If you’ve worked in the professional world long enough, no doubt you’ve come across some interesting characters or worked at a company that just wasn’t a fit. That’s why the movie Office Space is so popular: throughout our travels between businesses we’ve all met someone who embodies the eccentric Milton, the nonchalant Peter or worse, the passive-aggressive Bill Lumbergh. And we can all identify with the pain of working at the slow-moving, soul-sucking fictitious company Initech.
While the movie is full of laughs, it also has some lessons to offer about how to run our own companies so that they stay enjoyable places to work, learn, and grow.
1. Don’t Micromanage
One of the biggest jokes of the movie is the dreaded boss, Bill Lumbergh, who often sidles up next to Peter’s desk to needle him about his work and ask him to come in on the weekends. While there’s no doubt that employees need managing, micromanaging is a whole different story. Constantly helicoptering over peoples’ shoulders wastes everyone’s time, distracts from work, and leads to employee disengagement, which can cost companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in absenteeism. Be clear about what you need from employees from the outset and then trust them to do the job you hired them for.
2. Provide the Right Resources
The scene where the three main characters Peter, Michael, and Samir destroy the malfunctioning printer in the field is something many of us have fantasized about while dealing with office equipment that won’t work. That said, equipment that inspires these kinds of thoughts can’t be in your office. Whether it’s a printer, fax machine, copier, computers, or your internet network, if the right tools for the job don’t work, you’re going to see productivity take a hit. And to top it off, it’s just downright frustrating. Invest in quality equipment, fix issues promptly, and don’t put off replacing items when they’ve reached the end of their life. It’s just a cost of doing business.
3. Communicate Clearly
One of the biggest problems at the fictional Initech was the poor communication between employees and management. Bill Lumbergh, the dreaded boss, always couched his unpopular requests in bad jokes and the classic, “that’d be great” line. The fact is we sometimes have to ask employees to do things they don’t like, but being upfront about it helps keep your intentions clear and will breed much less resentment than simultaneously trying to make everyone like you. It’s way better than being a Lumbergh!
4. Make Your Office Space Pleasant
One of first scenes we see in the movie is the office Peter and his fellow programmers work in. And it does not look like a happy place. It’s a sea of flat grey cubicles surrounded by walls in the same dreary shade of grade without a window in sight. But even if your office has a similar look, you can do a few things to make it more cheerful looking. Adding a few plants, hanging some pictures, or moving desks near windows can spruce up an otherwise depressing atmosphere as well as boost productivity. Bonus!
So while you’re enjoying the humor of this cult classic, you can also remember to make your offices look inviting, communicate well, provide useful resources, and avoid micromanaging. That way your company will stay a place people want to come to work and look nothing like the kinds of businesses that inspired Office Space.