The Michael Scott Guide to Being Self-Aware At Work

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The Office's head honcho never noticed how people reacted to him. Here are lessons by Michael Scott on how to filter yourself in the office.

When you're the boss, you can get away with a lot because people are used to sucking up to you.

You may start thinking your jokes are funnier than they are, and that all your ideas are fantastic.

Michael Scott, from The Office, was the king of cluelessly saying inappropriate things.

Might you also be doing the same thing?

Some things that are funny amongst friends and family are not at all funny in the office. Sometimes it's because your coworkers and employees don't have the history with you to know when you're serious about a subject and when you're cracking a job.

Related Article: The Most Common Workplace Issues and How to Deal With Them

Sometimes, though, it's because the things you are saying are inappropriate anywhere, but especially in the office. While one sexist or racist joke isn't enough to establish a "hostile workplace," it's enough to show a pattern.

So, if you're cracking slightly off-color jokes and someone who feels he should have gotten a promotion and was passed over, and happens to be a different race than the person who was promoted, that all goes into evidence.

Panicked yet? Don't worry. Here's a handy guide to what Micheal Scott said and what you should say instead.

Michael Scott: Hi, I'm Michael Scott and I'm in charge of Dunder Mifflin Paper Products here in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But, I'm also the founder of Diversity Tomorrow, because 'Today is Almost Over.' Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you are a racist, I will attack you with the North," and those are the principles I carry with me into the workplace. 

What you should say: I'm, Michael Scott and I'm in charge of Dunder Mifflin Paper Products here in Scranton, Pennsylvania. But, I'm also the founder of Diversity Tomorrow, because we're always working towards a better tomorrow.

Why: Diversity is great. Abraham Lincoln is great. Quotes from Abraham Lincon are great. Trying to make a joke about diversity by making up an Abraham Lincoln quote is just offensive. Unless you're an accomplished and practiced public speaker, don't attempt to explain difficult concepts like diversity initiatives off the cuff. Write them out and have several people review them to make sure you're good to go.

Related Article: Problems at Work? 10 Signs That It's Not Them, It's You

Michael Scott: You cannot take the hilarious black guy from the office. Stanley is part of what makes this branch so extraordinary. The bluesy wisdom, the sassy remarks, the crossword puzzles, the smile, those big, watery, red eyes. I don't know how George Bush did it when Colin Powell left. 

What you should say: You cannot take the hilarious guy from the office. Stanly is part of what makes this branch so extraordinary. The bluesy wisdom, the sassy remarks, the crossword puzzles and the smile. I don't know what we'd do without him. He's top in sales.

Why: Stanley is awesome. His race has nothing to do with anything and should never be brought up as a reason why an employee should stay or go. It's also extremely offensive to compare Stanley to Colin Powell. As far as I know, the only thing Colin Powell and Stanley have in common is that they are Black males. You may think you're being inclusive by bringing up another person of the same race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or religion, but you're really showing that you don't think people who are "other" than you are actual individuals.

Michael Scott: [checking out at a liquor store] All right, now, you're the expert. Is this enough to get 20 people plastered?
Clerk: [Seriously considers] Fifteen bottles of vodka? Yeah, that should do it.

What you should say: All right, now, you're the expert. How much do I need so 20 people can have one drink? 

Why: Lots of people love alcohol. Companies often provide alcohol at company parties, but it shouldn't be enough to get anyone plastered. Remember, the company can be held liable for things that happen at a company sponsored event--even if it's off the premises. So, while it's fine to provide alcohol, it's not fine to provide enough to get the whole group plastered. There should be plenty of non-alcoholic options as well.

Michael Scott: (Speaking to the daughters on Take Your Daughter to Work Day) I'm Michael Scott and I am in charge of this place. How do I make you understand... I am like Superman. And the people who work here are like citizens of Gotham City. 

What you should say: I'm Michael Scott and I'm in charge of this place. That means I help people do their jobs, and I assign out tasks. I'm also here to answer any questions and make big decisions.

Related Article: To Hire Or Not to Hire: HR Issues Affecting Small Business in 2015

Why: First of all, he totally messed up the whole superhero thing. Superman isn't anything like a manager, and Gotham City is Batman. Don't try to make analogies unless you know how to make analogies. Otherwise, you just look stupid. Additionally, comparing yourself to a superhero is a bad idea--you're not a superhero and everyone (even 7-year-old girls!) will discount what you have to say from then on.

As a general rule, if someone on The Office said  or did anything, you should probably avoid saying or doing that like the plague. That's what makes them so funny--they are completely clueless and unaware.

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