7 reasons why Michael Scott is NOT the ‘World’s Best Boss’
Last week we wrote about how much we admired Michael Scott for the leadership lessons that he could teach us. However, we’re sure you’re all thinking that there were more than a few occasions when Michael’s managerial qualities were somewhat lacking. So, in the interest of fairness, we have balanced out last week’s list with seven reasons why Michael Scott could have perhaps done with reading Bas Blekkingh’s Authentic leadership and getting a few tips on how to improve his skills.
- Lack of productivity. Michael Scott is a procrastinator, if there was an award for this he would most certainly win it. Remember the episode where he had to sign three different things before the end of the day and nobody left before seven because it was too much work? Or how about when Jan asked Pam to write down everything Michael did one day (spoiler: he waited in line for a pretzel). Michael’s inability to knuckle-down almost lost him his job when two companies were forced to merge.
- Mixing business and romance. From the very first episode, Jan Levinson was a part of the Dunder Mifflin company and the victim of Michael’s ‘that’s what she said’ jokes. However, somehow, something like love managed to blossom between the two of them, but not without serious consequences for their jobs and the company. When Michael demands a raise, Toby points out that this may be the first time ever a male subordinate has withheld sex from a female superior until he gets offered more money. Thankfully, Jan and Michael parted ways after a relationship that was tumultuous at best. We can all learn from this that sleeping with your boss is never a good idea and that mixing business and pleasure can often end in tears (take heed, Jon Snow and Ygritte!)
- Lack of discretion. It is well known that Michael Scott cannot keep secrets but sometimes this can be incredibly damaging. When he found out that Oscar was gay, he inadvertently ‘outed’ him to the whole office. This was a dangerous move and Dunder Mifflin suffered because of this: Oscar got months of paid leave as well as compensation. Michael’s lack of subtlety, however, goes much deeper, as he said to Oscar, ‘your gayness does not define you, your Mexicanness defines you’. In the episode, ‘The Convict’, Michael also tells the office which of the employees has a criminal record and that person then quits. Good leaders instil confidence in their employees and make them feel they can share problems in confidence.
- Selfish desires. Michael’s desperation to be the centre of attention or the joke-teller often means that he puts his own needs before those of his employees and the work of the office. Frequently targets are missed because Michael has decided to distract the office with his own personal problems. Take the episode ‘The Injury,’ for example, where Michael demands the office rally around him because he burnt his foot on his George Foreman grill.
- Undisguised hatred of Toby Flenderson. Remember that episode where Michael took the office to the beach in an attempt to see who would make a good replacement? Well Toby doesn’t. He had to stay in the office and man the phones while the others had a fun day out. That’s because Michael develops an intense and irrational hatred of the human resources guy. You can’t be expected to get on with everyone in your office, especially if it’s a big corporation with lots of departments. However, Michael’s dislike of Toby progresses throughout the series in an extreme manner; Michael does not hide his feelings from his employees, or indeed Toby himself, ‘If I had a gun with two bullets, and if I was in a room with Hitler, Bin Laden & Toby, I would shoot Toby twice’. Harsh words from a mostly harmless man – authenticity needn’t mean brutal honesty.
- General idiocy. Michael, though kind and mostly harmless, has no common sense, which often means that he is the butt of his employees’ jokes and can seem to have little control over his office. A good manager should know what’s going on in their office at all times and not let their employees take too many liberties. Work can be fun, yes, but it should also achieve something. Michael famously declares, ‘I love inside jokes. Love to be a part of one someday’, which shows just how little idea he has about what his employees say about him when he is not around; they are not laughing with him, but rather at him.
- Favouritism. Michael makes no secret of the fact that Ryan and Jim are his favourites in the office. Meredith and Toby, on the other hand, are frequently on the receiving end of Michael’s scathing remarks. Dwight constantly strives to be loved but never gets to be seen as ‘cool’ in Michael’s eyes, instead becoming his fall-guy and wasting career-building time on Michael’s hare-brained schemes. Roping in Dwight on ridiculous plans means that less work is done in the office (see point 1). Remember when Michael refused to pay for the pizza that he ordered because they wouldn’t accept a discount coupon? He locked the delivery boy in the conference room while asking for a ransom from the pizza company. He also asked Dwight to go with him to look at a house he was interested in buying, taking advantage of working hours to run personal errands.
Love him or hate him, Michael was definitely unique in his approach to leadership. Clearly he was a good salesman once upon a time, which is why he was promoted to a more senior role, but one that he was not very well suited to. Bas Blekkingh’s book, Authentic leadership, is based on a seven-layer model that leaders can work through to make them the most productive that they can be.