HR: Cinema is an ongoing feature here at The Employer’s Lawyer. It combines my love of movies with my passion for human resources and employment law. Please feel free to suggest movies in the comments and I will do my best to incorporate your suggestions.
This week, we’re doing another animated movie: Wreck-It Ralph. As the father of a two-year-old, I watch a lot of animated fare. I’ve seen Wreck-It Ralph a few times, and I really enjoyed it. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the IMDB summary:
A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.
So what can you learn from this Disney movie about video game characters?
Even the Most Unpopular Roles are Important
One of the central themes in Wreck-It Ralph is Ralph’s unhappiness with being the “bad guy” for 30 years. Every time a gamer pops in a quarter, Ralph must break windows on his game’s building and then, after he is defeated by Fix-It Felix, he’s thrown off the building. To make matters worse, the other game occupants don’t like Ralph, because he’s the “bad guy.” They don’t understand that he’s an important part of the game, after all, once he leaves, the game is “Out of Order.”
We’re all familiar with “that guy” or “that girl” in our company. They’re the one that are always telling us what we can’t do. Maybe its someone from accounting that says you can’t do something because it will cost too much or won’t fit in the budget. Or maybe its someone from the legal department or *ahem* outside counsel, who tells you that doing something would be legally risky. It’s important to remember that everyone in your organization has a role to play, even if you don’t like the end result. If every department could spend as much as they want or there was no one to ensure that legal risk was properly managed, you may not have a job to return to. Most people don’t like to be the one telling others “no,” but they’re probably doing it for a good reason, not a personal one.
Movie takeaway: Even unpopular roles can be important to the survival of an organization.
Be Careful Climbing the Ladder
In the game Sugar Rush, a sugary snack-themed racing game, one racer, Vanellope, is deemed a “glitch” and constantly put down by the other racers. In fact, she’s not even permitted to race. Thanks to some help from Ralph, Vanellope realizes that if she simply finishes a race, the game will reboot and she will be restored to her rightful place in the game. What no one realizes, except for the bad guy, is Vanellope is actually Sugar Rush’s rightful ruler. Once the other racers realize Vanellope’s status, they beg her to forgive them for treating her so poorly.
Every organization has a corporate ladder. Sometimes that ladder only has a few rungs, for a small business, and in others the number of rungs can’t even be counted. While it may be tempting at some point to throw someone else under the bus or treat a subordinate poorly as you move up the ladder, it’s important to remember that people have long memories, particularly for those who have wronged them. I know I won’t be forgetting those who treated me poorly any time soon. Unfortunately for you, the person you mistreated on the way up may pass you at some point, and then you may find yourself on the receiving end of some unfortunate treatment, if you still have a job, that is.
Similarly, if your organization is large enough, you may not always realize which folks wield a great deal of power within the organization. It would be unfortunate if you were rude to someone who happened to be the VP of a different department and then reported your behavior to your supervisor, or made your life more difficult in some other way.
Movie takeaway: You never know the effects of your behavior until well down the line, so focus on treating people right and the effects will be positive, rather than treating people poorly and hoping that it doesn’t hurt you down the line.