Netflix scored a huge hit this year with the workplace comedy Superstore. Based on a fictional chain store called Cloud 9, the show won millions of fans across the globe for its brutally funny, bitingly accurate portrayal of American workplace culture. Here are the career lessons you can take from it!
Filipino Mateo is living and working in America illegally. When Immigration finally incarcerate him it’s up to his workmates to get him out. A lawyer visits the store to gather evidence about all the worthwhile work contributions Mateo has made…and no one can think of a single one.
Lesson: If your job was suddenly in peril and your co-workers were trying to save you, what example would they give of your exemplary efforts? If you’re struggling to think of any, try actioning at least three things over the next month that demonstrate your outstanding value.
2. Make sure they care
Cheyenne is straight out of high school and pregnant. Cloud 9’s appalling workers’ rights are laid bare; they do not pay for any maternity leave. In fact, manager Glenn is fired for giving Cheyenne ‘maternity leave’ in the form of paid suspension.
Lesson: Only work for companies that care about their employees. Things to look for are Great Place to Work certification, inclusion on the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For lists, and employee reviews on Glassdoor.
3. Party together
Although the employees are often in some kind of conflict, they also socialise out of work. From weddings to instore pyjama parties, co-workers spend time together off the clock.
Lesson: Even if it’s just an occasional out-of-hours refreshment with colleagues, make the effort to get to know them. After all, these are the people you spend most of your waking life with.
4. Recognise opportunity
Amy worked on the floor at Cloud 9 for 16 years before becoming a store manager. But when, at the end of series five, she is offered a corporate job in head office she recognises her big chance and grabs it.
Lesson: Sometimes it may be appropriate to keep your head down and patiently graft away. But when opportunity comes knocking, grasp it with both hands!
5. Don’t be a Jonah
Jonah’s from an affluent, middle-class family and arrives at Cloud 9 having just dropped out of business school. Although he’s affable and friendly, he’s also pretentious and patronising to his fellow co-workers, who ridicule him mercilessly.
Lesson: You might well end up working with people who are less educated than you, but remember that in a new work environment you’re the one who needs to learn from your more experienced colleagues.
6. Be discreet!
The ‘will they/won’t they’ nature of Amy and Jonah’s relationship is one of the big teases of the first few seasons. Eventually they do, (unwittingly) on camera, beamed to Cloud 9 stores across the globe. They are both temporarily suspended.
Lesson: This one is fairly obvious! If you’re going to have a relationship with a co-worker (and it’s estimated that around a third of all romantic relationships start at work), discretion is paramount!
7. Look beyond the surface
Loyal, strong, and a stickler for rules, Dina often comes across as rude and uncaring. But once she befriends someone, she’s a friend for life. Characters like Dina can be hard to get to know, or even like. But when things go wrong they’re often the person who will help you out; their lack of natural warmth often masks genuine kindness.
Lesson: Never jump to conclusions about your colleagues. It can take years to really get to know some people, but it is always worth the effort.
8. Embrace diversity
Cloud 9 is clearly a terrible place to work for many reasons, but what it does excel at is diversity. Through its main characters a range of different experiences are portrayed, including gay, disabled, working-class, immigrant, refugee, Christian and people of colour.
Lesson: Embracing diversity doesn’t just mean welcoming everyone, it also means deepening our understanding of what it is to be human. You can read our latest piece on diversity here.
9. Do a job you love…or at least like
Likeable, but totally disengaged and indifferent, Garrett scrapes by at Cloud 9 by doing the absolute minimum. It’s not like he hates his job – that would require too much effort – but he’s certainly not happy either.
Lesson: Life’s too short to do a job you don’t like. Either change your attitude or change your job.
10. Forgive and move on
When Sandra steals Carol’s boyfriend, Carol retaliates by trying to kill Sandra’s cat. Because of the sheer amount of time Sandra and Carol must be in each other’s company and the toxic environment such conflict creates, their quarrel becomes incredibly destructive.
Lesson: If you’ve had a disagreement with a workplace colleague the best thing for everyone is to Let. It. Go.
And leave their cat alone.