Drama Series “Severance” Poses Interesting Questions About the Workforce of the Future

Friday, April 29, 2022 9:21 AM | Bridget Weide Brooks (Administrator)

The new Apple TV+ show “Severance” is both compelling and peculiar — a series that is an intriguing workplace drama and a dystopian nightmare. 

It is a pretty interesting series to analyze as a career services professional. 

It begs the question: What if your personal and professional lives were severed from one another? 

This question is at the heart of the narrative in the first season of “Severance.” 

The nine-episode season (produced by Ben Stiller) centers around Mark Scout (Adam Scott), an employee at Lumon Industries who works in the Macrodata Refinement division. His co-workers in the division are Dylan George (Zach Cherry), Irving Bailiff (John Turturro), and the newly hired Helly Riggs (Britt Lower). 

The Macrodata Refinement division requires its workers to have their brains “severed” — incoming workers have to undergo a medical procedure (a small microchip inserted in the brain) that separates their work lives from their non-work lives. 

We learn early on that the death of Mark’s wife Gemma precipitated his decision to go through with the severance process. The ensuing grief resulted in our protagonist looking for a change in his life. Detaching from his personal turmoil at work seemed like it would be a welcome relief. 

As is the case with low-key science fiction dramas of this nature, viewers soon learn that there is a considerable amount of intrigue lurking below the surface. 

Mark and his co-workers find themselves speculating on what the lives of their “outies” 
are like (“innie” and “outie” are the euphemisms used for the separate personas). Those questions result in our protagonists working covertly to connect the dots. 

As a viewer, it immediately brings up the age-old issue of individuals trying to strike the right “work-life balance” in day-to-day routines. It also raises questions about the moral and ethical boundaries employers can cross to create a productive workforce. 

We’ve watched as tech companies have introduced features into products and services to help users cut through distractions (Apple’s “Focus” and “Do Not Disturb” modes are low-level examples of this). 

A series like “Severance” makes you wonder whether more invasive forms of technology could be used in the future. The prospect can seem a bit scary. 

As career services professionals, a key part of our work with jobseekers is to help them cut through distractions in life as they prepare to find a new job, position themselves for a raise or promotion, and/or change careers. 

Whether we are talking about crafting a résumé and LinkedIn profile, doing interview prep, or working with an individual on salary negotiation, we must remember that the symbiosis between the “personal” and “professional” sides of our clients is what ultimately makes a candidate stand out from the crowd in the job search (and in the workplace). 

Have you watched “Severance” on Apple TV+? If so, we’d love to know what you think as a career services professional! 

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