If you can write, you’ll never go hungry (NOT)

One of my favorite books about non-traditional higher education is This Way Out: A Guide to Alternatives to Traditional College Education in the United States, Europe and the Third World (1972), by John Coyne and Tom Hebert. Though obviously dated, it contains marvelous advice on self-education, as well as providing a snapshot look at innovative new degree programs of the day.

Throughout the chapters on independent learning, they urge the importance of developing writing skills. For example:

If you can write English clearly, you’ll never go hungry.


You have to write, so write well. To write well, write a great deal. At least 1,000 words a week; go for 2,000. Four to ten pages. If you do that as a student, you’ll never have to go hungry later. We may even say that again.

Coyne and Hebert anticipated the evolving information age and knew that the ability to write a good sentence or two would be crucial to succeeding in it. As the service sector replaced the manufacturing sector as a primary source of jobs, and as the burgeoning flow of information created opportunities for work, job candidates with good writing skills would be much sought after by employers.

40 years later

Well…they were right about the information age, but they didn’t anticipate that as it went digital, the premium put on good writing may not translate into a decent, living wage for the writers.

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times titled “Slaves of the Internet, Unite!,” writer Tim Kreider opens by sharing how many times he is “invited” to supply content for free, then adding:

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.


Especially with drops in subscriptions and advertising support for print journalism, it’s up to those of us who care about the news to support the newspapers and other periodicals we enjoy reading.

The Internet has made freeloaders of most of us. We click to articles that others spent hours researching, writing, and editing, and we expect to access the material for free. When we hit a paywall, we become indignant. (What’s a paywall? It means you click to an article and find out you cannot access it without a subscription, or perhaps paying a small fee.)

I access a lot of free content, but I also subscribe to more newspapers and magazines than I could possibly read cover-to-cover. I see it as investment in the kind of writing and journalism that we need in our society. Good reporting is a bulwark of an open, accountable society, and sometimes we have to put some money behind it.


Related posts

So you want to be a writer? (2010)

“I’ll write for free!” (2010)

E-Writing for Free: Is Journalism Becoming Volunteer Work? (2009)

HR, workplace bullying, and the abandoned target

Team Of Three Orange People Holding Hands And Standing On Blue Puzzle Pieces, With One Man Reaching Out To Connect Another To Their Group Clipart Illustration Graphic

(Image courtesy of clipart-library.com)

It’s a recurring story, but sadly worth sharing: A worker who is enduring severe bullying at work confides in a human resources professional and spells out in detail everything that is going on. The HR person seems to be truly listening, nodding at the right times, and exuding concern and empathy when tears flow. At the end of the meeting, the HR person promises to get back to the employee, perhaps with a report or a follow up plan of action.

A few days or weeks later, the HR person responds with a meeting or memo in which the bullied employee is told that they’ve found no inappropriate behavior. The response may include any number of lies or distortions. In some cases, the tables will have turned, and it will be the targeted worker who is feeling scrutinized.

Earlier this week, I heard from someone with a story largely along the lines described above. For various reasons, I trust the individual who provided it. This person even had some legal issues worth raising, which sadly isn’t the case in many bullying situations.

For me this was the latest example of a bullying target who was looking for a lifeline, but instead was tossed under the bus, with HR supporting their demise.

The role of HR

Unfortunately, HR is often complicit in some of the worst workplace bullying situations. As I wrote in one of this blog’s most popular articles:

In good and bad workplaces alike, HR answers to top management, not to individual employees.  Too many well-meaning team players have learned that lesson painfully, thinking that a seemingly empathetic HR manager is a sort of confidante or counselor. There are plenty of good, supportive HR people out there, but ultimately their job is to support the employer’s hiring and personnel practices and interests.

Mixing and matching

To tease out this point, here’s one way to look at things when it comes to bullying at work and HR:

1. Good workplace + good HR

Obviously this is the gold standard. First off, workplace bullying is much less likely to occur in good organizations. Secondly, if allegations of bullying do arise, then they are much more likely to get prompt attention by a fair-minded HR office.

2. Good workplace + bad HR

With this combination, bullying is still less likely to occur. However, if it does happen, HR may impede or frustrate a proper and just response.

3. Bad workplace + good HR

We know that lousy organizations are petri dishes for bullying. It’s not good for the target or HR. In fact, it’s possible that HR may be bullied if it supports the target. Conscientious HR practitioners often face terrible ethical dilemmas when they are expected to do some of the dirty work of bad management.

4. Bad workplace + bad HR

Unfortunately, this scenario carries little hope for a positive internal resolution. It’s not exactly a daring hypothesis to say that this combination represents the lion’s share of distressing stories we hear about a worker being ignored or retaliated against after reporting bullying behaviors to HR. Here is where HR is most likely to be complicit in the mistreatment.

Successful HR interventions

As I wrote in another entry, I cannot “cite a ‘poster case’ example of HR decisively and effectively coming to the rescue of a severely bullied worker.” However, I said that they must exist, adding that “successful interventions are more likely to be handled quietly, so these accounts may not become more well known.” Indeed, I wish we knew more about these ethical success stories.

In sum: HR answers to top management, not to individual workers. When it comes to dealing with workplace bullying, mobbing, and harassment, that may be a good or bad thing, depending upon the ethical values of the organization. These are among the challenging realities of workplace bullying, HR, and organizations, but they must be grasped in order to understand the dynamics of modern work abuse.


Related post

Workplace bullying and mobbing: Resources for HR (2017)


This post was revised in July 2019.

Condé Nast shutters its internship program in the face of minimum wage lawsuits

Condé Nast, publisher of high-end magazines such as VogueVanity Fair, and GQ, has shuttered its well-known internship program in the face of lawsuits alleging it is in violation of minimum wage laws. Current interns have been paid stipends that average out to about a dollar an hour. Apparently the company decided it was better to stop hiring interns than to pay them the princely minimum wage.

Interview with ProPublica

As part of ProPublica’s investigative project on the intern economyCasey McDermott did a wide-ranging interview with me about the intern economy. From that interview, here are my specific points about the Condé Nast development:

What is your initial reaction to the news that Condé Nast will halt its internship program?

I was disappointed but not surprised. Disappointed because a company like Condé Nast, which publishes high-end, big-budget magazines, certainly can afford to pay its interns the minimum wage. It also strikes me as being very shortsighted. They have an opportunity to evaluate promising candidates for future employment and to help train the next generation of writers and creative people, while gaining the benefit of their work. It could’ve been a win-win, but they opted for the lose-lose.

This move is often cited as one potential drawback to calling for an end to unpaid internships — do you think it will trigger other companies who are facing pressure for internship compensation practices to do the same?

I think it’s a toss-up in terms of what will happen next. Some companies may end their internship programs; others will realize that paying at least the minimum wage is a mutually beneficial move.

Do you think this might affect the pending lawsuit against this company, or those against other companies?

While I can’t get into the heads of judges and speculate on how current events affect their legal analysis, the questions of compensation as set out by the Department of Labor and the courts seem pretty clear cut as to the key factors to be considered. The Condé Nast decision shouldn’t affect judicial and administrative rulings if the standards are properly applied. However, it’s possible that federal and state labor departments will be under increasing pressure from corporate interests to ease off on any enforcement efforts concerning unpaid internships. This may become a more political issue as the intern rights movement gains steam.

Overall, do you anticipate any reduction in internships as a result of increased scrutiny of intern wages and treatment?

I think we’re in a period of potential restructuring of what we’ve been calling the intern economy. Similar to what we’re seeing with health care, there will be some disruption and uncertainty as all this shakes out. It may mean a reduction in the net number of internships offered, but that reduction affects everyone equally in terms of supply.  In addition, given the NACE studies showing that unpaid internships may carry less clout in the entry-level job market, it’s far from clear that an overall reduction in unpaid opportunities will have a negative effect on individual employment prospects.

A “cruel and terrible mistress”?

Condé Nast’s decision is getting a lot of media play, and it has caused at least one writer to dig into the culture of its internship program . Alexander Abad-Santos, blogging for The Atlantic, gives us the scoop on interning for Condé Nast:

The death of the Condé Nast internship program is a lot like being at a funeral for the meanest, most popular girl at school. We’re now at the point where everyone is remembering what an awesome time they had at their internship and forgetting what a cruel and terrible mistress Condé Nast was. It’s not unlike hearing someone talk fondly about being hazed….

Abad-Santos quotes former Conde Nast interns waxing nostalgic about their intern experiences in Cara Buckley’s New York Times piece about the closing of the internship program and then responds:

These people reminiscing fondly about working for free and about a company that didn’t want them to pay them minimum wage. Obviously, having a set of parents willing to pay to have their kids live in New York City makes the memories a little more fond (the former interns who The Times spoke to say that living in New York City without parental aid is impossible). There’s something not right here.

The culture of Condé Nast, Abad-Santos reminds us, was the inspiration for one of the all-time bad boss books and movies, “The Devil Wears Prada.” (For fun, don’t forget to take his “Who Said It, Sorority Sister or Condé Nast Intern?” quiz!)

Stay tuned

As I’ve told reporters about the developing challenges to unpaid internships, stay tuned, there’s more to come. The legal and employee relations issues raised by the intern economy are now sharpening at the point of application and practice, and we’re still in the early stages of having these questions resolved.


More about the Condé Nast decision

Here are other pieces in which I was quoted about Condé Nast’s decision:

Wall Street Journal (Lauren Weber)

Fortune (Claire Zillman)

ABA Journal (Debra Cassens Weiss)

Law review article

I’ve authored a forthcoming law review article (“The Legal and Social Movement Against Unpaid Internships,” Northeastern University Law Journal), which analyzes recent legal and policy developments and the emergence of the intern rights movement.

The myth of the “dream job”

“It’s my dream job.”

How many times have we heard variations of this phrase? It usually pops up when someone is interviewing for a job that sounds like a wonderful, perfect fit, or after they just accepted the offer.

If you follow up with them a few years later, it’s likely that reality has set in. It may have turned out to be a very good job, a decent job, a tolerable job, or an absolute horror show. But if they’re still sticking to the “dream job” line, they’re either (1) truly fortunate; (2) fibbing a bit to keep up appearances; or (3) deluding themselves.

Reality check

The idea of a dream job reflects high, often pie-in-the-sky expectations that may ignore the realities of organizations, human behavior, and economics. Indeed, the very concept of a career or a vocation that blends a good salary or wage with a chance to do inherently rewarding work is very much a product of a first world, late 20th century, upwardly mobile culture. A century ago, I doubt that many people were thinking in such a manner.

In the meantime, there are bills to be paid and mouths to be fed. These are not trifling matters. In fact, basic survival is what most of the world confronts on a daily basis.

Furthermore, even a good paying job may be short on psychic income. There are plenty of people who are toiling away mainly for the money, sometimes sacrificing their own desires in order to pay a mortgage or to send the kids through school.

Realistic hopes

Dream jobs may be few and far between, but I’m not suggesting that we give up on finding great meaning and a decent paycheck in our work. When it comes to pursuing our life’s purposes and passions, I’m still a romantic.

I think it boils down to expectations and aspirations grounded in reality. The world of work may disappoint us at times. But we can strive to create better opportunities for ourselves and to take full advantage of those presented to us.


Free blog subscription

For a free subscription to Minding the Workplace, go to “Follow this blog” at the top right of the home page, and enter your e-mail address.

Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week 2013


Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week is an annual observance championed by the Workplace Bullying Institute to mark the importance of preventing and stopping workplace bullying.

As part of this week, I’ve collected ten of the most popular pieces about workplace bullying posted during the past year:

Gaslighting as a workplace bullying tactic (December 2012)

A mediator writes about workplace bullying and mediation (January 2013)

From bullying, to mobbing, to ouster: The story of Ann Curry (April 2013)

When workplace bullies claim victim status: Avoiding the judo flip (May 2013)

“Splitting” as a workplace bullying tactic (May 2013)

Bullying of volunteers (May 2013)

What makes someone a potential workplace bullying target? (June 2013)

Prestigious honorary society president may be a bullying boss (June 2013)

Workplace bullying: Recognition, response, recovery, renewal (July 2013)

Why targets of workplace bullying need our help: A rallying cry from the heart (September 2013)

“Compassionate management” sounds great, but can it sweat the tough stuff?

Last month, business writer Bronwyn Fryer blogged for the Harvard Business Review about the welcomed trend toward “compassionate management,” at least as measured by a growing number of conferences, panel discussions, lectures, and social media sites devoted to the topic. Here’s a snippet:

A growing number of business conferences are focusing in on the topic of compassion at work. There’s the International Working Group on Compassionate Organizations. There’s the Changing Culture in the Workplace Conference. Then there’s Wisdom 2.0, dedicated to “exploring living with greater awareness, wisdom and compassion in the modern age.” The speakers are no slouches: eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Bill Ford (yes, that Bill Ford), Karen May (VP of Talent at Google), and Linked In CEO Jeff Weiner top the bill. At TED, Karen Armstrong’s talk about reviving the Golden Rule won the TED prize in 2009 and has given rise to a Charter for Compassion signed by nearly 100,000 people.

It’s a very good piece, chock full of links to learn more, and well worth reading in its entirety.


Hopeful signs notwithstanding, we know that compassionate management is far from the norm, as Fryer acknowledges.

Indeed, the overall emotional state of the American workplace shows a crying need for enlightened management practices. A recent Gallup Poll indicated that 70 percent of American workers “have ‘checked out’ at work or are ‘actively disengaged,’” as Ricardo Lopez reported recently for the Los Angeles Times. These high percentages of emotional disengagement have been pretty consistent since 2000.

Furthermore, readers of this blog know very well that workplace bullying is one of the most common forms of interpersonal abuse. When presented with reports of bullying at work, employers often dismiss the complaints or make the situation worse for the targeted worker. In fact, this occurs 62 percent of the time, according to a 2007 Workplace Bullying Institute national survey conducted with Zogby International pollsters.

Among the challenges…

As I wrote in my 2008 article, “Workplace Bullying and Ethical Leadership” (Journal of Values-Based Leadership), a real test of an organizational leader is what she does when presented with a valid report about workplace bullying that implicates a top executive or, better yet, that person’s friend. Will the situation be handled fairly and honestly, or will it be swept under the rug? All of the organization’s proclaimed devotion to ethics and social responsibility go out the window if the latter occurs.

The same can be said of compassionate management generally. It’s one thing to say all the right things; it’s a lot harder to do them, especially when the circumstances are inconvenient or uncomfortable.

In addition, compassionate management must encompass genuine inclusion. This means giving workers a real voice (and backing it up with protections against retaliation for exercising it) and striving to work cooperatively with unions in organized workplaces. It’s not about creating a facade of feel-good “niceness” that dodges difficult and thorny challenges.

And don’t forget the Golden Rule…

Fryer recognized the tension between cynicism and optimism that many of us balance when it comes to dealing with our workplaces, and she suggested that the Golden Rule is a good starting place for guiding our behaviors:

It’s just a hunch, but I suspect most of us are experiencing cynicism fatigue. The overwhelmingly bad news springing from the news media leaves most people with two options: either they become cynics who drown themselves in their own pleasures, or they try to make a difference. Most of the smart people I know are little a bit of both, but they fight their cynical side. They try to work on something of worth at work and in the world. There is no better way to start doing this than to practice the golden rule on an hourly basis.

I’ve written about the Golden Rule at work before. Like compassionate management, it’s easier preached than practiced, but it’s a worthy aspiration.


Related post

Is your workplace psychologically and ethically healthy? (2010)

Writing and implementing a workplace anti-bullying policy: A new WBI DVD set for employers


The Workplace Bullying Institute has released a new DVD set, “Writing Workplace Bullying Policy and Procedures,” for employers who want intensive guidance and instruction on incorporating bullying prevention and response into their employee relations practices.

The DVD set features Dr. Gary Namie, plus a cameo appearance by yours truly explaining some of the legal implications and offering suggestions on how employers can work with their attorneys in finalizing their policies and procedures. Here’s a piece of the description from the WBI website:

This DVD is the substitute for in-person group facilitation by Dr. Namie. Instructions are provided that allow the designated Policy Writing Group to create the most comprehensive set of policy provisions, informal solutions, and formal enforcement procedures possible. Dr. Namie delivers the step-by-step instructions that will result in a new policy and set of procedures in a single day.

. . . It is suggested that writing be collaborative. The Policy Writing Group explores the organization’s values and expectations regarding abusive conduct at work. No boilerplate works. Policies are not one-size-fits-all. Only those who work at your organization understand the idiosyncrasies of their unique workplace culture. Our process results in a policy specific to your organization with all of the accompanying ethical and logistical questions answered.

The instructions are accompanied by sample terms and provisions.

There are two pricing options: $299 for the DVD set; and $399 for the DVD set plus a one-hour phone or Skype consultation with Gary Namie to review the draft created by the employer. In other words, this is no “plug and play” policy, to be simply pasted into an employee handbook. The DVD set costs money, and it requires work and thought by the employer to follow through. It is for employers who are willing to sweat the details to build a healthy and productive workplace.

When it comes to addressing workplace bullying, there are no panaceas or quick fixes. Employers, unions, mental health professionals, the legal system, and other stakeholders all have to get on board. Teaching organizations how to deal with bullying preventively and responsively is a big piece of the puzzle. This training DVD is a useful step in the right direction.


Go here for the full description and ordering information.

The legal and social movement against unpaid internships

I’ve just posted a draft of forthcoming law review article, “The Legal and Social Movement Against Unpaid Internships,” which will be published in the Northeastern University Law Journal in early 2014. You may download a pdf copy without charge from my Social Science Research Network page.

The draft runs about 24 pages and discusses and analyzes the major developments concerning unpaid internships over the past four years. It is an update of, and sequel to, my 2002 law review article, “The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns” (Connecticut Law Review), which can be downloaded without charge here.

Here’s the article abstract for the new piece:

Until very recently, the legal implications of unpaid internships provided by American employers have been something of a sleeping giant, especially on the question of whether interns fall under wage and hour protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state equivalents. This began to change in June 2013, when, in Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., a U.S. federal district court held that two unpaid interns who worked on the production of the movie “Black Swan” were owed back pay under federal and state wage and hour laws.

This Article examines and analyzes the latest legal developments concerning internships and the growth of the intern rights movement. It serves as an update to a 2002 article I wrote on the employment rights of interns, David C. Yamada, The Employment Law Rights of Student Interns, 35 Conn. L. Rev. 215 (2002). Now that the legal implications of unpaid internships have transcended mostly academic commentary, the underlying legal and policy issues are sharpening at the point of application. Accordingly, Part I will examine the recent legal developments concerning internships, consider the evolving policy issues, and suggest solutions where applicable.

In addition, the intern rights movement has emerged to challenge the widespread practice of unpaid internships and the overall status of interns in today’s labor market. Thus, Part II will examine the emergence of a movement that has both fueled legal challenges to unpaid internships and engaged in organizing activities and social media outreach surrounding internship practices and the intern economy.

This article grew out of my presentation at the March 2013 Northeastern University Law Journal symposium on employee misclassification.

Because it is a first draft, it will undergo edits and revisions, the latter especially if it is published after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issues decisions on the unpaid intern wage claims that have been certified for appeal.

Introverts, extroverts, and workplace bullying

How do qualities of introversion and extraversion relate to bullying at work?

I searched “introvert,” “extrovert,” and “workplace bullying” together and was surprised to find very little addressing this topic. In recent years we’ve seen greater attention devoted to “rescuing” introverts from unfair characterizations about their personalities, including the workplace context. However, the introvert/extrovert dichotomy only tangentially appears in research studies about workplace bullying, and not to a degree sufficient to draw firm conclusions.

I think it’s worth a much closer look.

Understanding terms

First, let’s make sure we understand our terms, as both are often mischaracterized.

Contrary to popular assumptions, introversion is not synonymous with shyness or social ineptitude. Rather, introverts tend to be inner-directed, drawing energy from their solitude. Social situations cause them to expend that energy and create the need to recharge away from others. Introverts may greatly prefer conversations about “serious” ideas and find casual exchanges somewhat burdensome.

Extraversion is commonly misunderstood as being the equivalent of an outgoing “life of the party” personality. More accurately, extroverts tend to be more outer-directed, drawing energy from their interactions with others. That social side may cause them to prefer everyday chit chat over being alone. In fact, extroverts may feel bereft and restless without frequent social contact.

Of course, most people are not complete extroverts or introverts. Those of us who can identify with both qualities may find that different social settings and contexts influence our tendencies one way or the other. Furthermore, personalities can change over time.

Workplace bullying

With these characterizations in mind, I think the introvert/extrovert framework is ripe for inquiries concerning workplace bullying, in terms of both targets and aggressors. Here are a few questions that could make for interesting theses, dissertations, and research articles:

  • Are introverts or extroverts more likely to be targets of workplace bullying?
  • Are introverts or extroverts more likely to be workplace aggressors?
  • Are extroverts more likely to bully in direct or indirect ways?
  • Are introverts more likely to bully in direct or indirect ways?
  • When introverts bully, are they more likely to target introverts or extroverts?
  • When extroverts bully, are they more likely to target introverts or extroverts?
  • Do introverts and extroverts react differently as bystanders to workplace bullying?

Some hypotheses

If I was a social science researcher studying how introversion and extraversion relate to bullying at work, here are some hypotheses I’d start out with, based on my general understanding of topic:

  • Because extroverts may be favored for promotion to management positions, and because workplace bullying (at least in the U.S.) is disproportionately supervisor-to-subordinate in nature, they may be in a more advantageous position to bully others. This does not necessarily mean that extroverts are inherently more prone to engage in bullying behaviors.
  • Introverts may be more likely to be bullied than extroverts.
  • Extroverts are more likely to bully directly, while introverts are more likely to bully indirectly.
  • Differences can fuel interpersonal incivility and aggression. Accordingly, extroverts are more likely to bully introverts, and introverts are more likely to bully extroverts.

Again, these are hypotheses only, not evidence-based conclusions.

The introvert/extrovert framework potentially yields some useful insights toward understanding the nature of bullying and similar forms of mistreatment at work. I hope we’ll see some enterprising researchers take up these research possibilities.


Free blog subscription

For a free subscription to Minding the Workplace, go to “Follow this blog” at the top right of the home page, and enter your e-mail address.


Followup note: Organizational psychology professor Larissa Barber (Northern Illinois University), whose work I have mentioned before on this blog, saw this post on Facebook and kindly shared some research results and article links concerning interpersonal conflict and incivility at work that are relevant to this topic.

Applying the Interpersonal Conflict at Work scale to 515 respondents, she found that “people higher in extraversion tend to report less interpersonal conflict at work, including even getting into arguments (e.g., contributing to those conflicts).” However, she strongly emphasized that the effect of extraversion on the composite score “is quite a bit weaker” than traits such as “agreeableness and conscientiousness and honesty-humility.”

She also provided these article/dissertation abstracts on research concerning incivility and personality:

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ocp/14/1/58/ (individual differences among workplace incivility targets)

http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2003-95016-074 (workplace incivility and counterproductive work behavior)

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14766086.2012.758049#.UlhMbxxa7YF (effects of personality and spirituality on workplace incivility perceptions)

It’s worth noting that although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, bullying and incivility are not necessarily synonymous, and researchers often draw firm distinctions between them. Nevertheless, this information helps to shed light on the topic and is much appreciated.

Recycling: Portrayals of work and workers on television

Over the years of writing this blog, I’ve devoted a number of posts to the ways in which work and workers are portrayed on television. Here are six past articles that discuss that topic, with snippets from each:

10 of the most emotionally admirable workers on TV (2012)

Tami Taylor, school counselor and principal, Friday Night Lights — It’s highway robbery that Connie Britton didn’t win an Emmy for her portrayal of Tami Taylor in one of the best TV dramas ever. Originally positioned as wife to high school football coach Eric Taylor (played wonderfully by Kyle Chandler), Tami becomes the moral core of the show, exhibiting role model-quality emotional intelligence at work, home, and in the community. Also deserving: Coach Taylor (Chandler).

What does ABC’s “Revenge” teach us about workplace injustice? (2011)

Are fans of “Revenge” frustrated avengers pining for a chance to inflict payback on those who have hurt them? If so, then there are millions of us waiting in the wings.

Fortunately, I don’t think this is the case. It boils down to the difference between exacting revenge — i.e., taking an active part in the retribution — and experiencing schadenfreude, the German loanword defined as deriving joy or satisfaction from another’s misfortune. The former involves planning and participation, while the latter represents an emotional response.

“Mad Men” and the “Dick Van Dyke Show” (2011)

Here are two American television shows portraying early-to-mid 1960s families, featuring a husband who commutes from Long Island to Manhattan every day to a job doing creative, well-compensated work, a beautiful work-at-home housewife, and adorable children.

We’re basically talking about the same programs, several decades apart, right?

Yeah, right.

FOX on the workplace: 24, Glee, and American Idol (2010)

If you want entertaining TV insights into work, school, and the American culture of popularity and success, three shows on the FOX network are worth watching: 24Glee, and American Idol.  I’ve blogged about all three of them previously, but they deserve encore mentions.

“Prime Suspect” (2010)

“Prime Suspect” stars the remarkable Helen Mirren in the lead role as Jane Tennison, who takes over a detective squad in Season 1 and serves in a variety of positions during the roughly 16-year life of the series. Tennison is tough, resilient, vulnerable, and imperfect, and over the years we become witness to her personal and professional successes and struggles.

HBO’s “The Wire” (2009)

Sometimes it’s the dealers, not the cops, who demonstrate the higher level of organizational intelligence.  Stringer Bell takes continuing education classes in business management, and when he gathers together his lieutenants, he runs the proceedings like a good board meeting.

%d bloggers like this: