Is Your Workplace Stuck in the Mad Men Era?

The Four Red Flags That Let You Know

From Utz® Potato Chips to the first steps on the moon, the bygone era depicted in the popular series Mad Men has a fascinating appeal. But for the employees of Sterling Cooper and its multiple agency spin-offs, life in the workplace was no bed of roses. Fortunately, a lot has changed since Don Draper sauntered onto Madison Avenue. But while the blatant sexism and extreme martini lunches can seem as laughable as leaving your picnic trash in the park, some workplace mores haven’t changed with the calendar.

Suspect you’ve been transported back to the Nixon era when you start your workday? It may not be the pocket squares and pencil skirts. Perhaps some office traditions have overstayed their welcome. Here’s a quick checklist to see whether or not your workplace got the memo that it’s 2015.

1. Women Are Second-class Citizens.

When women aren’t getting equal pay for equal work, the numbers don’t lie. But getting the “Mad Men treatment” isn’t always about what’s on paper. Today, the transgressions may not be as obvious as those dished out to Peggy and Joan by the chuckleheads from Topaz Panty Hose.

Despite mandatory meetings and policies, the message doesn’t always get through, and a culture of tolerance for bad behavior can develop. A hostile work environment is one part of Mad Men we’re not nostalgic for. It shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances.

2. You Work With Technophobes.  

When Harry Crane introduced employees at the then SC&P to the megacomputer, it took up an entire lounge – and was regarded with plenty of skepticism. While understandable then, today, resistance to technology is simply retrograde.

Co-workers who sidestep office tasks by claiming they “don’t understand the computer” will be left behind if they don’t embrace changes or take the initiative to learn new technology.  And it’s not just employees who are guilty of technophobia – it may be the company itself that resists investing in ways to improve work systems. We can all end up chasing the wave of technology – it moves faster than Harry could have ever imagined – but eschewing it can leave employees and employers in the dark ages.

3. There’s a Culture of Competition.

Not valuing the team can be a dangerous symptom of a Mad Men era workplace. Competitive workplace culture is par for the course when everyone’s clawing their way to the top. But stepping on heads to emerge the victor is simply outdated. Today, businesses rely on teambuilding to build strong relationships in order to achieve their goals.

If your workplace is still caught up in the cut-throat world of competitiveness, you’re working overtime while your supervisor takes the credit, or only a homogenous few are given a voice, consider it a red flag that a new mode of thinking is in order.

4. There’s a 9-5 Mentality.

Don Draper’s idea of flex time was a three-hour lunch followed by a nap on the office couch, but such leniency didn’t extend to the typing pool. A lot has changed, and many options for flexible work hours exist, including valuing work accomplished over time sheets, allowing for atypical schedules to help meet family obligations, and opportunities, allowed by technology, to occasionally work off-site.

Of course, most jobs still require set hours and being on the job in person.  But if an employer has a no flex time policy when 9-5 isn’t necessary, you may want to find out whether there’s a good reason.

What if your workplace could use a little forward thinking? Peggy Olson didn’t become Copy Chief by hoping things would change. Address specific issues like inappropriate behavior with your supervisor. If your teambuilding efforts are being squelched, reference an article about how working as a team can have positive effect on a company’s bottom line and offer some ideas for implementation.

If it turns out your office is simply frozen in the dark ages, start updating your resume. Just because your company hasn’t moved on, that doesn’t mean you have to nurse your Old Fashioned along with it. Ask around about companies known for having a workplace that’s in step with the times, or connect with an employment agency that knows the company cultures and who’s hiring. You’ll be back to 2015 before Don can tip his fedora in a final farewell.

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