Why We Will Never Forget ‘The Office’

After more than 200 episodes, the oddly quirky and debatably successful sitcom “The Office” came to an end last week. Even for those who didn’t watch, it was clear that the premise of the show was to unearth the totally inappropriate goings-on in the workplace, leaving viewers gasping, “Did that just happen?”

I have personally enjoyed writing about sociopathic TV bosses through the years, by mostly characterizing what not to do around leadership in the real world. The truth is that while entertaining, “The Office” did provide an honest acknowledgement of real topics that go on in the workplace, from office bullies, to motivation, to performance appraisals and diversity training.

Someone recently shared the following with me:

These {projects} were due yesterday. Getting these {projects} has been like pulling teeth! I am not a dentist and it pains me greatly that I have to work so hard to get this group to do their JOB! I scratch your back and most of you leave mine itching! If I responded in kind to the support that I receive from most of you, we’d have a mutiny. This is really getting OLD and, quite frankly, embarrassing to have to treat some of you like a school kid who isn’t turning in homework. Stop the excuses and be the professional that I know each and every one of you to be.

No, it’s not an outtake of a deleted scene from the show; it’s a real email from a real manager to his team. A reminder that, for as much as is written about workplace culture and morale, effective leadership and employee engagement, the reality is that the antics of “The Office” are still alive and well in our own corporate environments.

While “The Office” tackled real workplace issues with honesty and humor, I don’t recommend re-enacting a scene from the show through your own actions and behaviors. Instead, here are a few tips for effectively managing others and avoiding mistakes common to television bosses:

Know the reinforcers of those who work with you. Every employee is different and therefore what is reinforcing to one may not be to another. Don’t make the mistake of giving public praise to an employee who prefers to stay under the radar in the workplace.

Be clear in your direction. Communication is key if you want employees to deliver what is expected of them. Be sure they understand what is being asked of them and that they have what they need for success. Don’t leave it to them to figure out and then be upset when your expectations aren’t met.

Walk the talk. If you ask employees to bring problems to you, don’t punish them when they do. Lead by example and treat employees as you want to be treated, and as you want them to treat each other.

Celebrate successes. Take time to relive accomplishments when they happen. By discussing the actions that created the result, employees are reinforced for what they have done and will be more likely to do more of it in the future.

Admit mistakes. Acknowledge and assume accountability for your own mistakes. Don’t make excuses or shift the blame to others.

You may also be interested to read these articles related to TV bosses: Our Fascination With Sociopathic Bosses and Oops! The Biggest Mistakes Made by TV’s Top Bosses.