5 Workplace Tips We Can Learn from Initech and "Office Space"

5 Workplace Tips We Can Learn from Initech and "Office Space""Yeeeaaaaaaah... I think I'm gonna need you to come in on Saturday."

The odds are fairly certain that if you spend your days at work within 50 ft of a cubicle, you've seen the movie Office Space, a comedy that came out in 1999 to generally little acclaim.

Why would you have seen this niche comedy?

Because the tragic story of Peter and his desire to make his life something more is something that all workers can relate to.

In case you haven't seen the film (which is a terrifying thought in itself), the story focuses on Peter Gibbons, an unhappy worker at Initech (director Mike Judge's portrayal of the average late-90s software company).

After a botched hypnotism session, Peter decides he is no longer going to abide by the company's asinine rules and redundancies.

Thankfully, we don't need a hypnotist to convince us that there was a lot going on in that company that would chase off even the most valuable workers. Let's take a look at Initech and analyze what was going wrong:

Redundant Responsibilities Spread Between Multiple Bosses

As many of us might be familiar with, Peter has "that boss", Bill Lumbergh. In spit of being the Division Vice President, Lumbergh seems to have nothing bettering to do throughout his day than oversee and micromanage Peter and his colleagues.

This might seem to be because of Lumbergh's poor leadership skills and a lack of trust in his employees, but in reality, the problem may stem from higher up.

Why is there a Vice President with enough free time to breathe down a single employee's neck in such a fashion? Is there a hold-up in some system somewhere that needs to be addressed?

If a senior executive were to watch Lumbergh for a day, would they be pleased with how his time was being spent, and consider him to add value? Probably not.

Analyze management and why they are spending on time on the things that matter to them, and make sure that they are what matter most to the company and to the consumer, and you should keep the right amount and quality of management in any division.

The C Word


The word makes me shudder, sometimes.

Don't take this as a blanket sentiment, because consultants truly can be invaluable in areas where an internal expert is nonexistent, or where an objective viewpoint is necessary.

The consultants in Office Space are neither of those things - the "Bob"s are a waste of time and money.

In a series of 3-5 minute interviews, they determined who was necessary to the company and who would be tossed aside. An example of their cuts include Peter's long-time coworkers Michael (Bolton, not the singer) and Samir (Na...nana...naga... na'gonna work here anymore!).

Both are well performing employees who have enjoyed working for the company, but due to downsizing and outsourcing being placed in the hands of two individuals who know little to nothing about the company or it's history, how can this choice be made so easily?

It's important to consider the objectivity they bring to the table, but let them do what is clearly in their title - consult. Why wasn't there an Initech executive in the office during the interviews and decision making regarding downsizing? Don't let third-party consultants make decisions for your company without really questioning the "why" of the problem in the first place.

Oh Milton...

Everybody's favorite red-Swingline toting office worker, upon whose character the story was originally based (they even took that away from him...)

Easily bullied and consistently manipulated, Milton is eventually forced by the company to work downstairs in the basement of the facility, with no pay. Apparently, it is discovered that Milton was laid off years previously and due to a payroll glitch they had continued to pay him and he had continued to show up!

How is that possible, you ask? Record keeping, HR, and document management disaster.

With proper document management software, at least Milton would have known they were letting him go. It's important to remember that no matter how likable this character in a film might be, perhaps years ago Initech had plenty of good reasons to fire him - the problem is with the workplace treatment by Lumbergh.

No employee should have to deal with that, and it's likely all too common that this kind of treatment occurs in companies across the world every day.

Maybe, at least, with better software application and usage in their company, the TPS report that shot the whole series of events into motion would have just come together by the deadline, and nobody would be working weekends at Initech.

Equipment and Systems That Work

Easily the most cathartic and enviable scene in the film, Michael becomes enraged with a printer in their office which only seems to jam any time he uses it.

This frustration is taken to the point that the three friends steal the printer, and DRAG IT INTO A FIELD TO SMASH WITH A BAT.

While this may seem like an exaggeration, it's easy to immediately relate to the situation. When we are given tools with which to do our jobs, we want and expect them to work. Equipment or software downtime is an expected evil, but consistently being unable to complete a task, which may have hindered your performance and influenced the metrics that just got you laid off?

I would've smashed the [expletive deleted] thing too.

Pardon my language.

Seriously - are these like your work conditions? Before the Bobs get brought in and you end up laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars by accident, consider process improvement. Real, company-wide efforts to improve the WAY work is done, not just the quality of work itself.

Also? Before you take on the task of ripping apart cubicle walls - just ask for that desk closer to the window.

Free White Paper: Empowering Workers & Increasing Effectiveness

Subscribe to Our Blog

Related posts