I am pleased to share my latest SHRM blog post regarding what “Mad Men” can teach us about life and career.
With all of the focus on the new overtime rules, a major event could be forgotten. One year ago last night we said good bye to Mad Men. For some, it was just a television show. Allow them their blissful naivety. A lot has happened to our friends in the last year with career and life lessons for all of us. So let’s leave the real world for just a moment:
Joan. Because Joan would not sleep with a knuckle dragger named Ferg, Joan was forced out of McCann Erickson. That was far from the first time she was sexually harassed. Joan had enough of the boys’ clubs of the corporate world. So she started her own business. I am delighted to report that Joan made 17% more over the last year than she ever made at McCann Erickson or Sterling Cooper. That gender pay gap? No issue when you are your own boss. Bravo Joan!
Roger. Although a lothario, Roger was loved by most of us. I think of Roger when I think of someone I like but “should not” or don’t like someone I “should.” Unfortunately, senior executives have begun to ask Roger in various ways whether he has given thought to when he will retire. Under the law, employees generally cannot be forced to retire. So picking up on the not so subtle hints, Roger called Joan, who had threatened to contact the EEOC when she was forced out of McCann Erickson. The predator is now prey but has taken control by making clear to the powers that be that he does not want to hear about age again, only about his performance. And, it remains stellar. On a personal note, Roger married Marie Calvet, the mother of Don’s ex-wife, Megan Draper, He is very happy with Marie—spending long holidays in Paris.
Pete. For so many years, it was hard to find anything nice to say about Pete. He was, after all, the character we loved to hate but not quite all the way. I confess that I feared his jaw dropping job in Wichita, Kansas City with a private jet to boot would bring out the worst of him. In reality, he initially struggled at his new job. So, he sought out a coach and listened to the advice he received. He has become more humble as hard as that may be to believe. And, now more of a team player, too, he is getting more support from his co-workers. And, part of success is people wanting you to be successful. Pete is on right track, back in the groove. On the personal side, Pete and Trudy are genuinely happy. Sometimes reconciliations work.
Betty. As we all knew was inevitable, we lost Berdie (Don’s term of endearment for Betty). Thankfully, she did not suffer too much. It happened too quickly for too much pain. But before she died, she and Don spent a weekend together (concluding one of Don’s 3 calls from the final episode). Betty’s death caused Don to think more about his own mortality and what he wanted to achieve and who he wanted to be. Back to my pal Don shortly.
Peggy. Let’s return to the Boys’ Club at McCann Erickson. It would be next to impossible for any woman to survive, let alone thrive. But thriving is what Peggy is doing. In her own voice, she has succeeded beyond expectations. She did not ask for a seat at the table; she took it. She is now a full-fledged copywriter with a waiting list of clients. She started a mentoring program for girls in junior high school. One of her mentees is a young girl named Sheryl Sandberg. As is often the case, the mentee teaches the mentor. Whenever Peggy is told that she is bossy, she hears Sheryl’s words and responds that she is simply leading. I am also delighted to report that Peggy and Stan got married. On a personal note, it was an honor to dance with the bride at the wedding.
Don. And, that leaves us with my friend Don. The last season was beyond painful as we watched Don’s life fall apart. Many of us wondered whether he would survive—we feared the opening of the show was a metaphor for his ending. Instead, he found himself at an Ashram in California where he thought of the genius marketing campaign for Coke and then returned to McCann Erickson to implement it. But his drinking continued unabated. Eventually, he hit bottom and went into treatment. At times, we all need help. No stigma. Get the help you need. I am pleased to report that Don has not had a drink for 7 months, one day at a time. No longer an active alcoholic, Don has focused on repairing his personal life. He and Megan had a short reconciliation but Megan is now on prime time so the bi-costal relationship ended. More importantly, the mad man is now a good man. Don is a good dad without a role model for the parenting skills he now employs.
Conclusion: Okay, I am a sucker for happy endings. So, I wanted to see all the seeds of professional and personal happiness planted by Matt Weiner in the last episode grow to their full potential. Yes, the Mad Men world is singing in perfect harmony, except for the tragic death of Betty. But, after watching the last season 3 times (to which I will admit), Matt left me no room to save her, as much as I tried. And, if nothing else, as you can plainly see, I am a realist, says the mad man who remains mad about the mad men and women of Mad Men.
Neither this blog nor SHRM, Duane Morris or Jonathan A Segal is affiliated, sponsored, endorsed, licensed or in any way associated with AMC. AMC neither endorses nor approves of the content of this piece of fiction or the services provided by SHRM, Duane Morris or Jonathan A Segal.