Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. was a company with a rather unique culture. Throughout the series, Michael Scott was considered highly eccentric, especially in his role as Regional Manager. Under his management, there were frequent non-work-related projects, an inexplicably extreme interest in employees’ personal lives, and compulsory office excursions that made the paper company appear bizarre. At first glance, you wouldn’t dare to assume that it was possible for any work to get done at all. Yet, time and time again except for the occasional misstep, the branch proved to be the most creative and profitable. So, can we attribute this success to the distinct culture that this company espoused?
What exactly is ‘Organisational Culture’? Simply put, it is the personality of a company. It defines the environment in which employees function. It includes a variety of factors, including work environment, company objectives, values, ethics, aspirations, and goals. Most importantly though, it is defined by the people. Company culture is important because employees are more likely to enjoy their time in the workplace when they fit in with the culture. On the other hand, if you work for an organisation where you don’t fit in with the culture, you are likely to find far lesser gratification and meaning in your work. For example, if you prefer to work independently, but work for a company that emphasises teamwork (or has shared office spaces), you are likely to be less satisfied and productive. Dunder Mufflin, in that regard, managed to include several characteristics that made it a shining, if not a particularly glamorous, example of successful workplaces.
Michael Scott’s management approach is in contrast to most of the prevalent corporate settings. Scott opted for a completely open-door policy in the office, leaving him completely accessible to all his employees, sometimes much to their chagrin. He was nothing if not involved in his employee’s personal up-keep (some might even say a bit too involved at times). There was never a lack of communication, and the needs of the staff were always put first. Not only did this result in an environment his employees enjoyed working in, but it also made their branch the most productive.
Throughout The Office, Michael Scott and the rest of his team found themselves in situations that were less than ideal. Whether it was getting a pregnant employee to the hospital, covering for a co-worker who would otherwise be fired due to their three-month-long absence or keeping work aside for an afternoon to solve a personal problem, the small paper company always managed to put each other first. While most situations that a real-life company is likely to encounter aren’t as extreme as those found on the show, the concept of employee happiness being of utmost priority remains the same, even if it means occasionally having to go on extremely long road trips to assist your colleagues where you end up relieving yourself in a can of soda.
How many employees do you think would be motivated to come to work and log in for eight hours a day, five days a week, at a drab job with isolated cubicles and plain beige walls? Michael Scott couldn’t even go an hour without creating some sort of spectacle for him and the rest of the office. These spectacles were PRETTY diverse, from talent competitions organised in the warehouse and random safety drills to carrying out elaborate pranks and hijinks. His relaxed rules and tendency to change things up created an environment in which his employees actively sought to work every day.
The Dundies! (aka Celebrating Employee Achievements)
The importance of making your employees feel valued, respected and celebrated cannot be overstated. People are more likely to feel motivated and driven when they know that their efforts are recognised and their dedication rewarded. That’s why celebrating your employees’ achievements is critical. Whether you do that through public recognition, certificates, cash prizes, mementos is entirely up to you. Michael Scott took his liberties and ran with them, creating an entire awards gala called The Dundies dedicated to rewarding his team. Granted they tended to include some not-so-pretty performances and some definitely-not-relevant award categories but hey, it’s the thought that counts!
Fictional workplaces often push the limits of acceptable behaviour for humour’s sake. They certainly are not the places we go to to learn the intricacies of professional conduct; however, they do give us the opportunity to think about what we do in real workplaces and maybe breathe a sigh of relief that ours are not quite as dysfunctional as those of our fictional counterparts!