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        A lesson in office integrity: “Cleaning Up”

        A lesson in office integrity: “Cleaning Up”

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          Television series Cleaning Up, starring Sheridan Smith, offers far more than just entertainment. It provides valuable lessons for the business world, highlighting the importance of ethics, integrity and financial responsibility.

          Writer Mark Marlow came up with the idea for the show while watching the Charlie Sheen movie, Wall Street, about the US Stock Exchange. As he watched the leading character break into an office and rummage through filing cabinets to find insider information, Marlow spotted some cleaners in the background of the scene.

          Like a light bulb going on in his head, he was inspired to create Cleaning Up and developed the script, based on the premise office cleaners often go unnoticed. He pondered what was stopping people from actually doing this to make money – apart from it being completely illegal, of course.

          What happens in Cleaning Up?

          The six-part drama series, which made its debut on ITV in 2019 to great critical acclaim, is enjoying a Netflix re-run.

          Focusing on Smith’s character, Sam Cook; the struggling single mum unwittingly gains access to inside information on the stock market while cleaning for a finance company in London. When she overhears a financier who’s working late discussing a high-risk illegal transaction on the phone, temptation gets the better of her, especially since she’s got financial woes of her own.

          Using information from a Google search for “insider trading” and a library book about investing for beginners, she has made £250 by the end of the first episode. It seems too good to be true, as Sam continues to abuse her position, rifling through employees’ desks after hours and even installing a listening device in the office to spy on their conversations.

          The Cleaning Up TV show portrays her as a good-hearted but debt-ridden mum who just wants a better life for her daughters, rather than an employee abusing a position of trust to carry out an illegal activity.

          Aside from some plot holes highlighted on social media, such as why there was no CCTV in the offices and why employees hadn’t password-locked their computer screens, Cleaning Up was enjoyed by viewers.

          While Sam starts her illegal trading to provide for her daughters, she soon realises the darker side of finance.

          Insider dealing falls under the Criminal Justice Act 1993, and anyone found guilty of participating in the UK can face a jail term of up to ten years: the clever script raises some ethical issues for the characters and storylines that professionals from various industries can learn from.

          Ethical decision-making

          Sam faces moral dilemmas as she navigates the world of insider trading to improve her financial situation. She also involves her friend and colleague Jess, which could leave both facing jail if caught.

          Businesses can learn from Sam’s journey by emphasising the importance of ethical decision-making processes and the implications of wrong behaviour: she escapes the consequences of her actions at the eleventh hour only because someone higher up in the company is more dishonest than her.

          She risks her own liberty and possibly losing her daughters due to her illegal activities and spends the whole series stressed.

          Financial integrity

          The consequences of financial desperation and the risks associated with engaging in illegal or unethical activities to achieve financial goals are highlighted.

          Sam crosses swords with CEO of Westavaris Incorporated, Graham, who is head of the illegal insider trading operation. To pay off a debt, she suggests that instead of repaying him, she will supply insider information to make him more money.

          Graham scoffs at Sam’s offer, telling her he doesn’t need any help because he’s so good at insider trading, but unbeknown to the dishonest CEO, Sam has recorded their conversation and exposes the illegal operations to Head of Compliance Frances Howard. In return for the information, Frances agrees to turn Graham in, without implicating Sam or her friend Jess.

          Graham suffered after years of cheating the system, as he was arrested and shares in his company plummeted.

          Professionals in business can learn the important lesson of maintaining financial integrity, adhering to legal and regulatory standards and seeking ethical means to address financial challenges. Otherwise, they will face the consequences, which may include not only losing their job, but also going to prison.

          Balancing personal and professional responsibilities

          Sam’s struggles highlight the challenges of balancing personal and professional responsibilities, especially for individuals facing financial hardship.

          This raises the question of employers supporting mental health at work, as she’s obviously struggling. While no company can run employee’s lives for them, they can consider the importance of supporting individuals facing personal difficulties by providing resources for financial wellness and mental health support.

          Accountability and redemption

          Throughout the series, characters face accountability for their actions and the possibility of redemption. In the end, after hitting rock bottom and choosing the wrong path, Sam is given a second chance, representing employee redemption.

          She and Jess start their own cleaning company after being fired and decide to keep on the straight and narrow. This is illustrated when Sam is browsing in a local shop and instead of buying a lottery ticket, she buys copies of the Financial Times and The Economist.

          Real-life businesses can assure employee accountability, operate with transparency and help people learn from mistakes. They can provide opportunities for employees to grow professionally after facing challenges or setbacks.

          Serviced offices London

          Being based in a bespoke workplace, such as BE Offices’ serviced offices in London, offers employees far more than a traditional workspace. We pride ourselves on creating a sense of community and wellbeing, with an ethos of biophilic wellness.

          Clients are also invited to join our full calendar of regular activities and events, including a health and fitness programme, which aims to further promote a sense of community and enhance physical and mental wellbeing.


          © Loredana Sangiuliano / & © Rapeepat Pornsipak /

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