Friday, December 01, 2006


The Folks From "The Office"

For those of you who are fans of The Office - the American version - here is a light little something appropriate for a Friday. The article at the link below, written by a business coach, explains how the various characters on The Office reflect workplace archetypes that most of us will recognize. Identifying with them is another story altogether. Michael Scott, the boss - Dwight Schrute, the office suck-up - Angela Martin - the red state Christian - Jim Halpert, the nice guy - Phyllis Lapin, the office gossip. The author paints a thumbnail portrait of each character's particular pathology, and suggests how to approach them most, shall we say, compassionately. The article provides a facetious "Are you cut out to be the boss?" kind of test, then presents a checklist on how to become a better boss. That checklist appears below - totally transmogrified by my own annotations.

1) Give credit where it's due - This contends that most bosses take credit for what you do. Maybe, but since most such credit-taking occurs behind closed doors, I am frankly not aware of it. My pet peeves are bosses who give praise so perfunctorily that it comes across as little more than lip service. Or those with a "the glass is half empty" mindset who view all your hard work as a mere finger in the dike of an impossible situation and essentially take it for granted

2) Keep the office door open - Bosses should stay informed and accessible. I would go further and say that they should be aware that their position makes them someone you naturally want to avoid, and being visible won't necessarily help that. Therefore, they should actively approach and confer with their subordinates on a regular basis, but be shrewd enough not to do it in a way that seems either intrusive or insincere.

3) Deal with subordinates face-to-face - I concur. That's pretty much what I said above. If your subordinates won't come to you, understand that it is in your own best interests to go to them.

4) Don't play favorites - This is almost impossible to avoid. Liking some people better than others is one of the pitfalls of personal interaction. However, if you excessively conceal your likes or dislikes, you may come across as stiff and dishonest. If you do come to value some employees more than others, put your money where your preferences are and promptly move those folks up the ladder. If you continue to favor someone while pretending to keep them on an equal level with everybody else, that's when resentment is likely to fester.

5) Achieve life balance - The gist of this is to "get a life", as they say. A better adage here is "don't put all your eggs in one basket". Distribute your passions and priorities. If your job is all you care about, you'll lack the resilience to ride through the times when it seems like everything is going to hell. You'll be too tense, too serious, too much "on edge" - and your people will despise you for it. Care enough, but don't care too much.

"Office characters: Stereotypes in NBC show a little too close to home" from

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