A good portion of world news was terribly ambiguous and complicated in 2014 -- including, of course, Sony Pictures canceling the theatrical release of "The Interview" after North Korean hackers threatened a terrorist response. These same hackers, the so-called "Guardians of Peace," also released Sony executives' private emails that same month, which brought up the issue of the morality of reporting on stolen emails.
However, one thing that wasn't ambiguous and complicated was much of the content of those emails. The leaked written words of Sony bosses like Amy Pascal and producer Scott Rudin contained a lot of innocent things like movie crossover plans and casting choices, but they were also peppered with racism -- specifically directed at President Barack Obama -- and nasty words about actresses like Angelina Jolie.
These were undoubtedly tough to read, but they also can teach us all a thing or five about how to conduct ourselves in the workplace -- even if we're the CEO:
Don't talk crap about your coworkers.
When you're writing an email on your work account, you have to pretend like everybody from the mail guy to your direct supervisor is reading it -- and the same goes for sending work IMs.
Your backhanded comments about Dave from accounting might seem hilarious and/or harmless, but if Dave from accounting were to walk by (or if your email was hacked by a North Korean group) you could be looking at some serious time with HR -- or your walking papers.
Don't talk crap about your higher-ups.
This seems like a no-brainer, but given all of the nasty things that the Sony folks said about each other (and Jolie) over email, not everybody realizes that talking smack on those with more power than you is the most dangerous thing you can do in the workplace. If you want to vent, vent -- just make sure it's to someone safe and uninvolved, like family or friends who work in a different industry. And of course, make sure it's not sent over company chat or email, or even just on your work computer. Big Brother is always watching.
Jokes don't translate over email.
Honestly, just don't. Humor translates much better in person than it does over chat, text or email -- it's easier than you think to have your words and motivations misconstrued by the reader. So unless you want to ruin relationships (or your job), be careful where and when you use the funny stuff.
Racism and/or sexism don't translate well anywhere.
There is a caveat to the above joke rule -- if your joke is racist, sexist, or homophobic in any way, just keep it to yourself. (And maybe get your head straight.) It's 2014 and everybody worth knowing knows that that ish isn't funny, so telling inappropriate jokes is (for good reason) a quick way to get you fired.
Ladies -- negotiate that salary.
The saddest thing we learned from the Sony emails was the fact that Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence made considerably less than their male costars for the same work in "American Hustle." There are actions you can take to try and how to help fix the Hollywood wage gap, but for all of the women out there who are not trying to be actresses, the compensation info is a good reminder that we have to fight to make sure women are compensated just as fairly as the guys they work with.