Spoiler Alert: This post includes Mad Men finale spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
Let’s talk about business and relationships. Let’s talk about Mad Men. Last week’s season finale got me so hot and bothered that I had to put it in writing. Does falling in love at work bring out the worst or the best in us?
I like Don Draper. I like him not only because he is intelligent, sophisticated, sexy and the charismatic Hamlet of the 20s century, but also because he is a talented and creative businessman. The whole season has been closely following Don’s personal life and his professional life. It was intriguing, it kept me guessing and wondering what was next for Don Draper. The very last episode made me question my assumptions about the main character of Mad Men.
Career and personal relationships are two very important aspects in our lives. Our life is intertwined with business decisions, job relationships and family life. When either bad or good events take place in our personal life, we bring them into our work environment because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to leave our personal lives outside the office doors.
During the whole season I watched Don Draper fall into dark, self-destructive places and emerge back on the surface without losing his edge on the job. I respected him a lot for that. His job has always been his salvation, giving him creative powers. He has managed to bring an edge to the office in spite of his self-damaging, emotional debacles. Then, in the seasons finale, Don Draper, the driving, creative power of the agency, crumbles. Because he thinks he is falling in love (or is he really?). Don loses his edge, he melts, he forgets his work and this sophisticated man becomes … a smiling teenage boy.
This brings back some memories … I met my husband at work. He was working in the wholesale department. I was in accounting. We were both single and available. However, the company’s policy stated that if an employee desired to date another employee, they had to ask for permission. It sounded so crazy that we just chose to ignore it. We tried not to advertise our relationship and kept it on the low: no phone calls at work, no lunches, no whispering in the hallways, no smoke breaks together. Surprisingly, everyone knew about us but no one ever said a word until the day when I came to work with a ring on my finger, and my boss said “So he finally proposed?”
As far as the work performance goes, mine suffered only on those days when we had disagreements. My mind was somewhere else, and it was difficult to focus on the numbers and to balance debits and credits. What the hell, it was difficult to be at work! Love affects our work life one way or the other. Love can play tricks on the best of us.
Don Draper is another good example of what falling in love can do to a man. Forget the work, forget losing the clients, forget the agency that is falling apart. Don Draper is settling down. He is becoming a domesticated bohemian. Really? What a delightful, happy ending to the season. He proposes to his caring, sweet, sympathetic secretary (what a cliché). Is she really the one? Or is this marriage proposal an unlikely conjunction of events that reminded Don of the importance of family life, home, warm dinners? Or does he just like the beginning of things? The ending of the season leaves this door into Don’s future wide open. At least, I hope so.
Do our personal relationships affect our work, our performance? Clearly, yes. When our office manager has marital problems, I can see it on her face. She doesn’t even need to tell me anything. Her performance that day might not be flawless but so what? Everything overlaps: our office life, our personal and family life, the relationships with our friends and our co-workers. Just please try not to forget about business at hand!