In 2005, NBC debuted their adaptation of the BBC’s The Office. With that, we were introduced to the failing paper supply company, Dunder Mifflin, the staff that (barely) kept the business afloat, and the Regional Manager that often did more harm than good. Since then, I have watched the series in its entirety probably 30 times (don’t judge).
The Office is often used as an example of what NOT to do in the workplace. In fact, there is a course offered at Michigan’s Albion College titled “Lessons Learned at The Office” that uses the series as a focal point for discussion about issues in the workplace, led by Professor of Economics and Management, Vicki Baker. A lot of the issues identified by Baker in the article “Seven Workplace Lessons from the Office” center around Michael Scott, the Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Scranton. And that’s fair, because in Michael’s own words, he’s “(…) a friend first, a boss second, and an entertainer third” (Pilot: S01 E01). Throughout the show’s nine seasons, Michael does all he can to turn what should be a professional atmosphere into a Dave & Busters, with “(…) people just hanging out, having fun, eating apps”, often at the expense of the branch’s productivity. Yet despite an inept boss and often uncomfortable work environment, Scranton eventually becomes Dunder Mifflin’s most successful branch. But how? The branch’s secret to success is the employees; as Dunder Mifflin CEO David Wallace says to the Scranton staff, “You guys are the only thing about this company that works” (Secret Santa: S06 E13).
So let’s take a closer look at the cause for success of Dunder Mifflin Scranton: the employees.
Dwight K. Schrute: Assistant to the Regional Manager
For much of the show, Dwight’s role is Assistant to the Regional Manager (not to be confused with Assistant Regional Manager). Under Michael’s helm, he is a willing bootlicker and top salesman. When Michael leaves Dunder Mifflin, Dwight’s dreams come true when becomes Acting Manager of the Scranton branch. However, that dream is short-lived, as an unfortunate incident involving a misfired gun in the office leads to his swift dismissal from the position. But Dwight won’t give up on his dream, and again applies for the position, though this time under the guise of Jaques Souvenir, a mute, French burn victim. After being (quickly) found out, Dwight is asked what he’d do if they had indeed hired “Jaques” as Acting Manager, to which he replies:
“I would have dressed this way every day, legally changed my name, learned French sign language, shown up and been the best damn branch manager you’ve ever seen” (Search Committee Pt. 2: S07
If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
Lesson: Do what you love and give it everything you’ve got.
Kelly R. Kapoor: Customer Service Representative
Like most characters on The Office, Kelly demonstrates more negatives than positives when it comes to workplace professionalism. One thing that can be said for her, though, is that she exudes confidence. At no time is this more apparent than when she applies for the position of Regional Manager. Despite her complete lack of qualifications, she demands to be taken seriously as she extols her (totally exaggerated) professional worth. It’s likely Kelly’s complete and total confidence that kept her in a job, despite many wasted hours of gossiping and game playing.
Lesson: Know your worth and own it.
Creed Bratton: Quality Assurance
Despite being Dunder Mifflin Scranton’s seniormost employee, Creed never knows what is going on. In fact, in the episode “Goodbye, Toby” (S04 E14), he didn’t even know what his job title is. Yet, at some point, ever−so−briefly, he becomes manager. His secret to success? Adaptability. He isn’t set in his ways and so easily rolls with the often unexpected punches of office life. When, in the fourth season of the series, the company undergoes revitalization, Creed (misguidedly) does all he can to keep up with the changing times: dyes his hair black with printer ink, starts chugging energy drinks, and lies about his age. Though his methods are far off base, the thought behind them is on point.
Lesson: In a dynamic workplace, it is important to be flexible.
Kevin Malone: Accountant
Though we always know Kevin as an accountant, we learn later in the series that he had originally applied to work in the warehouse. And that makes a lot of sense, because Kevin isn’t particularly good with numbers (or words, or anything, really). There aren’t any redeeming qualities about Kevin, and he is the only one of the core staff that is eventually fired. But we can still learn something from Kevin, and that is….
Lesson: Do your damn job!
While I concede that The Office offers great examples for what NOT to do in the workplace, I contest that it does provide some valuable lessons on how to survive the 9−to−5 world. After all, there’s no reason to make navigating the corporate world any harder than it is.
Erika Wheeler is a Junior pursuing a degree in Community Health. As a native of Bloomington with no college aspirations, she grew up thinking of Indiana University as nothing but a big pain in her small hometown. She has since changed her mind.
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