The Secret to The Office's Success

Image credit: 

I love The Office. It seems like I have worked with every character on the show. And apparently, I'm not alone. Entire blogs have been written about working under a person like Michael Scott and business schools have started incorporating his flaws into the curriculum in order to teach their students how not to be Michael Scott.

That, unfortunately, is the reason everyone seems to love the show. It's something just about every office worker can relate to. Aine Donovan, a professor of business ethics at Dartmouth, even estimates that "ninety percent of the population deals with a Michael Scott in their lives."

But why are there so many Michael Scotts (and David Brents) in this world? Venkatesh Rao of the Ribbon Farm explains it well in his management theory known as The Gervais Principle. The basic concept is this:

Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

His theory says that Michael is not actually entirely incompetent; he's just not competent at his current position. But he was still given that job because his passion helps keep the company afloat even as the other employees only do the minimum. (Rao explains how The Gervais Principle differs from The Peters Principle and The Dilbert Principle here.)

What Office-like characters have you worked with?

[Image courtesy of Flickr user Kumar Appaiah.]

More from mental_floss...

March 24, 2010 - 4:39am
webby
submit to reddit