Give ‘Em The Old Razzle Dazzle

September 03, 2010 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Training on Diversity and Harassment = $5,000; Settlement of Countless Employee Claims = a Shocking Amount; Years Worth of “That’s What She Said” Jokes = Priceless.

With Michael’s final season quickly approaching, last night’s repeat got Michael Scottme thinking about all my favorite Michael moments over the seasons. While Michael can be a human resources nightmare, he certainly has made us laugh (when we weren’t cringing).  Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite examples of Michael’s “dash of razzle dazzle” management style. Who knows? Maybe TBS will even include a few of them during its Labor Day marathon of The Office.
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Spotting Your Michaels (and Dwights)

June 12, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 2 COMMENTS

After watching last night’s repeat of The Office, I decided that some of my clients’ stories this week were more titillating. That’s what she said. (Couldn’t resist.)

The theme of calls that I got this week almost made me feel like I was on the show. I looked for cameras (and Ashton and Howie) more than a few times. It started bright and early Monday morning. At my client’s business office, a supervisor started teasing his subordinate about her weight. He told her that the economy had not gotten in the way of her eating, that there were kids in whole counties that go without that she could feed if she skipped a meal, etc. Michael, is that you?

Tuesday and Wednesday were even better (of course, just from a “I can’t believe this train wreck is happening” perspective). A different client’s regional manager (yes, regional manager) called a lunch meeting to boost morale. He noted that purpose in his email. At the lunch, he began making fun of people. He poked fun at their physical appearances, their ethnicities, and their poor work ethic. He wasn’t random about it; the folks he was joking about were being laid off — that week. Better: His boss was at the lunch. And, he laughed and laughed. Michael? David (but without judgment)?

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Back to Business

April 30, 2009 - by: Dominic Verstegen 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0

Since Troy is away on business, I’m guest-blogging again. And what a week to do so –- there’s a lot to talk about from the “Casual Friday” episode.

Although many HR folks can appreciate HR director Toby Flenderson’s dilemma dealing with employees taking casual Friday too far, there wasn’t a lot in terms of litigation value with everything that was happening. Arguably, Meredith Palmer flashing everyone for what seemed like an eternity could lead to a hostile work environment claim. But Toby did step in and rectify the situation pretty quickly, which would help prevent a claim. He also dealt with Angela Martin’s complaint about Oscar Martinez pretty well –- if you don’t like Oscar’s sandals, don’t look at his feet.

Actually, Angela’s comment about Oscar looking like he just got off the boat could have been a pretty good start to a hostile work environment claim, but she didn’t say that in front of Oscar, so even that wouldn’t end up costing Dunder Mifflin anything.

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Reductions In Farce

February 19, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

Employment law attorney Troy Foster examines “The Baby Shower”  episode of The Office and determines that while Dunder Mifflin might not be liable for sex discrimination, it probably needs to take  a look at the Scranton crew’s work habits.

Litigation Value: Still currently $0.

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‘Beeting’ Back Financial Crisis

September 19, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

Wall Street is taking a beating. Still. AIG’s collapse is just the latest in a series of events that is increasingly having an effect on our lives and the companies we work for.

Dunder Mifflin has encountered its share of financial problems including layoffs and even a branch closing. As you recall, the gang in Scranton didn’t handle the possible branch closing with much class or composure. Meredith propositioned Michael, Dwight and Michael drove up to the CFO’s house to protest, and Creed sold his work computer.

Hopefully the company you work for doesn’t have a reduction in force or any significant financial trouble, but if it does, you would all be well served to keep your head about you and handle the situation with thought and consideration. Keep everyone informed, as much as possible; ensure that any decisions made about cutbacks are properly made and lawful; and help alleviate the tension around the office. Maybe suggest a trip to a beet farm, or maybe just bring in beets for everyone to share and enjoy. You know, beets are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and manganese.

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Categories: Dwight Schrute / Layoffs

Branch Closing Revisited

June 22, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

“Branch Closing” exemplifies how there is a right way to notify employees that they are losing their jobs and a wrong way.  And, in case you were wondering,  wandering around the office muttering “do your work – while you still can” and “we’ll all be gone soon anyway” is definitely the wrong way.  That being said, it probably won’t cost Dunder Mifflin a whole lot of money.  While employers can be sued for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress based on the manner in which they terminate an employee, these cases are very hard to win.  Generally, employees must show that the employer’s conduct was so atrocious as to be utterly intolerable to the civilized community.  So, what kind of things meet this standard? In one case, the court said that illegally wiretapping an employee’s home telephone line and then using the taped conversations to threaten an employee’s job might be enough.  So was planting company checks on a employee to give the appearance that he was stealing the company’s money.  Well, at least Michael hasn’t done that…..   Yet.

Categories: Layoffs / Real-Life Cases

Some further thoughts from “Branch Closing”

March 02, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 1 COMMENTS

There is a right way to announce a reduction in force to employees. Going around the office muttering phrases such as “do your work while you still can” or “it doesn’t matter, we’ll be gone in a few weeks anyway” under your breath isn’t it. In the real world, a company planning a RIF should communicate the bad news in a planned, organized, and preferably, written communication. The announcement should explain what is going to happen, when it will happen, who it will impact, and why it is necessary.

And for the love of God, please don’t tell your 40-plus-year-old manager that the company is centering the restructuring around his much younger counterpart who is believed to have more “talent” (okay, I don’t know whether Michael is, in fact, over 40 but, according to Wikipedia, Steve Carell is). RIFs are rife with age discrimination claims – class action or otherwise. Failure to control the office rumor mill will only add fuel to that fire. In the absence of effective communication from the company, employees tend to fill in the gaps themselves. By the time those “gap fillers” pass through the office, the company’s initial message has been wholly distorted, if not lost entirely. Unfortunately, the “gap fillers” also tend to show up in litigation where (over my strenuous objection) the employee calls them “evidence.”

Categories: Layoffs / Michael Scott

Branch Closing

March 02, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $150,000 in defense costs — unless (and that is a big unless) the WARN Act applies.

Call me crazy, but announcing “we’re screwed” is not the best way to tell employees that the Company is closing down its branch. Not only does it create turmoil among the employees, but it comes nowhere close to meeting the requirements of the WARN Act. And as we all know, turmoil breeds litigation. Under WARN, certain employers must provide notice to employees when a facility or “operating unit” is shut down. I can’t tell from this episode whether or not Dunder Mifflin would have been subject to WARN, but if it was, I feel confident in saying that “we’re screwed” is not going to constitute proper notice.

Categories: Layoffs

Branch Closing

November 09, 2006 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $150,000 in defense costs — unless (and that is a big unless) the WARN Act applies.

Call me crazy, but announcing “we’re screwed” is not the best way to tell employees that the company is closing down its branch. Not only does it create turmoil among the employees, but it comes nowhere close to meeting the requirements of the WARN Act. And as we all know, turmoil breeds litigation. Under WARN, certain employers must provide notice to employees when a facility or “operating unit” is shut down. I can’t tell from this episode whether or not Dunder Mifflin would have been subject to WARN, but if it was, I feel confident in saying that “we’re screwed” is not going to constitute proper notice.

Categories: Layoffs