup alliances and conflicts. Shirley and Dawn, the only African-Americans, have managed to create good working relationships in SC&P–but will their double-outsider status as black women and as former SC&P employees doom them at McCann-Erikson? Pete, reminded by a conveniently placed child of his bond with Peggy, breaks protocol to give her a heads-up about the takeover, news that Peggy shares with her creative colleague and friend Stan.
Finally, I did another piece for DAME, this one on the paired characters of Stan Rizzo and Megan Calvet Draper, who like Joan and Ken
… had no particular relationship to each other, but their personalities and story arcs called to each other frequently, in more ways than their peacock attire. They were the most creative of the creatives at Sterling Cooper, the only ones who did independent art projects outside of the agency. Their personalities were similar as well: Playful and sharp-tongued, Stan and Megan are less politic and more emotionally expressive than the rest of the SC&P crew. In season 6, their stories converged in a way the characters themselves never discovered. The original plan to open an SC&P satellite in L.A. was Stan’s idea, not Don’s or Ted’s: Still in mourning for his cousin, Stan sees the potential of a fresh start and pitches Don to let him head up the California office. Don, who never saw an escape hatch he didn’t like, promptly steals the idea, uses Stan’s own language to persuade Megan to make the move (“build one desk into an agency … we’d be homesteaders”), and then changes his mind and gives the office to Ted after Megan has already quit her job. Megan was sold Stan’s dream and she doesn’t even know it.