Last night on “The Office,” Gabe, Sabre’s corporate voice in Scranton, learned a valuable management lesson the hard way — if you try to make and enforce kindergarten-style rules in the workplace, your employees will respond by acting like children.
It all began when Oscar took a video of “Sesame Street” and dubbed Kevin’s voice over Cookie Monster‘s. It was hilarious, so everyone — except for Kevin, of course — laughed and asked for the link. Instead of laughing along, Kevin got all upset about the video and the ensuing imitations from his co-workers. Then he showed the video to Gabe, who said, “This is violent and offensive.”
Um, exaggerating a bit?
Gabe then goes on to explain how he feels no one in the Scranton branch takes him or his corporate-level authority seriously, and he concludes, “This Cookie Monster thing is an opportunity to show people my authority.” Next, we see him call everyone together to tell them how inappropriate the video is and tell them “it is now forbidden to talk, joke about or e-mail this around.”
Of course that only leads to more imitations and more attempts by Gabe to enforce his declaration and general authority over everyone else. Finally, he suspends several people without pay, but finds out he doesn’t really have the authority to do so.
The lesson for managers is that even though adults don’t always act that way, you aren’t going to get them to be mature by treating them like children. I believe this holds true in many areas of work life — desk decoration, Internet use and peer-to-peer interaction, to name a few.
Obviously, there have to be some rules in the office — you can’t let people show up in swimsuits or sexually harass their co-workers — but rules need to have a reason and be enacted judiciously.
Weigh in: Have you seen petty office rules backfire? What sort of situations do you think require rules, and what sort definitely don’t?
Image credit, NBC