10 IRL solutions to the toxic workplace in Mindy Kaling’s ‘Late Night’

By KC Ifeanyi

Think of every embarrassing and awkward workplace scenario that you’ve cringed through, boil all that shame into 102 minutes, and you basically have the new comedy Late Night, starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson. Directed by Nisha Ganatra from a script by Kaling, the Sundance crowd-pleaser opens in limited release today.

Kaling plays Molly Patel, a chemical plant worker looking to break into her true passion: comedy. When a position in the writers’ room of her favorite late night show opens up, Molly gives it a shot and lands the job of her dreams, which quickly turns into anything but. From a menacing boss who’s the star of the late-night show (played by Thompson) to a toxic white-bro culture, Molly’s trial by fire nearly burns her ambition to a crisp.

But you don’t have to suffer the professional indignities that Molly does. Below, we’ve identified the key workplace challenges explored in Late Night and matched them with Fast Company articles that address those very same issues. Read on and you’ll find yourself fast-forwarding to that everything-is-better-now! montage in the own movie of your life.


How to use your existing skills and experiences to change careers

Molly’s day job is working quality control at a chemical plant. But by night, she’s doing standup and devouring every episode of Late Night with Katherine Newbury. She wants to break into comedy, and eventually lands an interview for a position on the show. It’s painfully clear her résumé doesn’t match the job description, but Molly makes a strong case for herself.

Key real-life lesson: Emphasize transferrable skills, your formal education, and on-the-job training.

Read the full article on this topic here.

Do these 5 things your first week at a new job to make a good impression

Before her first day, Molly peruses a site offering advice on how to make a great first impression on the job (shockingly, it’s not Fast Company) and hits upon a lot of the tips outlined here. However, when it comes to your first day, it might be best to leave the cupcakes at home—they’ll make you seem desperate…like Molly.

Key real-life lessons: Arrive early, take initiative, and be prepared to ask and answer questions

Read the full article on this topic here.

This is what it’s like to be the only person of color at work

Unbeknownst to Molly, she was hired solely because she was a woman. And since she is a woman of color, the people who hire her act like they’ve hit the inclusion-checklist jackpot. Add because of Molly’s lack of professional experience in comedy, her white colleagues bombard her with reminders that she’s just a “diversity hire.”

Key real-life lessons: Create your own support system and speak up

Read the full article on this topic here.

5 very rare instances it’s worth staying in a toxic workplace

One of Molly’s biggest antagonizers is Tom (Reid Scott), the head monologue writer of the show and the brother of the guy Molly beat out for the job. Tom uses every chance he gets to remind Molly that she doesn’t belong in the writers room.

Key real-life lessons: Stick around if you can help change the culture and it’s mutually beneficial

Read the full article on this topic here.

Is it ever okay to cry at work? (and what to do when you do)

Molly uses her quality control training at the chemical plant to give a fair and concise assessment of everything wrong at Late Night with Katherine Newbury. But she doesn’t have any actual solution to fix the show or any jokes to pitch, which causes Katherine to rip her to shreds in front of everyone—and sends Molly under her desk in hysterics.

Key real-life lessons: Yes, you can cry at work, but learn to identify your triggers and rise above them

Read the full article on this topic here.

How the most successful people poop at work

Because the show has never had a female writer before, the women’s restroom becomes a backup for the men in the office—a backup for a very specific purpose that Molly finds out eventually.

Key real-life lessons: Every workplace has to have bathrooms for everyone. As for the b.m. embarrassment, get over it. Everyone poops.

Read the full article on this topic here.

Ask the experts: “Help, I’m dating a coworker!”

It doesn’t take long for Molly to become the target of the show’s resident playboy, Charlie (Hugh Dancy). But their fling burns out when a secret affair is revealed, leaving the door open for yet another coworker to fall for Molly.

Key real-life lessons: Be honest and maintain boundaries

Read the full article on this topic here.

How to deal with a bad boss

Katherine Newbury straddles that line between “boss from hell” and “the best boss you’ll every have.” She is singularly focused on excellence and has learned to be ruthlessly cutthroat to succeed in a sexist, male-dominated field. The ratings of her show are tanking, so her limited tolerance for mediocrity hits zero, and she lashes out at her colleagues with abandon.

Key real-life lessons: Document mistreatment, gets witnesses, tell HR, and look out for yourself

Read the full article on this topic here.

What you should do after getting fired

After a scandal rocks Katherine’s personal life and the fate of the show, Molly tells her boss exactly what she needs to hear…and gets the ax for it.

Key real-life lessons: Keep calm and network on

Read the full article on this topic here.

5 unexpected benefits of going back to an old job

Determined not to go back to her chemical plant job, Molly interviews around the city and gets an offer to work at Late Night with Seth Meyers (complete with a cameo from Meyers himself). But Katherine realizes just how valuable Molly is and asks her to return. Molly soon finds herself with a choice between stepping back into Katherine’s cyclone or starting fresh at a new job.

Key real-life lessons: It can mean a pay raise and you can bring a fresh perspective to a familiar situation

Read the full article on this topic here.

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