It was five decades ago that a science fiction series with appallingly bad special effects (and, at times, equally bad acting) beamed its way into the hearts and minds of television audiences around the globe. Proof positive of its enduring appeal are the dozen-plus feature films in the franchise and more than 700 episodes across multiple TV iterations. As the iconic television series Star Trek celebrates its golden anniversary this year, highlighted, among other ways, by last weekend's release of the thirteenth film in the franchise, I thought it apropos to mull five lessons we can learn from Captain Kirk and his Star Fleet successors in the realm of workplace etiquette.
1) Despite every crew member having primitive-looking "flip phones" (albeit with far better service and presumably cheaper rate plans), you would not catch the crew of the StarshipEnterprise talking idly on their communicators to pass the time. (Especially during an important briefing.)
Workplace Lesson: Put your cell phone away when you're on the job. Save the Snapchatting for when you're off-duty. That goes double for playing Pokémon Go.
2) With a crew that represented a diverse mix of races as well as episodes that regularly featured women in leadership roles (successively more so as years went by), the franchise long-ago proved itself to be color-blind and refreshingly progressive. The show's lead characters didn't always agree with one another, but the differences they did have never stemmed from prejudice.
Workplace Lesson: Embrace diversity; your company and boardroom worldview will be richer for doing so.
3) The crews of the various TV series (from the original "Star Trek" to later incarnations "Star Trek: The Next Generation"; "Deep Space Nine"; "Voyager"; and "Enterprise") were unflinchingly loyal to their commanding officers. Captains reciprocated that dedication, going to the end of the universe (often literally) to save the life or reputation of an officer under his or her command.
Workplace Lesson: Respect goes both ways. If you want your team to follow you, demonstrate with your words and actions that you have their backs.
4) One of the guiding principles of the show, known as the Prime Directive, underscored the importance of not imposing a worldview on cultures that were different (or less developed) from their own. Although the rule wasn't not always followed to the letter, the concept was still a noble one.
Workplace Lesson: Encourage your fellow team members to learn new things, but don't act as though your way is the only way. Keep an open mind and you may be the one who gains the fresh insight rather than the other way around.
5) Appreciating the importance of conversing with alien cultures in their own language, the show's canon included something known as the universal translator—a technology that enabled species to converse in real time (and in their own voices and language) and still be understood as though they were uttering the listeners' native tongue.
Workplace Lesson: Communicating with others in a language they understand (both literally and figuratively) is essential for reaching a consensus. Technology being pioneered by Google and Skype is bringing us closer to the universal translator than ever before. In the interim, if you are working with a non-English speaker, make it your business to learn some key phrases and hire the right translator. Even if the other individual is conversant in English, your gesture will go a long way and allow you to begin a negotiation on the right foot.