All’s Fair in Love and War

November 18, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Dunder Mifflin seems to have escaped the week without major liability. But that doesn’t mean that everyone behaved.

Another week, and Andy is still looking for ways to motivate and inspire his team. You’ve got to hand it to him: his analogy of business as war is, at least, more logical than most of the stuff Michael used to come up with. In an effort to bring the office together and get them motivated to attack their competition with renewed vigor, Andy organizes a trip to Gettysburg, complete with pink hats that read, suggestively, “DM does GB.” (This might have been more obviously obnoxious to someone who doesn’t work in D.C. I’m a bit desensitized to tour groups with bright matching apparel.) About half of the office decides to accompany Andy on his meticulously researched battlefield tour… but, as usual, there’s plenty of strife to go around.

Dwight accuses the Gettysburg staff of covering up information about the northernmost battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Schrute Farms. As he regales Erin with stories of his interpretation of Civil War history, Oscar admonishes Dwight not to fill “the poor girl’s head” with nonsense because “she doesn’t know any better.” Fortunately, Erin missed the snarky comment – but I didn’t. This isn’t the first time that Oscar has behaved in a condescending manner toward his coworkers. In an earlier episode, Jim mentioned that Oscar is known around the office as “Actually,” due to his penchant for correcting people. Oscar, a little friendly advice: sure, there’s no law against being a know-it-all, but you might want to consider playing a little bit nicer with your co-workers. For instance, what if you ever wanted to jump ship and find a new job? Plenty of employers will reject an otherwise qualified applicant because they don’t think that the applicant’s personality would mesh with the office, or they believe the applicant would be unpleasant to have around all day. And that’s not unlawful. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Oscar.

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No Doom, No Gloom

November 04, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Sabre had better continue socking money away for a settlement with several female employees for their sexual harassment claims against Gabe. First poor Erin, and now “Warehouse Val” has to put up with Gabe’s creepy courtship. Robert may want to ship Gabe back to Tampa before he does any real damage. And Andy’s dance moves aren’t helping matters.

Well, I’ll start with the cold open and just give myself a little pat on the back for predicting that Andy’s management style would be musical. Deciding that the office needed an end-of-the-day ritual, Andy instituted a new policy of singing “Closing Time” with his coworkers each day. Problem is, they don’t know the words, or just don’t care to sing along. Andy’s attempts to get people in the singing spirit with inappropriate dance moves . . . cringe-worthy, to say the least. Andy, I’ll be your lawyer here. If you’re going to try to turn your subordinates into a singing group, please don’t incorporate a towel into your dance routine. Thanks.

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Green Thumb, Brown Nose

October 17, 2011 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

“The Garden Party” episode was light on employment litigation but heavy on workplace psychology. Poor Gabe. His capacity for humiliation knows no limits. I wasn’t sure he could sink lower than his public dumping at the hands of Erin last season, but then we witnessed his repeated sycophantic toasts of Robert California. Sad, right?

Maybe not. Before we feel pity for Gabe, what if he’s on to something? Does brown-nosing in the workplace work? Some research suggests that, yes, it does. A 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology concluded that “ingratiation” (read: sucking up) by job interview candidates had a positive impact on the interviewer’s perceived fit, while self-promotion had a nonsignificant impact.

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Southern Exposure

September 30, 2011 - by: Joshua Drexler 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: The exposure promises to be vast when California finally takes the plunge.

Who is this Robert California? What are his credentials? When did he arrive in Scranton? Where did he come from? How long until he does something highly illegal?

Clearly, a lot of mystery surrounds Mr. California. Whatever his secret may be, he is inspiring the members of the Scranton branch to rise to new and greater levels of productivity, camaraderie, and ultimately and most importantly, sheer lunacy. For example, Andy has taken to motivating the team by offering up his buttocks as a personal billboard. Lucky for him, his subordinates were merciful and chose not go with their initial choice for Andy’s tattoo – the image of a baby crawling out his derrière.

And it is not only grand acts of lunacy that Mr. California is inspiring. There’s an uncomfortable buzz around him that affects everyone in his path. Erin kisses him on the cheek after handing him a cup of coffee. Andy calls him dad. Kevin is prone to shouting and angry confrontations.

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Andy for the Win!

September 23, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: More fodder for everybody’s negligent retention suit as Dwight shows more predilections toward violence in the workplace, but otherwise, not much litigation expected from this episode – just a host of employee morale issues. I’m sure Robert California will be harassing someone before long, though.

Well, friends, the wait is finally over – last night we met the new Sabre Scranton branch manager! The selection committee chose Robert California, played by James Spader… but after one look at the office he drove straight to Florida and talked Jo into giving him her CEO job instead. That’s one persuasive guy. I guess I can see why the selection committee liked him… well, maybe liked is too strong a word. I can see why they were intrigued. California then chose an internal candidate to fill the manager’s seat – none other than that singing phenom, Andy Bernard!

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Drum Roll, Please

September 15, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

To prepare us for next week’s season premiere of The Office, NBC concludes the summer rerun schedule with a replay of last season’s finale. The intrigue and chicanery surrounding the search committee’s efforts have been well documented in prior posts dating back to the spring. And, my fellow bloggers and I have thoroughly vetted both the internal candidates to succeed Michael Scott (including Kelly Kapoor, Dwight Schrute, Darryl Philbin and Andy Bernard) and the outsiders who were interviewed (such as David Brent, Fred Henry and Robert California). Now, with changes to the show’s cast well known, it’s all over but the shouting. (Somebody give me a “BOBODDY!”)

The ascendancy of a new regional manager in Scranton will almost certainly change the workplace “vibe” at Dunder Mifflin. Compared to the ostentatious style of Steve Carell‘s beloved character, James Spader‘s alter ego will likely seem brusque. But, so long as Robert California treats everyone with the same degree of condescension, the risk of employment litigation should be no greater than it was before. Then again, if Pennsylvania were to become one of the growing number of states to propose laws against workplace bullying, we could soon see the case of Kevin Malone, et al. v. Sabre filed in the Common Pleas Court. We’ll have to watch the upcoming episodes before trying to quantify that potential liability.

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At Work, Play Nice

September 01, 2011 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

In last season’s finale there was the following brief, fiery exchange between Kelly and Gabe. She was interviewing for branch manager, and he was doing a poor job of pretending to take her seriously.

Gabe: “What are your weaknesses?”
Kelly: “I don’t have any, asshole!”

This raises the question: Is civility in the workplace important? One prominent study says absolutely. In 2003 researchers from the University of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins published The Baltimore Workplace Civility Study. The researchers surveyed a random sampling of Baltimore employees in a variety of industries and workplaces. A whopping 83% of respondents indicated that it was “very important” to work in a civil environment. Only 3% believed it was not important.

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Categories: Management

Boldest Applicant is the Best Applicant . . . Sometimes

July 14, 2011 - by: Joshua Drexler 0 COMMENTS

I find it hard to believe that my fellow bloggers have overlooked the most obvious choice for Michael Scott’s replacement: Fred Henry, played by Will Arnett. After all, who else during their interview promised to deliver a plan that would double the branch’s profits? Undoubtedly, Mr. Henry’s strategy was the boldest and most innovative of any applicant. While Dwight’s strategy of bribing the interviewing committee was certainly gutsy, it was also illegal, and therefore, he is disqualified as a viable candidate.

Mr. Henry explained that he had a three-step plan to double the Scranton branch’s profits. Wisely, when the committee asked Mr. Henry to reveal his plan, he refused, stating, “nice try.” As pointed out by Mr. Henry, had he revealed his plan so easily, he would have lost any leverage that the plan afforded him. Instead, he promised to reveal the plan upon being hired. When pressed, he gave in slightly and revealed “part three of part two” of the plan, which consisted of “Color Codes….Send Documents….T.W.” Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. OK, maybe not brilliant, but at least he’s creative and knows how to bargain. While I’m not sure I would advise my clients to hire an applicant who engages in aggressive bargaining during an interview, bargaining during an interview can be appropriate under the right circumstances.

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Categories: Hiring / HR / Management / The Office

He Creeps Me Out, But He Might Be a Genius

Litigation Value: likely to skyrocket with Robert California’s new sex-fueled approach to paper sales.

The word around The Office is that James Spader will be returning next season as Robert California, a character Paul Lieberstein (a.k.a. Toby) has described as “this uber-salesman that has a power to convince and manipulate like a high-class weirdo Jedi warrior.”  It appears he’ll be hired as the new manager only to take over the Company and become its new CEO in the blink of an eye. As a fan of Spader and his quirky role on Boston Legal, this blogger could not be more excited about this casting development.

When we last saw Robert on the season finale, he had some unusual advice for the sales team. “There is no such thing as a ‘product.’ There is only sex. Everything is sex. You understand what I’m telling you is a universal truth.” As my fellow blogger, Matt Rita, pointed out in his recent post, this certainly does not bode well for the Company’s litigation costs. I am sure Robert will give us plenty of material for this blog. To return the favor, here is my advice (or universal truths) to Robert on dealing with the gang at Dunder Mifflin Sabre.

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Give My Regards to Andy

July 01, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 5 COMMENTS

As you know, dear readers, this summer Ford & Harrison has taken on the gargantuan task of helping Sabre sift through the many eager and hopeful candidates for Michael Scott’s replacement. We’ve already discussed Dwight Schrute and Darryl Philbin, from among the internal applicants, and outside candidate Robert California. But there’s one more internal candidate, and I’d like to focus on him today. That’s right, paper fans, I’m talking about Scranton’s own a cappella wunderkind, Mr. Andrew Bernard.

At first, I was worried that Andy was going to shoot himself in the foot (or the eardrum — groan, sorry) because he seemed so set on playing it cool. Andy clearly wanted to be considered for the manager’s job, but didn’t want to come across as wanting it too badly. Unfortunately for Andy, he didn’t get much of a shot at all, since Gabe — who had come completely unhinged after Erin’s rejection — was set on derailing any chance Andy may have had. Gabe twisted Andy’s words, even turning Andy’s insightful suggestion about improving communication within the office against poor Nard-Dog. And when Jo suggested giving Andy a look, mentioning his educational credentials, Gabe immediately dismissed the idea. Personally, I’m hoping that with Gabe now back in Florida, the rest of the search committee will recognize that Andy didn’t get a fair shake in his interview, and give him another chance to show why he should run the branch.

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