Toxic Workplace vs. “The Bear” an HR Comparison

Toxic workplace culture in Hulu's "The Bear"

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While watching, we (and The Huffington Post) noticed A LOT of parallels between the toxic workplace culture, or as cousin Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach in the show) likes to say, “the fragile ecosystem” of kitchens, and that of office-based teams. As insightful as it was entertaining, read on for some of our key takeaways from an HR lens:

  1. Manager training 101: CarmenCarmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) took on a leadership role at his family sandwich shop because he felt responsible for it, and not necessarily because he wanted to. From his previous professional experience, Carmy knew what he did not want to be as he stepped into the “boss” role, but he didn’t have the tools to act on what he wanted to be. That hesitation and unpreparedness translated into his position at The Beef. Every episode, we found ourselves wishing he had access to Manager Training – an emotional intelligence assessment, workshop, or leadership insight would have definitely helped him achieve greater success in his transition.
  2. Communication is key. While Carmy’s previous professional life was cut throat and quite impressive on paper, that didn’t mean that the new team would be instantly impressed or treat him any differently than how they treated everyone already on the team. A strong leader would have slowed down, observed, and made changes in a more gradual manner. In the best case scenario, what would have solidified the team’s trust would have been for him to lay out a plan for the changes and communicate the why to the team to ensure buy-in. We know this is incredibly hard to do in a kitchen environment, but we can dream.
  3. Listen to your staff’s concerns. When Carmy told his new Sous Chef Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) that they were going to implement a regime like a french kitchen and that she should take the reins, Sydney knew that it would not be received well by the team. She voiced her concerns as someone who had read the culture and environment, but Carmy said to do it anyway. Not surprisingly, things went haywire from there.
  4. Resisting change. This sounds all too familiar – it takes a lot of nerve to vocalize concerns to a manager, especially if it’s in opposition to what they’re saying. Maybe Carmy didn’t listen to Sydney because he genuinely thought his way was going to work, or maybe it was because of his own ego. Too many times have we seen someone with an idea for the betterment of a business come along and be treated less than or not listened to, essentially because of the “this is how it’s always been done” approach. It exists in every industry. Tina (Liza Colon-Zayas) was also initially close-minded when it came to accepting Sydney to the team. Until she tried her food, Tina was incredibly dismissive (some may say a bully) towards Sydney, particularly because she represented change for the business. While old habits are hard to break, for most, change is even scarier. Eventually, Tina became more open-minded and built a healthy working dynamic with Sydney, which was satisfying to witness as they were the only women on the team.

There were a number of other parallels we witnessed while watching, but these were our key takeaways from The Bear – which luckily was renewed for another season (Yay!).

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