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What The Office Taught Us About Leadership: Dos and Don'ts

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4 years later, The Office is still providing leadership lessons

Awkward moments, outlandish requests, and nonsense often encompassed a typical day at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, but even though The Office was fictional and full of shenanigans, it rapidly became a phenomenon of our times. 

In our current business environment, it’s easy to guess why employees may have been able to relate to the show. Our workforce is becoming more and more diverse by the minute and the demands of constant complexity weigh on employees across our organizations, leaving leaders more important than ever to guide employees through these changes.

So can we learn something about leadership from The Office? Read on to find out.


Leadership Dos 

1. Value employees


Michael Scott once said, “In the end, life and business are about human connections.” Scott was on to something here: Leaders need to value and appreciate the importance of human connections with their employees. Employees want to know they are cared for and that their work is contributing value to the company’s goals.


2. Be human


We all know that the employees of Dunder Mifflin did not struggle too much with this. Michael Scott once said, “The people that you work with are your very best friends.” Well, maybe your employees shouldn’t be your very best friends but Scott does have a point. Leaders often spend countless hours with their employees, so developing a friendly relationship and having the ability to not take yourself too seriously leads to a good rapport.


3. Show appreciation


Michael Scott may have organized a boat cruise for his employees during the middle of winter as an act of appreciation, but leaders do not need to be that grandiose to show appreciation. Leaders need to encourage the heart, and that can be as simple as recognizing employees with a “good job” or “let me take you out to lunch because of your great work on that account.” Scott even organized his own award night that he called the “Dundies” in which he highlighted each of his employee’s talents.


4. Have a service attitude



A servant-leader focuses their time on the development and general welfare of their employees. When Jim Halpert made the tough decision to start his own business, all while keeping his full-time job at Dunder Mifflin, the employees stepped up and supported him. Servant-leaders puts the needs of others before their own and enables individuals to perform at their highest potential.


5. Inspire employees

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One Dunder Mufflin whiteboard message shows the importance of inspiring a shared vision. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take - Wayne Gretzky,” written by Michael Scott. Employees want to work for someone that inspires them to do their best. The best leaders are able to inspire a shared vision and encourage others in their organization to help create the future together.


Leadership Don’ts

1. Hold ineffective meetings


If a calendar invite comes through detailing a CPR training workshop, having a dance party during that meeting isn’t the best choice of action. Leaders should show respect of other individuals’ time by creating a thorough agenda before meetings and sticking to it through the meeting. This action will help your meeting be more smooth and employees will see that you understand their schedules as well.


2. Stick to the status quo


Not much change to Dunder Mufflin happened over eight years because the leadership wasn’t willing to push boundaries and challenge the process. A “that’s how we do it here” attitude won’t inspire your employees and most importantly it won’t propel your company forward.


3. Make commitments you don’t intend to keep



Don’t pull a Michael Scott and promise a big surprise to only fall short with ice cream sandwiches for employees. Employees need to have trust in what their leaders say they are going to do. If they don’t expect their leaders to follow through on promises, then they may not follow through on their promises either.


4. Sugar coat the truth


Unfortunately, downsizing happened at Dunder Mifflin, but Michael Scott had trouble conveying that tough topic to his employees except saying “it could happen” or “things may change.” Living in denial does not create a good environment for your employees or you.


5. Blame others


Few actions are less leader-like than blaming others. It shows a lack of respect and responsibility. So when Michael Scott blamed Dwight for his golden ticket marketing idea that went wrong, Scott showed a serious lack of maturity and accountability for his actions. Employees want a leader that will not only offer them support, but be there to take responsibility for their behaviors.   


So yes, The Office taught us valuable lessons about leadership all while bringing big smiles and laughs to our living rooms.

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Madison Horth

Madison Horth is a past FlashPoint employee who managed client projects to keep them on track, on time, and goal-oriented. Her passion for research and data helped clients grow and excel.