How TV cops Scott and Bailey give us lessons about dealing with problems at work

scottbailey2Scott and Bailey is a top-notch detective show in the UK on ITV, featuring three strong women characters with complicated personal and professional lives.

Step forward, Detective Constable Janet Scott, Detective Constable Rachel Bailey and their boss, Detective Chief Inspector Gill Murray. In the first episode of the new series, good friends Janet and Rachel are interviewed for promotion to sergeant in the first episode of the new series.

How to ace an interview – prepare for the tricky bits

True, we only get a glimpse of the interview process, but see those girls go! There’s Rachel, looking sharp and alert with her glossy mane of hair and her ready-for-anything trouser suit. She sits in an upright, relaxed position and speaks with lively confidence.

Now Rachel is known to have more baggage than the lost luggage depot at Heathrow Airport, including unprofessional conduct, a short-lived marriage, affairs and flings with unsuitable colleagues and others, one of which ended very very badly.

But she has prepared a strategy to deal with the ‘loose cannon’ attack. She doesn’t go into detail, she doesn’t bluster about how much she has changed. She refers briefly to her past, and moves on smoothly to say she is now ready for this responsibility and that she is ‘a safe pair of hands’. You don’t even pause to think ‘really?’. Clever stuff, Rachel.

Janet has done her preparation as well. She’s not so much the lifelong career cop, having taken a break to bring up her family, so she’s that bit older – 50, in fact.

She knows the panel is thinking it, so she takes the initiative. I’m 50, she says. Then: ‘I’m not trailing off, I’m gearing up.’ What a great line. And you look at her in her trim blouse and skirt, and hear her calm, warm voice saying she is the ‘quietly indispensable type’, and you would trust her with your life.

So they both pass the board, as they say in the police, which means you’ve got the promotion, but you haven’t got a job as sergeant yet, you still have to apply for the jobs as, when and where they rise..

And then a job comes up at their present station, which has to be given to one of them. Tricky choice for Gill to make. She offers it to Janet, but Janet has just been plunged into more domestic crises, and says no, not now. Not a good time. So it goes to Rachel.

Don’t have office secrets

scottbailey3Now Gill could have, and probably should have, told Rachel she had first offered the job to Janet. But she decides not to, and she asks Janet to keep it quiet, so Janet is drawn into an unwelcome collusion. But the secret will come out, won’t it, one way or another. And no one will look good.

Don’t make assumptions

The reason Gill gives for not telling Rachel she was second choice is that Gill thinks she is a bit vulnerable and is worried about how she will react. Well, Rachel might not like it, but, you know, she might just suck it up. She’s still got the job. And she has dealt with worse. Dead bodies, for a start.

Of course, this plot point generates some enjoyable tension. Will Janet come clean in one of their private moments in the ladies’ cloakroom (nice homage to Cagney and Lacey there) or in one of their late-night phone conversations?

Or will somebody else get wind of what happened and spill the beans to Rachel? One of their male colleagues, perhaps…

How to deal with colleagues when you become boss

Their faces say it all, the guys who face Rachel, their former colleague and new boss. They mutter a few words about jam, and bread falling butter-side up.

Rachel looks a bit uncertain about how to react to their barely concealed resentment. This is her first test. Let’s hope she doesn’t have to resort to pulling rank in a clumsy way.

What she could do is take them one by one and bring the subject out into the open. She could say she doesn’t want their good working relationship to change. She could nod at the ‘jammy’ thing and say yes, there’s an element of luck in everything, isn’t there, but she’s going to do a good job.

And any reference to her less than squeaky clean past, she can either ignore, or brush aside with a phrase like ‘Maybe that was the case, but now we need to look at the present’ or ‘You may be right, but we are/I am in a different situation now’.

Don’t be annoyingly ditsy

OK, so Rachel needs to be established as the freewheeling, chaotic singleton as opposed to Janet’s family persona, and cooking is a handy means of displaying these differences – but Rachel not knowing how to fry an onion? She’s a detective, for heaven’s sake! Get the frying pan out, girl, and cook up something good to go with that bottle of red wine you’ve almost finished. There are tough times ahead.

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Hats in the ring for TV female detectives – Scott and Bailey versus Cagney and Lacey