Deanna Hartley | October 6, 2014
Whether you’re new to a job or you’ve been navigating office politics for years, you could get by with a little help from your “Friends.”
To commemorate 20 years since the iconic show launched, here are 20 work lessons we can all learn from “Friends.”
1. Always have “unagi.” OK, unagi may also mean freshwater eel — and that’s possibly good for you, too — but according to Ross, unagi is a state of total awareness. “Only by achieving true unagi can you be prepared for any danger that may befall you,” he tells the ladies looking to take a self-defense class. Not that you’ll ever actually need to execute a karate chop or anything, but being in a state of awareness — especially self-awareness — will help you go a long way at work.
2. Never rely on your charm to get things done. (Or hit on co-workers, for that matter.)
3. Disappointments happen, accept it and learn to move on. It's pretty much a given that at one point or another, people are bound to let you down. When this happens at work — and it will — you may just have to suck it up, put on a brave face and move on.
4. Don’t let anyone else be the boss of you. In one episode, Rachel decides to let Monica be the boss of her and make all of her decisions simply because she made one bad one. I think we all know that didn’t turn out very well. There will be times you don’t feel like you can trust your gut or intuition at work, but at the end of the day only you can make good decisions for yourself.
5. Don't try to be someone you're not. In one episode, Joey tries to land a gig by auditioning as a 19-year-old man-child. You may laugh at how foolish this looks, but think back to a time you pretended to be something you weren’t just to fit in. Remember that people will often see right through this, so don’t worry if you can’t converse fluently about the president’s State of the Union address or last night’s football game.
6. Surround yourself with a support team. Sometimes you will have crazy, spontaneous, out-of-the-box ideas. Surround yourself with people who — whether or not they totally believe your idea will work — will be your cheerleaders and provide the emotional support you need so you don't feel alone while chasing your dreams.
7. Never miss a chance to help someone in need. Even if you're not in a position to advise someone on a particular work problem, ask how else you can help. Maybe someone just needs a laugh or a shoulder to cry on.
8. Don’t make excuses. As anyone who has ever watched “Friends” can attest, one of the best-known catchphrases is Ross’ infamous “We were on a break;” an excuse he pulls out of his pocket to defend himself at every turn. Remember: At work, nobody cares about or wants to hear your excuses. Everybody makes mistakes — it’s in your best interest to own up to them and move on.
9. Don't make a situation overly complex. In this episode, Phoebe and Rachel try to make Chandler and Monica admit to something by tricking them over and over again until one pair loses. Sometimes we do this at work — instead of taking two minutes to confront someone or a situation head-on, we use gossip and back channels to prove a point. Next time, try the straightforward approach and see how much more efficient it makes your life.
10. Respect other people’s right to work. Monica might physically be the shortest of the group, but everyone knows she’s the loudest. We’re not saying you should keep your volume to a minimum at all times, but try not to be that guy or gal who everyone knows is obnoxiously loud around the office.
11. Never throw a co-worker under the bus. In one episode, siblings Monica and Ross play a game of spilling embarrassing secrets in front of their parents. Remember: In the workplace and beyond, it's not your job to air anyone else's dirty laundry for any reason, even if it conveniently makes you look good in comparison.
12. Learn to speak the same language. Does it feel like sometimes people at work are simply not on the same page as you? Understand that not everyone is fluent in your particular area of expertise. So at those cross-departmental meetings, exercise patience and restraint if your conversation goes something like this.
13. Get in a good night’s sleep before work each day. Easier said than done, right? But if you don’t want to nod off at a meeting — and wake up to find you’ve unintentionally accepted a transfer to Tulsa, like Chandler did — make sure you’re getting the rest you need so you can function optimally at work.
14. Clear the air when needed. Sense some awkwardness with a co-worker? A manager? Someone in another department? Don't bottle those feelings till they eat you alive and you resent everyone around you when you can easily resolve issues as they crop up.
15. Be the boss, but don’t be bossy. If you need to lay down the law at work, lay down the law — but do it with tact so the person on the other end of the line is willing to listen and change instead of slamming down the phone in anger.
16. Stay away from gossip. This one’s probably the hardest lesson of all. You don’t want to be the person who’s always left out because you can’t be trusted. It’s impossible to control what your co-workers say or do, but you do have a choice to walk away when you sense rumors and gossip are spreading.
17. Do your job really well. In one episode, Phoebe was put in charge of ice for a party even though she wanted a much bigger party-planning role. To her credit, she went all out offering different ice options, making her the hit of the party. This happens a lot in the workplace. There will be times you get put in charge of a miniscule part of a larger project, but if you take it seriously and do the best job you could possibly do, everyone will take notice.
18. Bring much needed perspective to a situation. It’s OK to question the way things have always been done and bring in some fresh perspectives, as long as you do it respectively and tactfully.
19. Push your teammates to be better. In one episode, Joey challenges Ross, a paleontologist, to be better by trying to pinpoint what matters to him on an emotional level. Was it a fail? Yes. But does the thought still count? Absolutely.
20. Just sit back and enjoy the ride!