Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Office Nails It

If you did not watch tonight's episode of The Office - don't read this. Wait until you watch it on DVR and then come back.

OK, now that you are back, tonight's episode nails it 100%. Tonight's episode nails the corporate experience as I have seen it in my 17 years of working. Whether or not you watch The Office regularly - this is an episode not to be missed.

I'll set it up for you and when the episode is posted on, I will surely post the link here.

Basically, Dunder Mifflin, the fictitious paper company on which the NBC hit series is based, is in trouble. There is shareholder meeting called and to distract the shareholders from the pending news of bankruptcy, the officers of the company invite Scranton branch manager Michael Scott to wave and represent the one good thing going on in the company on its way to certain doom. In classic Michael Scott-style, Michael does not quietly wave and "represent" the way the officers of the company would have him, instead he tries to motivate the dissidents with a rousing speech and makes a promise to "come back with a plan - a 45 day plan to turn the company around."

Upon returning to the staging room - the officers of the company, clearly shaken and freaking out about Michael's promise, began to badger him for his "plan." Without one at the top of his head, he calls in one of his employees, Oscar, who had been pontificating on the limo ride what he'd do if he were in charge. The defining scene that motivated me to blog comes next.

Given an opportunity to speak to the officers of Dunder Mifflin and genuinely contribute to the conversation on how to save the company, Oscar freezes, says nothing and slinks out.

Before the slinking, Michael- in all his inappropriate glory - prods Oscar with some of the tidbits that he'd been putting out over the last two days since the greater environment was alerted to the company trouble. "Tell 'em what you said about cash and property dumping," Michael said trying to pull Oscar into talking.


Not only nothing from Oscar but worse than that, none of leaders had the brains to ask him to talk or attempt to make him comfortable enough to tell the ideas that his desperate boss had called him in to share.

It was an all too common scene. Uncomfortable as it was in this fictitious world, I know this happens on a daily basis in real life and that is worse.

This episode highlights what I believe is the #1 problem in corporate America today.

The chasm between the people in charge and the people who may have solutions to contribute is often deep and wide.

It's two-fold and everyone plays a part.

Which one are you?

Are you the "Oscar" in your organization? The person with "all the answers" among your peers but silent in front of stakeholders who can make things happen. You chirp and chirp and, who knows - some of what you say may be legit but you'd never have the huevos to express it in the appropriate forum. Or...

Are you the Dunder Mifflin officer - too damn prideful to think that someone else (gasp) lower than you on the corporate ladder could actually have something to contribute? You know who you are; you make the worker bees feel stupid when they open their mouths with an original idea and then asks a few trusted folks near you why no one says anything in meetings.

I am happy to report that I am neither.

Although I have only been in three "corporate" (corporations not start-ups or non-profits) environments in my career, I am proud to say that I have consistently been a person who has both the skills and will to speak up and contribute.

Even when I speak alone.


  1. Really? I think there's another type that you are. You're like someone on a karioke stage who takes themselves seriously! I know the types. They act very confident and tell their thoughts. Not that it ever amounts to a solution even if it's tried, but that never deters them from needing to be "answer person." And you make it clear that you have worked for poor management so please understand it's not like this in many good companies and you will benefit in every direction if you'll leave behind being a medium fish in a small to medium pond. If you want better perspective, go to a large pond or a lake. Unfortunately, you wouldn't risk being less than a medium fish so you will keep answer-blabbing for your career with the caveat that it's the "corporate culture" that really holds you back. Ugggh don't like these types at all.

  2. Wow Tom - pretty interesting take on my career from a blogpost.

    I love The Office and love the debate it stirs....

    Thanks for the observations and other perspective of the types....I'd be curious as to what "type" you consider yourself.

    Thanks for stopping by!