top of page

SOMEHOW I MANAGE. dot. dot. dot. A review of Michael Scott’s Rules of Business [Series]

The Office is a famous NBC (2005–2013) sitcom TV series. It was based on the employees of Dunder Mifflin, a fictional paper company located in Scranton, PA. A paper company in the late 00’s, you would think, has its own challenges to deal with, but that was not the purpose of the show at all.

For 9 seasons we watched a regular real American office environment. Sometimes painfully real, it was filled with the relationships between people and what and how much of their character they bring to the office.  The boss and the leader, was Michael Scott (played by the brilliant Steve Carrel), you could say definitely that he is unorthodox in his methods, and his actions invoked a lot of quirkiness and oddities in people in their work environment, the line between personal and business literally didn't exist for Micheal, as just one of his famous quotes abut the subject was “Of course work is personal, its the most personal thing in the world” (s03e17), but it brought a new sense of how you should behave while working, and pushed the limits on what you can’t, can, shouldn’t, etc — say.

Confession, I watched the entire series probably 10 times from beginning to end. Its been in my life for 13 years and its the kind of show that is great to end the day with because it is just so relatable. To me anyways. As I evolved in my career, i discovered that my beliefs towards the work environment and business culture are changing. It’s a natural cultural process — younger people reach ages where they set the standard and the norm, and it should be this way, but the thing was that what Michael Scott said in 2008 now makes so much sense.

So i thought about doing a series, paying tribute to the character and to how we all need to re-evaluate the Brules (Bullshit rules) we live by from time to time, especially in a work environment. 

A series analyzing different business scenarios Micheal was in, and how clever Hollywood writing created a very well constructed story that was more about the person and less about the norm. By analyzing I mean to look at how Michael handled situations and try to shed a new light on what (assuming) he meant. Since there are more than 200 episodes to cover, i will start with the one who got me thinking about even doing this series, s02e04 The Fire, aired in October 11, 2005.

Shortly, in this episode there is a fire in the office and while the fire dep. is clearing the office, the employees gather in the parking lot and play Desert Island to get to know each other better. Michael takes this opportunity to bestow pearls of wisdom to the new temp, who happened to start his MBA recently. Micheal declares he will give him the 10 rules of business that he’ll ever need.  They are not in chronological order, and technically there are 4 out of 11 declared since Micheal gives him one rule and says “i’ll give you the rest of the 10 at lunch”.

Rule #1 You have to play to win, and you also have to win, to play.

This one is pretty easy to figure out. Naturally you need to always keep at it and try your best and you will win, but here Micheal also boasts one more important idea — what do you do once you win? How will you behave? what will your goals be then? I see it as a realization of the a simple lesson i learned, sometimes you first need to win to play another level, a level you aspire to reach. We will all probably always have to play, to some degree in our life, the business “Game”, etc. So figure our what will we do and how will we act when we win.

Rule #2 Adapt, react, re-adapt, act. (apt)

Lean / Agile development anyone? its right there!

  • We always need to adapt our business, career, life to our current situation in order be happy and productive.

  • We are reacting to our immediate environment, which for most of us is split between work and personal life. Some would say that most of us are merely reacting and nothing more.

  • Re-adapt, is good advice because it keeps you moving. Which in today’s ever-changing world is essential to our way of life.

  • Act. Micheal said it simply because he got confused and it rhymed, but it should be here even just because it rhymes :) its that important. Always be acting, always try, or do more

Rule #4 In business, image is everything.

yes, you are reading it right, rule #4. that’s Michael… Image is everything is a statement i long tried to resist but for the wrong reasons. I saw it as superficial, shallow and boring, people are so diverse, why narrow it down to something as mundane and frankly invented not long ago in history, as image. But what i didn't notice, was that my perspective was in itself too narrow and superficial. Image is something that is projected. Projected by who and how, thats a matter of perspective and perspective can adapt, re-adapt, apt.  We can project image in so many ways that it goes way beyond clothing, items, equipment, way of talking, buzzwords, name-dropping, etc.  Learning how to project the image you want is a subject on its own but is achievable, and i believe it’s true, depends on your point of view.

Rule #5 Safety first, i.e. don’t burn the building down.

You have to watch the episode to get this, but Micheal refers to physical safety is pretty much a given today, but if we expand the meaning of the word safety, and the example of “dont burn the building down” and make it less dramatic — i would say that safety can also mean dont be an asshole, a jerk, obnoxious, and if thats also a given you can be safe to what you say and dont say in business meeting and/or work environment. Just be safe as you never know how, and more important, when it might boomerang back to you, work environments are usually fairly small.

There is one additional valuable lesson that i learned from the that episode. It’s a pretty obvious rule that i thought was worth mentioning here. Ryan asks Michael “Is it more expensive to get a new customer or get an existing one?” Micheal answers it’s equal but of course its not. Ryan says it’s 10 times more expensive and when i checked it was actually 16 times more expensive. I take from that rule that we should put more efforts in retaining existing customers.

There are plenty of other great quotes by Michael Scott that really makes you think. We will dive into them in the coming weeks :)

bottom of page