Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Do Michael Scott, Scranton, Dunder Mifflin, and The Office Have to Do With Domestic Violence?

Well, really nothing in one way.

But I was in Scranton last week presenting for the Women's Resource Center's 30th Anniversary Celebration Summit for Northeast Pennsylvania Employers. I was excited -- because I always love to talk with employers about how they can address domestic violence as a workplace issue.

And I have a confession to make -- I was REALLY excited because I also happen to love the show "The Office" which takes place at Dunder Mifflin, a paper company in Scranton, PA. (OK -- before you decide I am out of it, I know Dunder Mifflin is not a real company.)

One of the reasons I love "The Office" is that Michael Scott, the boss, is such a bumbling, politically incorrect HR nightmare. If there is a way to bring on an employee lawsuit by something Michael could say or do, he will figure out a way to do it. But at the end of the day, he always ends up doing something warm and humanizing -- so I am touched and somehow I believe he really is human and that he really does mean well. (And then by the credits he has done something amazingly awful -- and funny-- again.)

One episode that sticks out in my mind is when Pam tells her former fiance, Roy that she kissed Jim (a co-worker). Roy goes to the office to punch Jim, but he is felled by Dwight (another co-worker) wielding a bottle of pepper spray. We do not recommend this sort of action at CAEPV, but it worked out on the show. And Dunder Mifflin did fire Roy.

But it got me to thinking -- what if Pam had come to Michael and told him that Roy was being abusive in their relationship? What would that episode have looked like? How bumbling would Michael have been? What inappropriate things would he say to Pam? Would he blab to the office? Would he get in Roy's face? Would he ask one of the "girls" in the office to talk to her? Would he have a discussion with Toby the HR guy? Or would he ignore it because it was a "private matter" between two people who are dating even though they both work for him?

I came to this conclusion -- I think in this kind of situation (domestic violence) a lot of us managers are "Michael Scott." We are bumbling, we don't know what to say, we may say the wrong thing altogether, we may ignore it and wish it would go away. That is because we are not sure what to do.

Fortunately there are great resources like http://www.caepv.org/ to help so we don't have to be Michael -- we can be better. And in real life, that is what we really want to do.

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