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5 Things Office Space Didn’t Teach Us About Being Good Bosses


December 04, 2013

5 Things Office Space Didn’t Teach Us About Being Good Bosses

Office Space - 5 Tips For Becoming Good Bosse

The 1999 cult comedy-classic Office Space is the poster child for not-so-good bosses. It is the rebel yell of every downtrodden worker drone in every fluorescent-lit cubicle. The upper management of soulless software giant Initech Corp. gets it all wrong. And the incessant little indignities and humiliations suffered by their employees lead to low morale, zero productivity, and no love for the company. Plus a copy machine beat down with a bat and a fire that burns the company to the ground. 

Don’t make the same mistakes. Whip out your notebook and pen and get ready to take notes on the 5 things Lumbergh and Co. didn’t teach us about being good bosses.

1. Good Communication

Smarmy Initech boss Bill Lumbergh’s communication style doesn’t exactly resonate with his disgruntled employees, Peter, Samir, and Michael Bolton (but not THAT Michael Bolton). He makes it patently obvious he isn’t listening. Everything Lumbergh says, and the way he delivers it, is in direct opposition to basic communication 101!

Good communication between you and your employees begins with an understanding of each other’s behavior, speaking and listening styles, and adaptation to workplace conditions. When the goal is concrete and ideas are clearly articulated and grasped, you can build harmonious relationships, reduce conflict, problem solve, and innovate. 

Moreover, workers with excellent communication skills better understand the needs of their customers and how to speak to those needs, resulting in vastly improved customer service and sales. The bottom line is enhanced efficiency and productivity!     

2. Customized Employee Training/Development

Many business owners use the DiSC® profile to enhance their organization’s productivity, effectiveness, internal and external communication, and leadership. DiSC® is a personality assessment that classifies four types of behavior:

  • D: Dominance - Shapes the environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results.
  • I: Influence - Shapes the environment by influencing or persuading others.
  • S: Steadiness - Cooperates/collaborates with others within the bounds of existing circumstances to complete a task.
  • C: Conscientiousness - Works conscientiously within the bounds of existing circumstances to ensure quality and accuracy.

The workplace is stressful, filled with different personalities, competing egos, and varied ambitions. But if you’re armed with this behavioral information, you can craft customized training for new hires. You will be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses, cultivating raw talent and addressing struggles early on.

Developing training tailored toward new employees’ individual needs is one of the smartest things you can do. Investing sufficient time and effort into training will result in increased success, reduced turnover, and improved employee morale—saving your business time and money! 

3. Purposeful Work

Perhaps Initech’s most grievous offense is the drudgery of its routine and the soul-sapping tedium of its procedures. Peter marks time at his desk, playing computer games, zoning out for an hour after lunch. It is workaday boredom at its worst.

His only motivation to do the bare minimum is to avoid petty demands and intense criticism—from eight different protocol-obsessed managers.

Ensure your workers have a sense of purpose, importance, and dignity. Assign them work that matters—not checking boxes or filling in blanks. Give them the extrinsic motivation they need to come to work, fulfill their job responsibilities, and feel satisfied, whether its bonuses, trips, promotions, benefits, or recognition for a job well done. 

Ultimately, treat them like the people they are instead of as numbers that affect your bottom line.  

4. Successful Team Building

There’s no sense of camaraderie, collaboration, or even friendliness at Initech. It’s probably because it lacks any appreciation for diversity or individualism. Its answer to employee morale is forcing fun days (wear Hawaiian shirts), unenthused birthday parties, and admonitions to do what’s best for the company. 

If you understand your workers’ personalities, you can create unity and solidarity, intentionally assembling teams whose members will inspire each other and work well together.

Instill an awareness of diversity in your staff, so they will approach their colleagues with an open mind and better understand that they bring unique communication styles, cultural biases, and worldviews to the table.

5. Superstar Management and Leadership     

Milton. Milton. Milton. It takes just one look at this Initech employee’s wide eyes and white-knuckled grip on that Swingline stapler and you know he’s been broken by his years at the company. We blame Bill. Lumbergh seems to live for making his employees as uncomfortable as possible.

Don’t be a Lumbergh. Good leadership makes for good employees. Make an effort to understand your team’s preferences, communication styles, motivations, priorities, and stressors. If you understand your colleagues’ dispositions, you can better know how to listen, anticipate their personal challenges, and intensify their strengths.

If you understand why your people say what they say and do what they do, you can lead them. Become a management superstar by tailoring your own behaviors and techniques to better suit your workers’ styles and needs. 

And for Pete’s sake, just give Milton his stapler!

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