Game of Thrones Lesson #2: We're All a Little Bit Sansa

Hear me out...

As we grow up we are all told about "how life works." Sansa was told in many different ways that:

  • Knights are strong, honorable, and handsome. They protect people.
  • Lords are wise and honorable. They protect people.
  • Ladies are kind, beautiful and have perfect manners. They marry Knights and Lords and are protected.

This is told to her directly by her parents and her teachers. Her mother and Septa teach her the rules and skills of being a proper lady so that she can some day fulfill this life of the Noble Lady. These lessons are also taught indirectly through countless stories and songs of handsome Knights who save beautiful Ladies who are in trouble. Growing up in the distant North, nothing in her life gives her reason to question that life is this way.

When Sansa leaves the North and goes to the capital she finds handsome Knights, Lords and beautiful Ladies. The Ladies are, on first blush, kind and refined as she has been taught. However, she quickly learns that they use their beauty, kindness, and manners as tools to gain power and position. After her father is betrayed, Sansa becomes the beautiful Lady who is in trouble. Unfortunately she finds out that there are no handsome Knights willing to protect her. Instead, the Knights and Lords are dangerous, motivated by power and position, and willing to let her suffer if it means their gain.

Following the rules of the system of Nobility unquestioningly ends up being the cause of her downfall when she tells her father's secrets to the people she was taught to trust. Further, in trusting that an Honorable Knight would save her if she was ever in trouble, she never learns the skills to save herself. Like Sansa, the limits of the worldview we are taught could be our downfall unless we learn a few lessons from Sansa:

Workplace Lesson: Question Reality

Workplace Worldview 1: Consistent service to your employer means you are guaranteed a good job with adequate compensation and benefits going forward. All you have to do is reliably show up and do your job.

Unfortunately most of us know at least one person who had been with a company for many years and was good at their job who was in the initial waves of layoffs in 2007/2008. Budgets needed to be cut dramatically and personnel was the biggest line-item. The employees working there the longest made more money than newer employees, so laying them off had the biggest budget impact. If their skill sets happened to be falling behind the technology change curve, it became an easy choice.

The rule of loyalty based on years of employee Butt In Seat Time is gone. We have to stay up-to-date with the changing landscape of our field if we want to keep our jobs, especially with changing technology. We also know to keep our resume` up to date just in case it's time to move on (See Lesson #1: Never Be Sean Bean).

Workplace Worldview 2: Number of hours spent at work = Productivity. Speaking of Butt In Seat Time, this old school way of thinking about employee productivity is also a thing of the past. It made sense for the Industrial Age where you had to be at the factory in order to make the widgets. That day has gone (overseas) and we are now in the Idea Age. Our primary economic product is the generation, collection, management and dispersal of information/data.

Anyone who generates ideas and information for a living know that the brilliant ideas rarely come on command and not reliably between 8am and 5pm. In addition, much of the work to manage and disperse information is done through the internet, which means it can be done from anywhere and at any time. 

We need to question the assumption that we all need to be in the same place and the same time to be productive. Productivity needs to be measured by actual results, not hours spent at a desk. Otherwise, you may just be measuring time on Facebook or just staring blankly at a computer as those ideas refuse to come when called.

Being flexible about work hours and location would force us to be intelligent and intentional about how we measure actual productivity. In my mind, its worth the effort. You might find that "those darn Millennials" are productivity superheroes when arbitrary restrictions on when and where work is done are history, just like the Industrial Revolution. 

And who wouldn't mind skipping rush hour...

Workplace Lesson: Save Yourself

Workplace Worldview 3: Good things come to those who wait.

Don't sit around waiting to get that well deserved promotion, choice project, or timely raise. Like Sansa waiting for a handsome, honorable Knight to save her, you are likely to be waiting a long time... 

If you want to advance your career or upgrade your lifestyle, you are going to have to put in some serious effort. Maybe that means building your skills in your field by taking a class. It could mean brushing up on those networking and leadership skills through mentorship or coaching to show your managerial merit. It will absolutely require the assertiveness to stand up for ourselves and ask for what we want.


These are just a few of the Workplace Worldviews that don't work anymore. We need to keep going in asking ourselves which of the old ways still work, which are holding us back, and which might betray us. Questioning what we have been taught to assume about life in the workplace isn't necessarily easy, but it's become clear that trusting the old rules of doing business is a luxury we can't afford. Sansa has finally started to learn this lesson in Game of Thrones. We should too.