St. Petersburg, Fla. — March 30
The managerial ineptitude that reaches epic proportions each week on NBC’s hit comedy “The Office” might be closer to reality than some think, according to researchers.
And although the faux documentary is social satire at its best, thousands of comments posted on NBC message boards dedicated to the show attest that viewers frequently recognize features of their own workplaces and co-workers in the blunderings of the fictional office staff.
“Although the situations on the show are obviously extreme, ‘The Office’ does a great job of highlighting things that can and often do go wrong in the course of a typical workday. The characters and plot lines are parodies of worst-case scenarios, but still, viewers may feel they have more than a grain of truth to them,” said Jay Jamrog, senior vice president of research for the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp, formerly HRI), a research organization focused on workplace productivity.
This week’s “A Night at the Office” marathon of what NBC calls “human resource nightmare” episodes of the quirky dark comedy takes aim at several real issues that companies face all too often, including sexual harassment, employee privacy and racism.
And while the show’s shtick takes lampooning of lackluster leadership, poor communication and bad behavior on the job to extreme levels, there’s often a cringe factor too, one that touches nerves and resonates with viewers.
Issues highlighted in Thursday’s marathon — leadership, health care and sexual harassment — are highly significant to business, Jamrog said.
Among the findings of i4cp research:
- A major-issues survey i4cp conducted found that of the 120 issues ranked by North American companies, leadership was identified as the No. 1 concern now and 10 years from now, and the issue was rated by 73 percent of those respondents as “extremely important.”
- Many U.S. workers (43 percent) are willing to go without a pay raise to maintain their current level of health insurance benefits.
- The reported number of sexually related offensive comments uttered in the workplace increased for the third consecutive year in 2005.
- Whatever the cause of the conflicts that arise between workers and employers, they tend to exact a high toll. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission litigation reaped more than $160 million in monetary benefits for workers in fiscal year 2004, a record high.
- Almost one-fifth of U.S. employees (16 percent) say they have been discriminated against on the basis of their appearance, and 33 percent say their employers are more likely to hire and promote physically attractive people.
- As many as 8.1 percent of full-time workers between the ages of 18 and 49 report they are heavy alcohol users, and 7.8 percent report they use illicit drugs.
- The pitched battle over gay marriage taking place in the U.S. is finding its way into the workplace. Some workers think that, by implementing a diversity policy, the company is trying to make them change their beliefs.