Michael Scott, Dr. Gregory House — human resources would like to speak with you about your inappropriate behavior. Global Compliance, which sounds like a group of evil secret agents from a bad sci-fi movie, but is actually a business consulting firm, has surveyed the behavior of several television workplaces and found that they routinely violate the rules of proper business conduct.
GC’s team of experts, which include “Department of Justice attorneys, employment law professionals and chief compliance officers” watched a small sampling of television shows centered around a workplace: “The Office,” “NCIS,” “Glee,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “CSI,” “House,” “Ugly Betty,” “30 Rock,” and “White Collar” — which, given that it’s the only cable show selected, was presumably chosen for its title. Their findings: television characters engage in a wide variety of behavior that is inappropriate for the workplace. In fact, there are far more violations in television offices than in their real life counterparts.
The worst offenders are “30 Rock” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” “30 Rock” is highlighted for Jack’s sexism, noting his comment, “Is that the chick lawyer who does the sexual harassment presentation? Because she’s asking for it.” This is considered a violation of “Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Respect in the Workplace.” It barely even registers on the “30 Rock” offensive meter, though it would certainly get someone in trouble in a real office. The show averages a whopping eleven violations per episode, which, multiplied over the course of a year, would give the gang at NBC as many violations as the average corporation with a staff of 40,000 people.
Would This Fly At Your Office?
“Grey’s,” surprisingly, is not cited for the numerous number of characters who have sex on the hospital grounds, but a doctor sharing patient information with someone who is, “not authorized to receive it,” aka a HIPAA violation. Again, this is barely scratching the surface of inappropriate behavior on “Grey’s” — including some serious violations of medical code like Christina covering up for Burke’s shaky hands so he could continue to operate, and Izzie cutting Denny’s LVAD so he could move up on the transplant list. Clearly, the surveyors did not watch many episodes of the series.
“House” was also cited for their numerous verbal gaffes. Dr. House sexually harasses all of his female co-workers. The study references a conversation he has with Cameron about giving a patient a colonoscopy. She asks him, “How would you liked to have a six foot hose shoved in your small intestine?” He responds, “I have a new respect for the basketball players you dated in college.” That would admittedly be an offensive statement in any workplace, but most real life sexual harassment is not nearly as witty.
It is a shame that Global Compliance did not cast a wider net. There are numerous other television shows whose characters deserve to be fired. “The Good Wife”s’ Kalinda routinely breaks the law to find out information pertaining to legal cases. The show’s attorneys illegally use that information in court. Rick Castle is a mystery writer who never attended the police academy. He should not be allowed to work with the police on homicide cases on “Castle.” “Mad Men” is nothing but sexual harassment, racist remarks, and discriminatory hiring practices, though it is set in an era prior to current civil rights laws.
There are numerous problems with what is admittedly a silly survey whose only purpose to increase the name recognition of Global Compliance. First of all, fiction does not play by the same rules as a real life workplace. In real life, an FBI agent would never secure an early release for a convicted felon on the condition that they become partners. Nor would a recent parolee luck into a penthouse apartment for the same rent as a halfway house, conveniently owned by a widow who bequeaths him her husband’s wardrobe — which happens to fit him perfectly. “White Collar” is not aiming to be a realistic portrayal of law enforcement. It’s a fantasy about a character who gets away with everything.
Another problem is that the survey fails to take into account that different industries have different behavioral standards. “30 Rock” is set behind-the-scenes of a television series, a much looser environment than a bank or a law firm. In real life, a writer’s assistant on “Friends” sued the show because of the raunchy language used in the writer’s room. She lost because it was deemed a standard part of the industry. Hospitals are similarly politically incorrect, since people are often too focused on saving lives to worry about using appropriate language.
“The Office,” “Glee” and “Ugly Betty” showcase characters being racist, sexist and lookist to satirically point out why those behaviors are wrong. Nobody watching Michael Scott’s painful attempts to ingratiate himself to his African-American co-workers has ever decided to try the same thing at work. Dr. House’s behavior is supposed to be inappropriate. Other characters on the show are offended, and only put up with it because he is the world’s greatest diagnostician — which is true to life. Invaluable employees can get away with personality quirks that would not be tolerated by the rest of the staff.
Hilariously, Global Compliance concludes its Power Point presentation by saying that the survey points out the need to “reinforce to employees that what was funny the night before on ‘The Office’ is inappropriate to their office.” Maybe there should be a television series about a group of humorless human resource consultants who make employees miserable with their attempts to regulate office conduct.
What do you think of this study? Are there any other shows that should’ve made the list?