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Taking 'Office' Lessons from the World's Greatest (Inept) Boss

Taking 'Office' Lessons from the World's Greatest (Inept) Boss

Steve Carell plays the self-absobed leader of fictitious office-supply distributor Dunder Mifflin in NBC's comedy "The Office."

By Del Jones, USA TODAY

July 06, 2010

The Office, a remake of a British program by the same name, averaged a modest 7.8 million viewers last season. It does comparatively better among young adults and is among the shows that are most frequently captured on TiVo for delayed viewing.

Show doesn’t tickle every CEO’s funny bone

Many CEOs say they have never seen it. Craig Hunt, CEO of Cortex Resort Living, a developer of luxury homes in the Florida Keys, rented Season Two at USA TODAY’s request. Halfway through the second episode he turned it off.

“The only winner here was Blockbuster. It just isn’t funny to me,” Hunt said. “This series would be great material for management training on what not to do.”

Likewise, Kathy Sharpe, CEO of New York ad agency Sharpe Partners, says she gets little from The Office. “It reassures me that I’m not the most dysfunctional employer on the planet. Seriously, I’ve learned more from the (National Geographic channel’s) Dog Whisperer.”

“Michael has risen several levels above his incompetence, giving hope to workers everywhere that they, too, can someday be promoted to middle management and safely hide there until retirement,” Alexander says. “He has also learned the value of management by walking around. This causes his staff to be highly productive, since they would much rather work than have another potentially awkward exchange with him.”

At the other extreme is Paul Holstein, chief operating officer of CableOrganizer.com in Fort Lauderdale. He says The Office is “nearly Norman Lear in scope and execution. It promotes tolerance, understanding.”

Jon Spector, CEO of The Conference Board, an organization that tries to improve business effectiveness, likens The Office to the 18-year-old comic strip Dilbert that appears in 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries. Both TheOffice and Dilbert show how leaders have enormous impact for good — and how they can “screw things up,” Spector says.