Don Draper’s ‘That’s what the money is for!’ is always a good way to explain work

Don Draper That's What The Money Is For

Wrote about this briefly in a review of DFW WordCamp, but wanted to flesh it out a little bit here. I’m having an average day at work — I wouldn’t say I’m very busy or relevant, but it’s not awful either, you know? It’s just ho-hum. I’ve spent so much time sitting in cubicles writing things like this or trying to find new ways to entertain myself or (periodically) doing work, and I’ve gained a lot of insight — probably none of it that relevant — about the work and management and leadership experience in the process. I have a whole category about it, and all that. But sometimes when I think about work, I keep coming back to Don Draper. Here’s why. 

In an ideal world, work would be purpose-driven. Communication at work would be organic. People would think about onboarding. Hiring processes would make more sense. Leaders would walk around more. People would use more analogies and less acronyms.

All these things would happen in an utopia, but guess what —

We don’t live in an utopia.

You need a job to make money to do the things you want to do with that money (like have a home, travel, drink, run around, see your friends, buy hats, throw birds at pigs, all that type of stuff).

This is a literal definition of a job: You sign a contract to do certain things, people pay you for those things, and at the end of a day, you leave and stop doing those things.

People get confused on this all the time, but that’s what a job is.

In other words:

No one signed on for empathy and thank-yous and atta-boys at work. It’s nice when they come, but it’s not actually the point of the process. The point is: work (of whatever relevance) needs to be done, and you do it because someone is affording you the resources to live your life as you wish in exchange for doing it. I mean, right?

But you never say thank you!


By the way, some have argued this is Don Draper’s third-best quote ever — which is good, because he’s probably going to die in this final season.

Work is an arrangement or a relationship — it’s not a utopia. Remember that. You can make it better or you can make it worse, but you can’t expect certain things from it.

Ted Bauer