It’s no secret to those close to me that The Office is my favorite television show. My husband and I have probably Netflix’ed the entire series at least 10 times. I’m constantly quoting lines and relating my life experiences to something that happened on the show. Though I have learned much about HR since joining AgCareers.com nearly five years ago, I must say that I also often see parallels between my industry colleagues’ work and the humorous and often outrageous scenarios played out on the hit NBC sitcom. Here are lessons The Office has taught me about HR and management that I think are relevant and valuable to anyone working in this field.
1. How NOT to Behave in the Office or Workplace.
This probably goes without saying, even if you haven’t seen The Office. Between spending weeks planning pranks to pull, creating playlists for your office crush, constant parties, and pointless meetings, not a lot of work is actually done on this show. Are your employees really working behind their computers? But more than that, unethical and inappropriate happenings that would make any HR professional spill their chili are the norm in Scranton, PA.
2. Show Your Staff They are Appreciated.
Aside from his unacceptable comments to and about women in the workplace (which would certainly never fly on a sitcom today) and his treatment of Toby, Michael Scott has to be commended for his treatment of his staff. He holds an award ceremony for them, he participates in great initiatives like “Take Your Kids to Work” Day, he sponsors a (albeit ridiculous) charity 5K for his employees to run in, he gives the entire staff the Friday off before Jim and Pam’s wedding, and don’t get me started about all the goodbyes he gives his staff in “Goodbye Michael.” I could go on. Take cues from the golden Michael Scott moments, after he gets all his fake firing and “that’s what she said’s” out of the way: he goes the distance for his staff.
3. Take the Time to Plan for Compensation.
There’s an episode early on where Michael is tasked with choosing a benefits plan for the office. He decides it’s too boring so he then tasks Dwight with it, which goes horribly and leads to private information being leaked. Fairly and attentively compensate your staff with what they deserve. Not sure how to do so? Take a look at our Compensation Benchmark Review.
4. Diversity (Training) is Important.
While it’s obvious that the political incorrectness on The Office is exaggerated and intended for humor, some might say that it is not too far-fetched in the workplace today. Michael’s ignorance about diversity is bumbling and tension-inducing. Check out AgCareers.com’s recent findings about diversity in the agricultural workplace. Perhaps diversity training is merited.
5. People Skills are Important for Promotion.
Poor Dwight. He wants nothing more than to climb the corporate ladder and be regional manager of Dunder Mifflin. But he has absolutely no skills to work with people. He is awkward, crass, and frankly self-absorbed. So he never ends up leading the branch until the end of the series when he finally gets the idea that caring about others is inherent to good leadership.
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6. But Promotion Isn’t Always Based on Skill.
How did Michael Scott end up being the regional manager in the first place? I wonder that often during our many repeat Netflix binges. He’s a terrible manager when you watch the first few seasons. Yet his branch continues to outperform others. One thing is consistent: his energy and enthusiasm for what he does. No one is more passionate about paper than Michael (except maybe Dwight). And no one is more passionate about the people he works with. While he spends much of his time goofing off, which is not recommended when seeking a leader, his passion for his work is obvious.
7. Believe in Your Staff.
There are a few moments in The Office that just make me want to cry (crazy, I know). But Michael believes so much in his staff and invests in them deeply. No one else showed up to Pam’s art show, but when he did, he not only asks to buy one of her paintings but also tells her he is proud of her. What a thing for your employees to hear! Furthermore, during the short-lived Michael Scott Paper Company, he takes Pam under his wing and fuels her with the confidence to believe she has what it takes to become a salesperson. Believing in your staff can make the difference between a thriving workplace and a dead one.