Television and movies offer us an “out” from the normal day-to-day grind. One of the first things many people do when they get off work is turn on the TV. It is a medium to help shed the scales we accrued during a long day filled with meetings, past-due projects, and the struggle of balancing employer/employee relationships. The most ironic aspect of TV and movies is they are supposed to help us forget about our lives for 30 minutes to an hour and a half, but shows often implement the work environment into their scripts. Due to this reoccurring theme, let’s take a look at a few bosses from TV and movies to see which pitfalls to avoid and certain aspects that may be beneficial.
J. Peterman – Seinfeld
J. Peterman is Elaine’s boss when she works at The J. Peterman Company. He is an illustrious character who spends most of his time reminiscing about odd travels and experiences he has had around the world. To characterize him with one word, he is eccentric. During his time on Seinfeld, J. Peterman gave us several leadership qualities to point out. He was a very strong-willed character who knew exactly what he wanted to convey in his catalog, of which Elaine was one of the main editors. His best quality was that he completely believed in Elaine and his employees. At one point, he found himself in Burma and left the company to Elaine. She didn’t think she had what it took to run a company, but he believed in her. His biggest pitfall was that he was so existential and imaginative that his thoughts and ideas were lost in translation. Many times, Elaine didn’t know what he was trying to convey. When communicating to your employees, make sure to be simple and to the point.
Bill Lumbergh – Office Space
In the workplace classic, Office Space, Bill Lumbergh is a vice president at Initech, a software company. He is famously known for beginning most sentences with “um…yeah.” There are several problems with management at Initech, one of which the main character, Peter Gibbons, points out. Whenever he doesn’t follow protocol or makes a mistake, he is bombarded by his eight bosses about it. In an office, there is a chain of command. The manager directly above the employee needs to take full responsibility confronting issues. Sadly, Lumbergh has a quality that some have at one point or another: lack of empathy. He shows throughout the film that he doesn’t care about his employees, just that he meets his bottom line. As management, it is important to take stock in your workers. If you care about your employees, your company will go a long way in the area of retention and engagement. One of Lumbergh’s qualities is he isn’t afraid of what people think. He knows that he needs his employees to work weekends to “play catch-up,” and doesn’t shy from saying what he needs them to do.
Michael Scott – The Office
One of the most well-known TV bosses in recent times is Michael Scott of The Office. In the show, Michael manages the Scranton, Pa. branch of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Everything a boss could do wrong is magnified in this character. Most everything that is learned from education and experience is thrown out the door. Michael micromanages, calls for unproductive meetings, distracts his employees from working, acts inappropriately, and the list goes on and on. Though he was a great salesman, no one is really sure how he even became manager due to his inaptitude and ill-equipped nature. His worst quality is struggling with the line of being boss and friend to his employees. He is worried what people think and wants everyone to like him. In the office, you have to balance this better than Michael Scott. First and foremost, a manager needs to lead and equip employees with the tools and determination to produce. A healthy, working friendship may come along the way and should be encouraged if the former is established. Michael’s best quality is he truly cares about his employees and wants them to be happy.
George Bluth, Sr. – Arrested Development
Arrested Development is a show about a dysfunctional family and equally obstructive company. After losing control of the company and being arrested due to an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, George, Sr. continues to try and control the company from prison, undermining the authority of his son, Michael. Throughout the series, he tries to implement his own – often illegal – strategies to help save the company. In flashbacks of the time when he was CEO, we see how he managed, mostly by discouraging any and all ideas Michael came up with. His worst quality is not trusting those he put in place to lead, as well as properly delegating. He didn’t believe his son could run the company and tries to do everything himself. In the workplace, delegation is key in achieving productivity and success. Managers can’t be a one-man band or Superman. It is pertinent that you trust your employees and give part of the load to them. George, Sr.’s best quality is he seems to want what’s best for the company…though he never really achieves it.
The next time you’re watching TV or a movie, take a look at how others run their office and try to distinguish the good, the bad, and the ugly. You may be surprised that there are actually good qualities of some of the most disruptive, dysfunctional bosses.