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.
WE CAN HEAR YOU. – Pete
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?