Michael, The “World’s Best Boss”

Let’s talk about real world businesses through The Office

The Office, a widely acclaimed comedy series in the United States, originated from its British counterpart and centers around the lives of employees at a paper supply company’s Scranton (Pennsylvania) branch, Dunder Mifflin. It explores the characters’ personal lives and relationships, however the primary focus remains on the workplace, highlighting the dynamics and interactions among them as colleagues and employees.

The show offers valuable insights and recurring themes about the challenges of working in a small or branch office, dealing with unconventional bosses, navigating corporate policies, and fostering effective teamwork. It also often presents scenarios that touch upon compliance-related issues, showcasing instances of poor management practices and problematic cultural values, providing a comedic lens through which to examine these workplace dynamics.

Understanding The Show From The Compliance Perspective

In The Office episodes, we can observe various behaviors and situations that can be related to corporate compliance. The characters often face:

  • Ethical dilemmas: such as making dishonest sales claims or engaging in office romance;
  • Conflict of interest: the employees use company resources for personal gain or favoring certain clients;
  • Whistleblowing: some episodes feature employees speaking up about wrongdoing or unethical behavior in the office;
  • Training and communication: there are instances where the management conducts training sessions or communicates policy updates to the employees.
  • Accountability and consequences: the show also portrays situations where sometimes employees face consequences for their actions, such as reprimands, disciplinary actions, or even termination.

Leadership Lessons From The Office

Michael Scott is a central character in the series. He is the regional manager of the Scranton branch. Michael is known for his eccentric personality, inappropriate and awkward behavior, and constant desire to be liked and admired by his employees. He often displays a lack of self-awareness and struggles with making appropriate decisions, which leads to humorous and cringe-worthy situations. His propensity for bending the rules leads to situations that challenge ethics, the law, regulations and guidelines.

Sexual Harassment (Season 2, Episode 2)

In this particular episode, the HR personnel – represented by Toby Flenderson, conduct a sexual harassment refresher training session following an incident at corporate headquarters. While the intention is to reinforce the significance of a respectful and safe working environment and condemn any form of harassing behavior, the manager, Michael Scott, takes a different approach. Rather than setting a positive tone at the top, he reacts with a tantrum and undermines the importance of the policies, making light of the situation and also viewing the training as a personal attack on him. 

Cybersecurity and Fraud (Season 7, Episode 9)

The episode “WUPHF.com” serves as a prime example of poor compliance practices. Ryan Howard, with the encouragement and financial support of Michael, presents a web-based messaging system under the name WUPHF.com. However, it becomes evident that Ryan is perpetuating a fraud, as the website fails to function as advertised and is solely intended to sell the domain name. Rather than exposing and addressing this fraudulent activity to protect the other investors, Michael continues to support Ryan. Despite eventually withdrawing his backing, Michael’s failure to prioritize the investors’ interests over his personal relationship with Ryan allows the fraud to persist.

The Incentive (Season 8, Episode 2)

In the absence of Michael Scott, his former employee and current office branch manager Andy Bernard demonstrates a similar lack of ethical leadership. Struggling to motivate his employees, Andy resorts to implementing a points-based incentive system to drive performance. However, instead of appealing to their values or encouraging sustainable and strategic efforts, Andy opts for a management approach that prioritizes short-term gains and temporary engagement.  Short-term incentives can potentially undermine compliance behavior due to their focus on immediate results and rewards, which may overshadow long-term ethical considerations. 

The Classic Conflicts Between Michaels And Tobys

Toby Flenderson is the HR representative but also acts as a compliance officer. Toby approaches his role with a sense of responsibility and a focus on upholding rules and maintaining order. He diligently works to ensure that the company operates within legal boundaries and takes his responsibilities seriously. Toby is introspective and less inclined to seek attention or become the center of attention.

Toby and Michael opposing personalities create a significant source of conflict between them. 

Michael perceives Toby’s serious and rule-abiding nature as a threat to his vision of a fun and carefree work environment. He believes that Toby’s strict enforcement of regulations limits his ability to express himself freely and hampers his creativity. Additionally, as someone who thrives on being the center of attention and providing entertainment in the office, Michael feels threatened by Toby, who he believes attempts to divert the spotlight away from him. This perception intensifies Michael’s resentment towards Toby and exacerbates the conflicts between them.

Michael dislikes Toby for assuming the role of addressing and reprimanding employees’ misconduct or inappropriate behavior.

Dealing With Michaels In The Workplace 
Another offshoot of this show is how old and outdated the compliance training is. The compliance practices at Dunder Mifflin are plagued by ineffectiveness due to their superficial implementation and checkbox mentality. Rather than embracing modern and robust compliance strategies, the company relies on outdated practices that fail to address the evolving legal and ethical landscape. Compliance efforts are seen as a mere formality, with a superficial focus on meeting minimum requirements without genuinely embedding a culture of ethics and integrity. This checkbox approach neglects the comprehensive and proactive measures necessary to mitigate risks and promote a strong ethical foundation within the organization. Partner with Prae Venire and cultivate a culture that encourages employee respect, trust, and productivity. Contact our office today and set up a consultation.