A consistent ratings smash since its debut in 2005, medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” just premiered its 15th (!) season on ABC. Viewers continue to tune in for the show’s high-stakes storylines, the characters’ dramatic relationships, and the inner strength of the doctors at Seattle Grace, particularly the women.
Taylor Tobin via Fairygodboss
Since the beginning of the show’s run, the ladies of “Grey’s Anatomy” have provided excellent examples of how to handle tough workplace situations, and many of them serve as powerful role models for working women. To prove this point, we’ve compiled a list of three “Grey’s Anatomy” career moves that professional fans would do well to mimic… and one that should be avoided whenever possible.
1. Refuse to apologize for your own self-confidence like Cristina Yang.
A common issue among early-career professionals, “imposter syndrome” is an unsubstantiated fear that you’ll be unmasked as a “fraud” while you’re excelling in your career pursuits. And it plagues plenty of women in the workforce. If this sounds familiar, there’s a former character from “Grey’s” who can provide the best possible example of no-holds-barred self-confidence: Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh).
Cristina is a gifted surgeon and a brilliant addition to the Seattle Grace staff, and she knows it. Although her career at Seattle Grace included a number of harrowing events that temporarily threw her off her game, she came back stronger than ever, bolstered by her inner reserves of strength and self-esteem.
Cristina also took the initiative to encourage her friends and coworkers whenever possible, often through the effective tactic of “tough love,” like when she told younger resident Lexie Grey, “Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be a force of nature. Be better than anyone here, and don’t give a damn what anyone thinks.” These words rang especially true to Lexie (and all the viewers at home), because based on everything we know about Cristina as a character, she genuinely lives by this credo. Channeling Cristina’s confidence whenever possible will make you a strong leader and an even stronger professional. You’ve got this.
2. Learn to bounce back from career downfalls like Miranda Bailey.
A TV boss for the ages, Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson)’s rise to the top of the surgical field was not without struggles. Like Cristina, Miranda nearly gave up on surgery after a traumatizing event occurs (in her case, a pair of contaminated surgical gloves worn by Miranda in the OR caused the infection-related deaths of three patients). But instead of sidelining herself, Miranda took the time she needed to grieve and collect her thoughts, then returned triumphantly to help her colleague Meredith Grey during childbirth. Once back in the field, Miranda continues her upward trajectory, eventually becoming the first woman of color to hold the Chief of Surgery title at Seattle Grace.
Miranda’s path includes numerous obstructions, but she’s the master of getting back on track once she feels mentally and emotionally prepared to do so. As an ambitious woman who values her career, she refuses to let failures, even major ones, derail her progress.
3. Balance work and family in a way that makes sense to you like Meredith Grey.
Work-life balance remains a constant challenge for professionals. And when a family enters the equation, the situation only becomes more complex. “Grey’s Anatomy”’s leading lady, Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) herself, learned this first-hand after marrying her long-time love interest Dr. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) aka “McDreamy.” The joined-in-marriage Meredith and Derek adopted a daughter, and Meredith gave birth to a son shortly after.
But while Derek had promised Meredith the ability to fully return to work after childbirth (and she did come back to the OR quickly), he soon accepted a job in Washington, DC, uprooting Meredith and his family with little care for her career aspirations. This caused tension between Meredith and her colleagues (particularly her close friend Cristina), but the issue changed entirely when Derek died in a car accident. Meredith no longer had to settle in DC, but her work life became complicated by the full responsibility of her children and coping with her grief.
In spite of these ridiculously difficult (and dramatic…it is a TV drama, after all) circumstances, Meredith forged ahead, ultimately returning to Seattle and becoming chief of general surgery. Meredith knew that her experience with motherhood needed to include a professional side to her life, and although the situations surrounding her were far from ideal — and even tragic — she figured out a way to make it work for her and for her family.
4. Don’t let professional boundaries fall away like Izzie Stevens did.
All individuals with careers are also human beings; therefore, interpersonal relationships between coworkers and between workers and clients certainly happen. And on “Grey’s Anatomy,” they happen just about every episode, with the show’s longer-running characters claiming long histories of romantic connections to other doctors. In the case of Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), however, the lack of professional boundaries crosses every conceivable line.
In one particularly egregious example, Izzie fell in love with one of her patients, who returned her affections. The patient, Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) needed a heart transplant. And Izzie, overcome with her personal feelings for Denny, cut his ventricular assist device in an effort to move him up the donor list, resulting in his death. While this may be an extreme situation (again, this IS a TV drama), Izzie displayed a blatant disregard for professional responsibility, which all working people need to value.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.
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