Humans love hierarchies. For evidence of this, look no further than your average office. There are people just starting out at the bottom of the ladder, who have to fall in line, all the way up to the head honchos making the major decisions. Even at a more open-minded company where the format may be rejiggered and boundaries redefined, there will always be people reporting to other people.
On Tuesday’s episode of The Bold Type, we saw what it’s like to reach a managerial level where you have your first direct report — and for there to be a problem that results in their termination.
As the social-media director of Scarlet, Kat (Aisha Dee) has to be on-call 24/7. She’s gotten into trouble for tweets and Instagram posts sent in the heat of the moment before, as we saw last week with her defiant crusade for #FreetheNipple. She once sent a tweet about lesbian relationships meant for her own account out to Scarlet’s millions of followers. Time after time, Kat is forced to realize the power that lies in representing a brand that, while feminist and open-minded, is still under the thumb of Steinem Publishing’s corporate overlords and a board of mostly white, older men.
Kat is learning, but her subordinate, Natalie (Celeste Desjardins) isn’t. On Tuesday night’s episode, “Three Girls in a Tub,” we learn from Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) that, in what wasn’t Natalie’s first offense, she sent out a tweet about chlamydia with a link that wasn’t verified by the CDC or any form of .gov or .org certification that the information was medically accurate. Jacqueline tells Kat to explain to Natalie why this was wrong (in addition to being careless and uninformed, it could have legal consequences for the company), and issue her a verbal warning. “It’s your department, and you set the tone, top-down,” Jacqueline says. Kat assures her she’ll take care of it.
In an effort to still be a “cool boss” who’s understanding of a learning curve (although it’s taking Natalie way too long to learn), Kat tells Natalie to stick with things like makeup tips and celebrity gossip until she gets up to speed. “You’re my first direct report, so make me proud,” Kat says almost conspiratorially, thinking Natalie will understand why it’s such a big deal to Kat that she, you know, do her job correctly.
Unfortunately, the message doesn’t translate. Natalie doesn’t understand the gravity of Kat seemingly being unable to teach her how to properly perform as a Scarlet social-media editor, and she makes an even bigger mistake with larger ramifications later on. Kat told her to stick to celeb gossip, so she thinks she’s following marching orders when she tweets that she just saw Kylie Jenner, and she’s the “#secondhottestjenner.” Clearly, major women’s brands can’t rank Jenners, nor should they be judging women’s appearances at all. Her tweet gets to the board immediately because Kat is in board member Richard’s (Sam Page) apartment when she has to delete it. Jacqueline has to do major damage control, especially since Scarlet is trying to get the youngest Jenner for an upcoming cover.
Following an angry, inappropriate confrontation with Richard in his office, and another meeting with Jacqueline, Kat realizes she has to let Natalie go. We see her meeting Natalie in a conference room with someone from H.R., but I wish The Bold Type had showed what happened once they were in the meeting. We’re used to seeing the workplace portrayed on television (workplace-set shows are one of the basic archetypes of both dramas and sitcoms), but it’s so rare that we see the intricacies of a termination — the warnings, the rationalizations, and the actual conversation. This would have been the chance for The Bold Type to show its millennial viewers what it’s actually like to be a girlboss, and the negative parts of the job.
Still, the episode did a great job of demonstrating what it’s like to manage someone for the first time. It’s not all fun and games, especially when you have to learn to bite your tongue over certain things, but raise a red flag over others. Being a firm and assertive manager doesn’t come easily to everyone, as we see from Kat. She struggles with wanting to be understanding of Natalie’s greenness, but having to answer to her own managers each time Natalie fails.
“Sometimes letting someone go can be the best thing for both of you,” Jacqueline firmly assures Kat before Natalie enters the conference room. She leaves Kat to do the termination on her own, with an assist from H.R., because it’s part of being a manager. It’s probably the hardest part, but The Bold Type didn’t shy away from showing Kat’s struggle to realize that.
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