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What not to do in ‘The Office’

Here are some of the biggest mistakes Michael Scott, the boss played by Steve Carell on NBC's "The Office," has made and what real bosses can learn from them.
Image: Steve Carell
Actor Steve Carell in the role of Michael Scott from "The Office," a show that demonstrates how not to succeed in business.Justin Lubin / NBC via AP file
/ Source: Fast Company

Michael Scott, the boss played by Steve Carell on NBC's "The Office," takes quirkiness and incompetence to new heights. As regional manager of the Scranton, Pa., branch of paper supply company Dunder-Mifflin, Michael demonstrates total ignorance of the rules of business and basic human interaction, all the while maintaining his sense of infallibility. ( is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Here are some of the biggest mistakes Michael has made and what real bosses can learn from them.

1. Don't tell everyone the boat is sinking when it's not.
When Michael takes everyone on a booze cruise to motivate the team, he tries to make a point by pretending the ship is about to sink. Pandemonium ensues, a passenger dives overboard and the captain handcuffs Michael and banishes him to a far corner of the boat. Whether the boat you're referring to is real or just a metaphor, motivational speeches should not put everyone around you in panic mode. You don't want your employees or your clients jumping ship just because you like being the center of attention. Focus on something more positive.

2. Don't blackmail employees into doing your laundry.
To reprimand Dwight for allegedly stabbing him in the back, Michael forces him to do his laundry every week. Never mind that Michael is paranoid and delusional. No matter how much you dislike someone, don't let disciplinary measures turn into a personal vendetta. Dwight is actually the one person in the office who fully supports Michael's hare-brained schemes. Singling out employees for demeaning treatment is the mark of a toxic boss. If you're having a problem with an employee, turn it over to the guys in HR.

3. Don't try to steal the show at an employee's wedding.
At Phyllis's wedding, Michael tries to make the day about him by interrupting the ceremony and making an embarrassing toast that ends with the groom attacking him. It's important to recognize that sometimes the spotlight belongs to someone else. Michael is the type of boss who takes all the credit for his branch's success and never takes any of the blame for its failures. Being a good boss involves being part of a team and learning when to let an employee outshine you.

Another thing to keep in mind: Don't let employees trick you into thinking you have a part in their wedding just so they can get extra vacation days for their honeymoon.

4. Don't rip up students' textbooks at a college lecture.
When Ryan invites Michael to speak at one of his college classes, Michael tells the students that college is useless and tears the pages out of a textbook to illustrate his point. While there is no substitute for real world experience, business school is still an impressive part of any resume. You should never underestimate the power of an education. In the final episode of Season 3, Ryan gets the last laugh by landing a job Michael thought would be his.

5. Try to avoid accidentally dressing in drag.
Michael thinks he found a great new suit on sale, but the other employees soon realize it was made for a woman. Looking professional is important in gaining the respect of employees and superiors. And if you're anything like Michael, you don't need to give people any more excuses to belittle you. Make sure your shirts are ironed and your socks match, and check the label carefully before buying anything from the bargain bin.

6. Don't call a client a "beeyotch."
An offensive watermark instigates a massive paper recall at Dunder-Mifflin. When a client refuses to accept a voucher for free paper at a press conference, Michael tells her to call the "Ungrateful Beeyotch Hotline." Name-calling is no way to win over a client, especially in front of the press. With increasing competition from larger office supply companies, Dunder Mifflin can't afford to lose any more customers, and neither can you. It's not true that all publicity is good publicity.

7. Don't buy lingerie for employees.
After receiving some dating advice from the female employees, Michael decides to thank them with a trip to Victoria's Secret. This makes Angela very uncomfortable. Establishing boundaries with employees is crucial for maintaining a professional working environment. Stick with less risqué gifts, like coffee mugs and restaurant gift certificates. It's also best to keep your dating dilemmas out of the office. No one really wants to hear what a sadist your girlfriend is, especially if she also happens to be your boss.

8. Don't make employees compete "Survivor"-style for your job.
Michael thinks he's getting a big promotion, so he devises a series of tasks, including a fire walk and a hot dog eating contest, to choose his successor. It's yet another example of Michael's failure to grasp just what it takes to lead the branch. In your own office, make sure performance evaluations are relevant and humane. An employee's worth should not be judged by how many pork products he or she can stomach. Especially if that employee, like Kelly, is a vegetarian.

9. Don't sell your condo on eBay before you land a job promotion.
As he heads to his interview for a job at Dunder-Mifflin's corporate headquarters, Michael reveals he has sold his home to the highest bidder. He thinks he already has the job even though he knows Jim and Karen are also interviewing for the same position. It’s questionable whether selling your home on eBay is the best way to go, and it’s rarely a good idea to rearrange your whole life around a job you might not get. It will save you a great deal of hassle in the long run. More importantly, it will save your credibility as a seller on eBay.

10. Try not to hit employees with your car
Although Michael claims it was an accident when he runs over Meredith with a company car, the other employees have their doubts. He also fails to see the gravity of the situation when explaining it to his new boss, Ryan. ("Double jeopardy" does not mean that two wrongs make a right.) Taking out your anger on your employees is a good way to get yourself fired and your company sued. Leave your personal problems at home.