Workplace Rules We Can Learn From Watching “The Office”

By |2019-01-25T03:45:43-04:00September 27th, 2016|Company Culture|

The Hard Truth About “The Office”

The Office is one of my favorite television shows of all time.  I’ll admit that I didn’t watch it when it was originally on tv, I ended up binge watching it on Netflix, and I was a bit wary with how awkward and clumsy Season 1 felt.  But once the writers hit their stride it was like magic was happening before my eyes.

I’m not sure what my favorite part was, the brilliantly casted band of quirky characters, of which Stanley will always be my favorite, the comedic timing, or the cold openings.  After having seen every single episode I can list without hesitation a number of my favorite moments

  • Jim stealing Dwight’s stationary and sending faxes from “Future Dwight” about what catastrophes are about to befall the office.
  • Kevin bringing in chili and spilling it all over the office floor, then trying to scrape it back into the vat with a clipboard.
  • Michael trying to cheer the office up with the impending news of downsizing by playing a murder mystery game and putting on a horrible Southern accent to tell Creed “There’s been a murder” to which Creed’s reaction is to run out of the building and peel away in his car.
  • When Jim finds out what drycleaner Dwight uses and orders an identical suit with tear away Velcro and then rips it off him in the parking lot and runs away.

There are plenty others that I could list but I won’t waste your time.  Overall what I love about The Office is how it pretty accurately captures the nuances of what it is like at times in the workplace.  Ok they exaggerate A LOT, but at some point we have encountered certain stereotypes in our professional careers that match up well with characters in the show.

  • “the boss” who is more concerned about being liked then being a good leader – Michael Scott
  • “the over eager employee” wanting to move into management – Dwight Schrute
  • “the bored salesman” who would rather have any other job in the world – Jim Halpert
  • “the friendly and helpful receptionist” who wants more out of life – Pam Beesly
  • “the HR rep” who has to listen to everyone’s complaints but no one really likes – Toby Flenderson
  • “that guy” the employee who has been with the company so long no one actually remembers what his job is – Creed Bratton

It also shows the truth that office life can be weird and awkward at times.

But, it doesn’t have to be.

workplace etiquette

If we all abided by a few “Office Space Rules” or guidelines we could make life much easier for everyone involved.  You won’t have as many “problems” with your co-workers, and you won’t have to listen to rants from your friends in the office about people that they dislike either.  Saving everyone time, energy, and productive time lost.

Below are a few examples of “Office Space Rules” to live by.

Don’t eat other people’s food

This shouldn’t need to be explained, but I will anyways.  Most offices have a shared fridge where employees can store their lunches and snacks for the day.  Say one day you forget to pack your lunch and you’re starving, and don’t have time to run out and grab something.  You think “what if I just take one of those sandwiches I saw, no one will notice.” – DON’T.

Someone WILL notice and they won’t be very happy about you taking their food.  You wouldn’t want anyone to steal your food, so don’t steal theirs.

Be aware of your volume, especially if in a bullpen environment

If you or those around you talk on the phone a lot, like we do at a staffing agency, be aware of your volume when you talk on the phone.  Others around you are not only trying to focus they are also on phone calls so be courteous.

Don’t answer or dial on speaker phone, in fact never be on speaker if you can avoid it.  If you have to have multiple people on a call then conference them in from their desk, it will make it easier for the 3rd party to hear and for all of you to communicate.

Don’t bring in smelly food

We’ve all experienced the person who has tried to reheat fish in the microwave, and it never ends well.  By all means bring in whatever type of food you want for lunch, just be conscious of the smell.

Keep your workspace neat

Depending on what your office space is like your personal workspace might be in plain view of others.  I  realize that everyone has their own organizational style that they work best with and that not everything has to be prim and proper.

However there is a limit, for instance if you leave a cup of coffee on your desk for so long that mold starts to grow on the surface… it might be time to do a quick cleaning.  Take a minute or two a day just to check that nothing outrageously annoying is going on at your desk and everyone will be a lot happier.

Side note: if you do eat food at your desk on a regular basis make sure that if it’s perishable you either eat it or throw it out before it goes bad.  I heard a story of someone who ate half a banana, and put the rest in a cup on a shelf above their head and forgot about it for 2 months…. Yeah I don’t think I need to tell you how that ends.

Take personal calls/business OUTSIDE of the office

You probably spend A LOT of time at work, we have 10+ hour days on average.  Which means that life keeps going on outside while we work.  Children miss the bus, husbands and wives get flat tires, parents need help with their smart phones, friends need a favor, anything can happen between the hours of 9-5.  Take personal calls when at work, but take them OUTSIDE the office if you have a shared office space or bullpen environment.

Similar to #2 there are other people working near you, and if you constantly get personal calls about things going on in your life it gets distracting.  I promise your coworkers don’t need to know everything about you, in fact it’s probably better to keep some kind of work/home separation for your own well being, and theirs.

I realize that none of this is rocket science, they are simple “office rules” that most people probably take into consideration every day.  But we spend a lot of time at the office and we get comfortable and start to take things for granted.  So all I suggest is that you take some time to take your co-workers into consideration and see if any of these suggestions can make their lives a bit easier.

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