Memorable Management Blunders From 'The Office'
Michael Scott, fictional manager of the Scranton, Pa., branch of paper company Dunder-Mifflin on popular NBC sitcom The Office, has become a symbol of bone-headed bosses everywhere. Over seven seasons, Michael made us laugh, groan and occasionally feel sympathy for him. One thing he didn't give in abundance was good management.
Steve Carell, who played Michael, departed in 2011 but is reportedly returning for the final episode Thursday night. With The Office ending after nine seasons, it's the perfect time for a look back at a few of Michael's memorable management gaffes -- and the lessons you can learn from them.
Gaffe No. 1: Fan the flames of diversity issues.
In season one, Dunder-Mifflin's corporate headquarters orders racial-sensitivity training for Michael's office. But he hijacks the proceedings and organizes his own diversity seminar. This quickly devolves into employees slapping index cards marked with different races on their foreheads, then attempting to guess their new racial identity based on clues provided by a coworker.
Needless to say, these clues relate to offensive stereotypes about the "races" in question, which include "Italian" and "Jamaican." "Stir the pot!" Michael encourages his receptionist, Pam, when she is reluctant to participate. "Stir the melting pot!"
The worst part? The tolerance seminar was only required in the first place because of Michael's offensive imitation of a Chris Rock comedy routine.
Lesson: This is definitely not the way to promote a tolerant work environment.
Gaffe No. 2: Hog the spotlight.
When Jim, one of Michael's employees, allows fellow staffer Phyllis to play Santa Claus at the office Christmas party in season six, Michael is outraged at the loss of his traditional role. Throwing a tantrum, he turns his Santa suit inside out, so that it looks as if he's wearing a white robe. He emerges from his office to declare himself Jesus Christ, apparently thinking Jesus is the only Christmas figure who can trump Santa.
"All I want to be is Santa," Michael says. "And if you want to take that away from me, fine, go ahead. But when you need my help because I am ruining everything, don't look at me!"
Lesson: As a business owner, don't let your ego get tied to such petty things. And don't try to hog all the holiday spirit for yourself. Spread some good cheer among your staff, and they will look up to you instead of resenting you.
Gaffe No. 3: Try to force camaraderie among your employees.
In season two, Michael plans a team-building leadership event for his staff. The only problem is that it takes place on a booze cruise in the middle of a Northeastern winter. Needless to say, the staff isn't thrilled. To make matters worse, Michael breaks out some awkward moves on the dance floor. "Sometimes you have to take a break from being the kind of boss who's always trying to teach people things," he reflects. "Sometimes you have to just be the boss dancing."
Why a cruise? Michael had an epiphany that, as he put it, "the word 'ship' is hidden inside the word 'leadership.'"
Lesson: Real leaders know how to create a dynamic company culture without resorting to cheesy team-building events.
Related: How to Think Like a Confident Leader
Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.