How would you handle Pete Campbell in the workplace?

In this continuing series of posts related to the Mad Men series on AMC TV I will expound today about how to work with individuals who bring varying degrees of challenge to the workplace.  If you watch the series, you have your opinion about Pete Campbell.  You may love him, but I suspect that most people hate him and his behaviors in the workplace and in his own personal life.  I’ll not go into details on all of his travails, but I will spend some substantial ink today expounding on how to work with individuals who have challenged or even no allegiances or integrity in the workplace.  Let’s talk a little about our friend Pete first and then talk about how you might handle his peers.

Mad Men Season 5 Vincent Kartheiser Pete Campbell

The sage of Pete’s life goes on and on.  He marries well and is continually trying to find ways to better leverage his father in law to win business for the firm.  While he cannot “take care of business” at home with his own wife he ends up fathering a  child with a co-worker who then gives up the child.

His behavior in the workplace varies between that of an adult, a teenager and a child, with the teen and child stages getting most of the air time.  I cannot imaging most wives being so naïve when it comes to his lame reasons for wanting to have an apartment in the city.

The plain and simple fact is that “Pete Campbell is a worm”, an invertebrate with no backbone, not integrity and no real sense of right and wrong.

Your workplace may too have worms like Pete squirming around, looking for their next place hide.  I almost feel guilty using the defenseless worm as a comparison for this curmudgeon.

Here are some of the issues you may see that will help you identify the “Pete’s” in your workplace:

  • Have difficulty working with others
  • Need to be coddled and recognized as often as possible
  • Will seek to gratify himself at the expense of others
  • Exhibits a relative sense of right and wrong, mainly to suit his own needs

Unfortunately, I suspect we will see more Pete Campbell's in the workplace as time goes by.  As we continue to blur the lines between truth and untruth, right and wrong, this kind of relative, self serving thinking will only grow.  We have many young men and women now whose parents have sheltered them by being “helicopter parents” and who continually come along and swoop their children away from anything bad that they may consider or do.  We are depriving so many from the lessons of experience and Pete Campbell is a prime example of an opportunist who has not yet borne the burden of his actions.  He has married well and this familial relationship provides on e level of protection.  He has harmed many along the way, especially Peggy, and they have found enough pity on him to keep him from spinning out of control.

Here are a few suggestions for what you can do to deal with these sluggards in your workplace and your life:

  • Give them clear and timely feedback when they exhibit behaviors that are not acceptable
  • Let them fail, small failures at first, and then be there to help them debrief and learn from their failures
  • Help them understand the value of delayed gratification and the methods to learn from such a method of delaying what they might expect instantaneously
  • Give them a rigid sense of what the moral code will be in the workplace.  I could suggest some, but my foundational moral code is always the Bible and the Ten Commandments

I hope this has not been to much of a dump on the poor Pete character in Mad Men, but he serves as a warning of what many of us can expect in the relativistic, self serving home we call America.