Posted by on August 6, 2014 at 2:14 am  Mad Men, Season 7
Aug 062014

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 10.55.37 PMCall me when you fix the damn phone! – Pete Campbell

As Deb mentions in her recap, communication is a problem in A Day’s Work. People stumble into assumptions, can’t find the people they need to see, can’t tell whether anyone is hearing them, or can’t communicate at all.

Clara’s terrible with memos. – Dawn 

The phones are a particular problem. As the partners try to complete a bicoastal conference call — Bert, Jim, Joan, and Roger at SC&P; Ted and Pete in L.A. — the confusion gets almost comical. Ted gives Pete talking points by scribbling notes and holding them up. No one can figure out the sound: Moira picks up the phone, then slams it down.


It’s all so familiar.

My husband, Basketcase White T Jim B, works for a huge company. (The same company has also been my client, several times.) With headquarters on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and on the East Coast, almost all meetings are conference calls. Every employee is issued a conference line, and most take calls while doing something else: working on a different project, checking email, surfing the Web.

The intersection of all these lines of discourse leads to a permanent corporate stutter, a rhythm that takes time to understand. “As I was saying, the development team … Hi, who joined?”

Few people at this company ever manage to complete their sentences. If you really need to know what’s going on there, you can’t do it on the phone.

At SC&P, Dawn and Shirley understand this. They choose the office break room to talk, discuss only what they know firsthand, and keep it quiet. They don’t waste their time on gossip; the advice they give each other is timely and sound.

Keep pretending. That’s your job. – Dawn

This kind of direct information stands in stark contrast to Peggy’s take on the classic Telephone game. Thinking Shirley’s roses are for her, Peggy calls the secretary of the man she believes sent them:

Tell him … there’s nothing he can do. The business is gone. – Peggy

Later, humiliated by her own mistake, Peggy tries to remove the messenger. “Just have her moved to another part of the building,” she tells Joan. Joan’s just been down this road with Lou, who’s tried the same bullshit move (we now call it “a workaround”) with his own administrative assistant. It’s a ridiculous request, because the messenger isn’t the problem: Peggy and Lou are angry with absent associates, men who aren’t even in that office.

Throughout A Day’s Work, the only successful communication is between two people facing each other. Bonnie faces Pete in the house she’s about to sell, and tells him how her job is more than a hobby. Dawn meets Don in his home, and gives him more information in two minutes than the six partners will exchange in the next day’s expensive conference call. And Don says more to Sally across that table in the diner than he’s shared with anyone in months.

Long before corporations became people, there used to be a saying: You can’t replace face to face. It’s still true. 

But is anybody listening?


  9 Responses to “HELLO?”

  1. I am! Love this post, Annie. I’ve been waiting for a new post from you. I can always use a reminder of the value of actual face to face time. So important! Miss you.

  2. Great post, as usual. It gets even worse when SCP takes away the creative lounge, where lots of face-to-face happens, and replaces it with Harry’s computer.

    Lack of face-to-face is even worse today as co-workers in offices next door, down the hall or even a flight of stairs away send e-mail, rather than poke their head in an office for a quick chat.

    • I try to resist sending an email – especially when action is required, before a phone call (or “go calling” down the hall). The call often cuts through the back-and-forth that would ensue following the first email – then one email confirms the result of the call.

      • I will do the same with the phone call, not only when action is required and to save the back-and-forth routine, but way too often the e-mail will cause confusion or some emotion is interpreted that wasn’t intended. When I do make the call, I am often amused how the person on the other end is surprised because he or she expected an e-mail reply and I’ve caught them off guard.

        Can you imagine SCP with e-mail? Don Draper, as a writer, might use it, but never emoticons for him! Meredith would incorrectly send out “reply all” responses to the entire office. Rizzo would forward sexist jokes….

  3. Corporations became people a long time ago. The Supreme Court struck down many attempts to protect the rights of workers, etc. on the grounds that corporations were legal persons whose rights were protected by the 14th Amendment (passed to protect the rights of freed slaves.) This lasted from the late 19c. to the New Deal era (“the switch in time that saved nine”).

  4. As crazy as it gets in business, you can’t begin to imagine how this plays out in health care. Someone hears a doctor say one medication, the order is sent to pharmacy who reads it as another med and it is sent to the patient who gets it, not exactally what the doctor ordered. And that is just one example. And communication from one shift to another is nuts. We often resorted to posting notes on the patients headboard which not everyone read.

    • i’ve seen this in action a few times: alzheimer’s patient with a note above her bed saying what name to call her, but everyone is using her full name. note indicating a patient is blind, but staff repeatedly working around the bed without telling the patient they are there and why.

  5. When I was temping last year, I needed to look up a phone number for another company. I found their website, but could not find their phone number on the site anywhere. I had to do another Google search to eventually find a listing that brought up their phone number. It’s crazy. Quite a few companies have started to do this now–you can e-mail them through their website, but no phone number is listed.

    • I have noticed that for the last 2 years. I understand it is a cost cutting thing, not to mention less hassle for the company. The customer, especially those of a certain age, usually hates this.

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