Management Lessons Learned From The Office

Mar 20


RJ Sullivan

RJ Sullivan

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TV's "The Office" is fiction but we can learn a lot about management by watching the antics of Michael Scott, The Office's terrible boss.


In the television show "The Office" we are treated to the outrageous antics of a lunatic boss and his colorful cast of crazy employees. The show's manager,Management Lessons Learned From The Office Articles Michael Scott, is the epitome of terrible leadership. He's arrogant, lazy, incompetent and pathetic all at the same time. In one episode he fakes a termination of his completely competent receptionist Pam. In another he sends the whole office a sexually explicit email. He demeans, humiliates and offends every employee in the office at least three times a day, yet he somehow winds up getting our pity as well. The show is fiction and the characters are over-the-top in most cases, but through their humor we can learn several management lessons.


Michael is rarely honest. When faced with the consequences of his mistakes he is more likely to throw one of his own subordinates under the bus than take responsibility himself. When confronted with disturbing news (like the demise and subsequent bankruptcy of Dunder Mifflin) Michael doesn't trust his employees. He keeps secrets and leaves his employees to wildly speculate on their future. Michael's dishonesty makes Dunder Mifflin a depressing place to work and not unexpectedly the office's productivity is always at rock bottom.

Honesty is always the best policy as a manager. If you take responsibility for your mistakes, your employees will respect you more. Employees want their manager to have the bravery to admit they are wrong. Have the strength of character to take responsibility. Managers always have secrets. That can't be avoided, but whenever possible level with your employees. You will avoid all of the lost work time created by rumors and office water cooler chatter and they will respect you for it. If they can't trust you, they can't respect you and if they don't respect you, you won't get their best work.


Michael fancies himself as a gifted comedian, but nothing could be further from the truth. Despite having almost zero comic sensibility, Michael delivers an almost constant stream of bad jokes. The problem from a management perspective is that the humor is demeaning, sexist, and inappropriate and many times is someone else's expense - hardly, a motivating management strategy. When his staff does succeed, Michael is more likely to offer a demeaning comment or joke than congratulations.

The workplace should be a comfortable place to be. It should be free of harassment and full of respect and understanding. When your employees feel comfortable and safe, they will be free to concentrate on their jobs. Always remember to praise your employees immediately when you see good work and never be shy to offer recognition. The best strategy is to always give credit, rather than take it.


Michael uses delegation in The Office. Unfortunately, he uses it incorrectly. Michael delegates work mostly to Dwight. Dwight might be a good salesmen and The Office's most accomplished suck-up, but he is highly unqualified for the tasks Michael gives him. He picks the worst health plan for The Office in the history of moder business and as a Fire Marshall he sets a fire to teach his officemates a lesson. Michael ignores his more competent employees like Jim, Pam and Oscar in favor of Dwight to his detriment. In addition, Michael's self-assured arrogance keeps him from delegating tasks he is incapable of doing well. (Which unfortunately is most everything)

Delegation in the real world involves two steps: choosing the right delegatee & communicating the task clearly. While Michael is incapable of doing either, you are. Make sure that you analyze the task carefully, give it to the most qualified employee and then give them clear concise instructions on what is expected. You don't need to micromanage how they accomplish it, just let them know what you expect the final result to be.

Embrace Change

In The Office, Michael Scott is change-phobic. Faced with change, he always over-reacts with irrational panic. When Dunder-Mifflin is purchased by Sabre, Michael completely self-destructs in the face of change the new company makes to his office. He cannot contain his disgust with Sabre's plan to add the sale of printers to their one-dimensional sale of paper. This is a logical step, but a terrifying one for Michael who can't imagine selling anything but paper.

In the real world, change has become part of life. Rapid, never-ending change is part of every business now and as a manager you can either harness that change and turn it into an opportunity or you avoid it and make it into an adversity. Recognize that new ideas are more important than ever and empower your staff to think and act creatively. Don't be afraid. Every successful manager embraces change.

The Office is fiction, but the internet is full of stories about how much Michael Scott resembles real bosses. While these anecdotes may be hyperbole, the world is full of bad management. These managers may not fail to the degree that Michael does in their leadership skills, however we all have our weaknesses. Let's learn from Michael's mistakes and avoid all chance of being compared to him! 

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