What Would Joan Do?

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Thursday, September 28, 2017


Mad Men was one of the best shows on television. Period.  The show kept me hooked for every single season, and is a constant source of style inspiration.  Alex and I are rewatching the whole series right now and it's such an addictive visual treat that I feel its influence leaking into every aspect of my life.

I've been on the hunt for retro, 1960s skin and haircare finds and let me tell you, it ain't easy.  Most of then products in the 60s were not "cruelty free" as that was not really a thing (more on this conundrum later).  Another thing I'm doing is recreating vintage recipes, but of course making them plant based.  Really excited to start sharing all of those with you!

One of my favorite characters on the show is Joan.  She is such a pro in everything she does and so poised and multidimensional.  I work in an art gallery in Hollywood, and act as somewhat of an office manager myself, so I'm really trying to pinpoint what exactly makes Joan a great employee, and infuse my every day life with these traits. Of course, the 1960s were not all fun and games, but there's nothing wrong with applying a little classic etiquette to your modern, 2017 life.

I've compiled what I think are some do's and don'ts regarding different aspects of life that I think Joan would approve of.  Stay tuned for more vintage, 1960s inspired posts because I'm only on the end of season 2, so you guys have a long way to go.

1. No crying in the breakroom.

We are quickly introduced to Joan's #1 rule in season one. If you need to be emotional, do it at home. Honestly, we all have bad days at work. And you may feel like your boss or the world is against you at times, but there's nothing a boss hates more than feeling like they can't be straight with you lest you unleash the waterworks.

2. Know your worth, but show others - don't tell them.

Joan knows she indispensable to Sterling Cooper (and later Sterling Cooper & Partners).  But instead of shoving this down everyone's throats (ahem, looking at you Pete Campbell) she makes sure that her presence is felt, and that her absence is felt too.  Joan runs a tight ship, and holds everyone accountable for themselves and having a tough love approach is what makes her good at her job.  She's not there to be your friend, but she will give you the advice and direction that will help you succeed.

3. You're at work. Do your job.

Joan knew everyone's secrets, but made sure to be discreet about them.  Don "stepped out" and his wife called and asked where he was? "I'm sorry Mrs. Draper, Don stepped out for a moment, I will give him your message."  Of course she knows where he most likely is, and may not necessarily agree with it, but it's not your business and it's not your job to rat him out.  People you work with are colleagues, so delve into their personal lives at your own risk.  Sure you can be friendly, but don't overstep your boundaries and only handle your boss's work life. It's not your job to know the details about their personal lives, and if you do happen to know a few, it's also not your job to spread them around.

4. Put your best face forward.

Take pride in your appearance. Think Joan would set foot on Madison Avenue in a wrinkly shirt and last night's mascara? Boy, do you have another thing coming.  Dressing the park for work will make you feel the part at work as well.  You will sit up a little straighter and hold your head a little higher, and you'll be confident and that goes a long way in the office.  It also says that you have an eye for detail and that you will treat your work like your appearance.  I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be too keen on someone who worked for me showing up to the Gallery in ripped trousers and sneakers.  You don't have to break the bank (neat and clean thrift store finds look better than dirty, wrinkly name brands) but put in a little effort.

5. Mind your manners.

This one is often lost on 2017.  Say "Please," "Thank you," "Yes sir/ma'am."  This will get you far, believe it or not.  You don't have to be exceptionally formal, but politeness is key.  Also, work on your hand shake.  A nice, firm hand is admired, and slapping someone the dead fish is a no-no.  Also, brush up on some old school etiquette.  Send a thank you email if someone scored you tickets to a show (a handwritten note is always nicer, but sometimes not as practical).  Buy your boss a Christmas gift, bring snacks to the office on holidays.  You'll have people gabbing about how you're a class act, and class acts get promotions.

6. Think on your toes.

Unforeseen problems are unavoidable sometimes, but Joan is a master of the quick problem solver. Remember when the British fella got his toes run over by the John Deere?  Poor guy lost his foot, but Joanie saved his damn life, and stayed with him in the hospital.  On her last day, no less!  I hope you don't have to deal with anything so gruesome in the office, but being able to think critically and problem solve is key.

7. Anticipate needs.

This was another one of the first things Joan told Peggy on her first day.  In 2017, it is not necessary to be "somewhere between a mother and a waitress" (in fact, if you ever find yourself in that position, QUIT), but being able to be prepared goes miles.  Check your boss's calendar, think of things they may need to bring on a trip or to a meeting, be sure you know everyone's names, remember problems that arose in a similar situation and what you did to correct them, always have extra so-and-so, etc.  Making lists helps me, and in this day and age you can have Siri remind you to do literally anything (just make sure she doesn't mishear you and tell you to get extra mice for the wine).

8. Own your mistakes, but don't over apologize.


"I'm sorry. It won't happen again."  That's all you need to say. Saying "I'm sorry" more than once is overkill (and annoying) and bringing up past mistakes won't help anything.  Figure out what you can do to correct your error, and what you can do to avoid them in the future, and that's all you can do.  Also, substituting "I'm sorry" with "Thank You" is sometimes helpful.  "Thank you for your patience" sounds better than "I'm so sorry, what can I do to fix it?" don't you agree?

9. If you're outside of work with colleagues, you're still at work.

At a company picnic? An office party?  A coworker's birthday/wedding/kid's function?  Conduct yourself as you would at the office.  Is there alcohol? Have a drink, eat something, drink some water, cut yourself off after 1 or 2 max.  Offices are living breathing organisms and you don't want the building pulsating with something you may have done or said out of turn or under the influence.  Word gets around fast, and it may affect your future.  But on the contrary, don't discuss work outside the workplace unless your boss specifically addresses something. Even then, keep it brief. "Did you send the forms to so-and-so?" Sure did! No need to go into details.  Also, if it's your boss that has had a bit too much, it may be time to head home as to avoid being part of any office gossip later. "Did you see what Mr. Sterling did at the party?!" Nope, sorry, I must have left before that! And return to your work.

10. Know the balance between Catholic School Nun discipline, and being everyone's buddy.

You wouldn't have seen Joan palling around with the girls in the office, but you also didn't see her yell at them.  Make sure if you have to discipline someone that you are firm and understood, but it's not necessary to raise your voice, threaten, or even give them a stern talking to in front of others.  Keep it private, and keep it quick.  No one wants to feel like they're walking a mile to the gallows, and you will have more productive employees if they don't feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you. Joan was the master of the happy medium. She didn't take your shit, make no mistake, but she wouldn't berate you. Also, the lines between supervisor and employee tend to blur if you get too chummy.  People start to feel like they can get away with anything since you're their pal, and it makes it harder to reprimand someone or be honest with them about their work if you feel obligated to treat them as a friend and not an employee.  Be friendly, but not a friend.

Above anything, be professional and use common sense.  Joan is a master at being composed and professional and fair.  Joan treated others how she would prefer to be treated, and made sure that she shared her wisdom in a firm but fair way.


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