At Reflektive, we’re big fans of “The Office” TV show – for the humor of course, and also for the case studies in workplace dynamics! While often exaggerated, these types of characters and stories get to the core of what you’d find in almost any office in America. But what are the most important takeaways, especially for human resources professionals? Here are some hilarious, heartfelt, and important lessons from the “The Office” TV show:
The Quote: “There is no such thing as an appropriate joke. That’s why it’s a joke.”
– Michael Scott (Season 2, Episode 2)
- The Lesson: This attitude is the source of so many workplace conflicts. Even if they’re meant to be funny, jokes about sensitive topics—gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc.—can quickly create an unhealthy office environment. HR and management need to lead by example and be proactive about training and coaching this attitude out of the office. (You don’t want any Todd Packers in your company)
The Quote: “Toby is in HR, which technically means he works for corporate, so he’s really not a part of our family.”
– Michael Scott (Season 2, Episode 2)
- The Lesson: HR needs to play a valuable role in day-to-day office function, not be pushed off to the side (or to the annex). This will foster trust so that employees feel comfortable about asking HR for help. Treat human resources equally to all other departments and let them use their expertise in recruiting and personnel management to build a winning culture.
The Quote: “I’m going to read aloud your submitted medical conditions. When you hear yours read, please raise your hand to indicate that it is real. If you do not raise your hand, it will not be covered.”
– Dwight Schrute (Season 1, Episode 3)
- The Lesson: This is inexcusable from an HR standpoint. First of all, a salesperson should never be choosing a healthcare plan for the company. Also, asking employees to publicly identify their medical conditions is an egregious breach of confidentiality. This would almost guarantee a lawsuit.
The Quote: “Granted, maybe this was not the best idea, but at least we care enough about our employees that we are willing to fight for them.”
– Michael Scott (Season 4, Episode 6)
- The Lesson: While going in disguise into your competitor’s office and trying to steal their copier isn’t recommended, Michael does show how much he values his employees. This is an important lesson in employee retention—companies should work equally hard to keep their employees engaged and happy.
The Quote: “This may be the first time that a male subordinate has attempted to get a modest, scheduled raise by threatening to withhold sex from his female superior. It will be a groundbreaking case when it inevitably goes to trial.”
– Toby Flenderson (Season 3, Episode 18)
- The Lesson: Don’t date your coworkers. For every Jim & Pam, there are many more Michael & Jans. Office relationships can create an uncomfortable, tense, or toxic work environment if the relationship sours (see: Kelly & Ryan, Dwight-Angela-Andy love triangle). But you especially shouldn’t date your boss. That can open up a whole can of legal issues. (Well done, Toby, for taking such thorough notes).
The Quote: “The people that you work with are, when you get down to it, your very best friends.”
– Michael Scott (Season 7, Episode 21)
- The Lesson: A study found that almost 80% of people that work 30-50 hours per week actually do spend more time with coworkers than with their own family. While you should absolutely establish boundaries for office friendships (look no further than Michael’s dinner party), the lesson here is to treat your coworkers well and contribute to a positive work environment where everyone can thrive.
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