While the movie Office Space wasn’t highly received in the box office back in 1999, it has since become a cult classic and given us some of the best one-liners around. Aside from the satirical humor (and the fact that everyone loves Jennifer Aniston), the movie has prospered because Office Space movie characters portray three average guys who work in a situation that most of us can relate to.
Initech is the quintessential company with poor management—perfectly depicted in the Office Space boss character. There’s also bad communication and low employee morale. Needless to say, it makes for a ridiculously hilarious plot.
Although Office Space is entertaining and great for a laugh, the film teaches us some valuable lessons, as well.
Read on to discover our favorite Office Space movie lessons for managers and bosses!
Lesson 1. Make sure your employees have quality resources.
In the movie, the character Michael Bolton (played by David Herman) develops a hatred for a printer in the office that always seems to malfunction when he needs to use it. His frustration ends up boiling over, resulting in Michael, Peter, and Samir stealing the printer and destroying it in a desolate field.
While we hope your employees wouldn’t go so far as to intentionally break supplies around the office, it can certainly become frustrating when things don’t work like they’re supposed to.
To ensure that your employees are well equipped to do their jobs, it is crucial that printers and faxes stay stocked with paper and ink, broken machines are fixed quickly, and things like your office router are capable of supporting all the bandwidth from around the office.
Lesson 2. Create a work environment that is actually conducive to doing work.
From the first time we see Initech, we can see why Michael, Peter, and Samir hate working there. The office is full of bland 6’ x 6’ cubicles with no windows in sight. Even worse, Peter sits across from Nina, the accounts payable woman, who appears to do nothing other than patch calls through while saying “JUST A MOMENT” in the most annoying voice imaginable.
While cubicles are sometimes a necessary evil, you should always try to give your employees an alternative area to do their work. Whether it is a lounge with couches, a conference room, or even picnic tables outside, people tend to be more productive when they can move around. This is especially true for people who sit near colleagues who are on the phone all day.
Lesson 3. Don’t micromanage.
The Office Space boss in the movie is Bill Lumbergh, played by Gary Cole. Despite his position as Division Vice President, Lumbergh seems to have nothing better to do than walk around the office with his coffee mug, checking to see if Peter has finished “the TPS reports.” Lumbergh’s unexpected interruptions not only distract Peter but also add to his frustration with the company.
It is common for small business owners to want to oversee every aspect of their companies, but there is a fine line between overseeing and micromanaging. Studies have shown that people actually perform at lower levels when monitored (or even just think they’re being watched).
Micromanaging can be a hard habit to break, but you must have faith in your employees. Instead of checking in every step of the way, set up weekly or daily meetings with employees to discuss individual goals and progress. Additionally, make sure your employees know they can approach you with questions without the fear of an overbearing answer.
Lesson 4. Don’t keep people in the dark.
Arguably one of the funniest people in the movie is Milton, the quirky character who is always getting screwed over. Not only does Lumbergh constantly try to take his coveted possession, a red Swingline stapler, but Milton continues to show up to work every day, unaware of the fact that he has been fired.
While this scenario might be a little far-fetched, as people typically know when they’ve been fired in the real world, keeping employees in the dark does happen all the time.
We understand that some issues do need to be confined to upper-level management, but employees should be kept in the loop about most day-to-day happenings, especially those regarding their job and the company itself. One of the best tactics to ensure this is the case includes having a weekly all-hands meeting where each department gives updates. If you’re not all able to meet face-to-face, weekly email updates are the next best thing.
Regardless of how you do it, just make sure that everyone is on the same page at all times. Secrets keep everyone in the dark, sometimes literally.
Bonus: How to praise employees to reverse your Bad Boss karma
Office Space presents some moments of brilliantly bad leadership and management. So what can you do if you’ve been guilty of being an Office Space boss, but are now committed to changing your ways?
1. Give specific praise.
When you notice any extra effort on the part of your employees, be specific in your appreciation.
“People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise and rewards.”Dale Carnegie, Bestselling Author & Leadership Training Expert
2. Give timely feedback and compliments.
Next week is not the right time to talk about that thing that an employee did that you liked. If you notice something worthy of a compliment, praise immediately.
“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.”Dr. Bob Nelson, Best Selling Author and Motivational Speaker
4. Give sincere praise.
Don’t fake it. If you don’t mean it, then it’s better to say nothing. You won’t be able to hide insincerity from your employees.
“There are two things people want more than sex and money: recognition and praise.”Mary Kay Ash, Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics
You might also like: Why, When, and How to Praise An Employee
Office Space movie lessons: our final thoughts
These beloved Office Space movie characters have a lot to teach us about how bad bosses and managers can negatively impact productivity and positivity at work.
If you’re guilty of being a Bill Lumbergh-type of boss, it’s not too late to take these Office Space movie lessons to heart!
Originally published 2013. Updated on July 24, 2022.
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