7 lessons learned from TV workplaces

Debra Auerbach,

People watch television for different reasons -- as an escape from their hectic lives, as a means of news and information or purely as a form of entertainment. While some shows (ahem, reality TV, which we fully admit to watching) don't offer much educational value, others can actually teach viewers a thing or two. And with so many shows set in a work environment, the career lessons to be learned are plentiful.

Here are seven lessons learned from some of TV's most recognizable workplaces:

Lesson No. 1: Nice guys can finish first
Show: "The Office"
After former boss Michael Scott left Scranton, Pa., paper company Dunder Mifflin, everyone wondered who would be picked as his replacement. Would it be Dwight Schrute, the scheming, often paranoid salesman who has long been eyeing the job? Or perhaps Jim Halpert, the office jokester, would become the Big Cheese? To the surprise of the office, it was Andy Bernard who took over as manager. While Andy has been known to have some anger-management issues, overall he's a nice guy who puts other people's feelings before his own. While in this day and age it may feel like you have to adopt a ruthless, take-no-prisoners attitude to get ahead at work, Andy teaches us that you can treat people well and win. 

Lesson No. 2: You can be a mom and a successful businesswoman
Show: "Up All Night"
NBC's new hit show "Up All Night" follows the lives of Reagan, her husband Chris and their baby Amy. Reagan is a high-powered producer at "Ava," a talk show hosted by her best friend. When it was time for either Reagan or Chris to head back to work post-baby, it was Reagan who decided she couldn't bear to leave her job. The show covers real topics that working mothers deal with every day -- the guilt of leaving their children, the stress of working a full-time job and coming home to their second job as wife and mother, and the issues parents deal with when one parent is working and one isn't. Yet the main lesson learned from the show is that you'll never be perfect at either -- nobody is -- but you can work at a job you love and still be a great parent. 

Lesson No. 3: Disagreeing is good for business
Show: "Private Practice"
Tune into "Private Practice" on any given Thursday, and chances are at some point during the episode two doctors will be arguing. A common cause for argument among the doctors at Oceanside Wellness is determining the best treatment for a patient. Each makes a case by stating his or her medical opinion, but oftentimes personal beliefs or experiences have some influence as well. While arguing for arguing sake is counterproductive, having a workplace discussion where not everyone agrees can be beneficial to your team and your clients. Hearing different perspectives than your own can help you make a more informed decision and often leads to a better end result. 

Lesson No. 4: It's OK to ask for help
Show: "Parks and Recreation"
The show's star, Leslie Knope, works in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Ind. Leslie is an ambitious workaholic who has dreams of one day being a high-powered politician. To help reach those dreams, Leslie runs for city council. As Leslie's campaign kicks into full gear, she tries to stay on top of her day job. Her boss, Ron Swanson, urges her to delegate work to others, but she thinks she can do it all. Yet as projects begin to slip through the cracks, Leslie realizes that it's OK to get help from others. The moral of the story: If you're feeling overworked, ask team members if they can pick up some of the slack. If you try to take on too much to prove your worth, you may end up making a costly mistake. 

Lesson No. 5: Bullying only gets you so far
Show: "Boss"
As mayor of Chicago, Tom Kayne rules with an iron fist. He uses bullying, intimidation and even violence to get what he wants and to keep his team in line. While his abuse of power does help him succeed in the workplace, it also fosters paranoia. Even if he is paranoid for good reason, he's often second-guessing his relationships, wondering if he can trust anyone from his wife to his advisers. Sure, bullying may get short-term results, but in the long run you'll burn bridges, damage relationships and always wonder if anyone is truly loyal to you.

Lesson No. 6: Lying, even with good intentions, will come back to haunt you
Show: "Grey's Anatomy"
Dr. Meredith Grey -- the show's star and narrator -- is close with Richard Webber, former chief of surgery at Seattle Grace Hospital. Richard's wife, Adele, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at around the same time Meredith began working on a clinical drug trial for the disease. Participating patients either get the drug or a placebo, but who gets what is kept confidential so the results are unbiased. Yet when Adele becomes one of the participants, Meredith breaks the rules and intervenes to ensure Adele gets the real treatment. Eventually, Meredith's secret is discovered, shutting down the clinical trial and putting her career in jeopardy. The lesson learned: Being deceitful or going behind your boss's back -- even if you think you're right -- will do more harm than good. Instead, be transparent with your boss and try to agree on an approach that benefits all parties involved. 

Lesson No. 7: Zero work/life balance is bad for your health
Show: "Homeland"
CIA agent Carrie Mathison is out to prove that former Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody, who was kept in enemy confinement for eight years, has been turned and is now a terrorist. Carrie becomes obsessed with finding out the truth and exposing Brody. Her work takes over her life, and she'll do whatever it takes to get answers, often breaking rules and ruining personal relationships. While this is an extreme example, it's not uncommon for workers to take work home with them, both literally and figuratively. If you count yourself as an overworked employee, make sure to find some balance by taking up hobbies, leaving your computer at home and shutting off your BlackBerry on the weekends. It may take some getting used to, but it'll do your body -- and your career -- good. 

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