In 9 to 5 (1980) Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin force their sexist boss into isolation by taking him captive. While he’s safely locked up at home, they transform their workplace culture from one of bullying and harassment to one of tolerance and understanding. They introduce flexible working and job sharing – and when the boss is freed, there’s no going back.
Many of us are currently seeing our own workplace cultures transform with a sudden rise in virtual working. And even those who already encouraged flexible working are finding that they need to be more flexible than ever as many employees combine working with primary school phonics and checking in on elderly relatives.
For leaders, this is an opportunity to experiment with new ways of working and build virtual collaboration. If we embrace experimentation to spark innovation, we are more likely to succeed in these challenging times. If we can learn from our experiences and embed some of our new ways of working rather than reverting to the old ways, we’re more likely to sustain that success.
Another classic from 1980 is Stir Crazy, where Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder’s characters Harry and Skip are thrown into a maximum-security prison after robbing a bank. Harry is terrified, whereas Skip is so glass-half-full that he even views a period of solitary confinement as an opportunity for self-reflection. If you’re going a little stir crazy yourself already, this entertaining comedy might be a welcome diversion. You never know, like Skip, you might end up quite enjoying life on the inside.
Fast forward to 1989 (I feel my selection so far may be showing my age somewhat) and Melanie Griffiths playing Tess McGill in Working Girl. Tess is a PA who shares an excellent investment tip with her conniving boss. When said boss passes Tess’s idea off as her own, Tess assumes her identity to initiate a major deal. The whole thing backfires, but ultimately Tess is recognised for her business nous. The lesson from this one? Grab this opportunity to increase workplace agility while you can. As Carly Simon sings in Jerusalem, the movie’s uplifting theme tune, it’s there for the taking.
My final recommendation brings us (almost) right up to the present day. And it’s just as well you’re spending more time at home, because 2019’s The Irishman runs to a whopping three-and-a-half hours. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, who is skilled at ‘painting houses’ (a euphemism for contract killing) and is highly valued for his added ability to ‘do his own carpentry’ (getting rid of the bodies).
Frank’s chosen profession brings him friends in high places and plenty of money. However, the film finishes (spoiler alert) with an elderly Frank sitting alone in a wheelchair in his nursing home, alienated from his family. My reflection looking at sad Frank is to use this period of isolation to connect with my family, friends and colleagues more, even if it’s through a screen.
As Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home.’ And if I may squeeze in one other quote, this time from Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind, ‘Tomorrow is another day.’
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