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3 Lessons Michael Scott Can Teach Us About Management

When the Dunder Miflin CFO, David Wallace, asked Michael Scott for the secret to his branch’s success, Michael had this to say:

“David, here it is. My philosophy is basically this. And this is something that I live by. And I always have. And I always will. Don’t, ever, for any reason, do anything, to anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what, no matter where, or who you are with, or where you are going, or where you’ve been. Ever. For any reason. Whatsoever.”

That non-sensical sentence gives very little insight into Michael’s true path to success. Although he’s untraditional, Michael certainly drove results and created a memorable work environment. Here are a few of his actual philosophies that helped make the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin truly one of a kind.

Laugh When They See You Coming, Applaud When They See You Leave

The quote: “I swore to myself that if I ever got to walk around the room as manager, people would laugh when they saw me coming, and would applaud as I walked away.”

Some Deeper Meaning: Dunder Mifflin employees certainly spent a lot of time laughing at Michael Scott.

We can only assume that the true meaning behind this quote was that he wanted to establish rapport with his employees, and inspire people with every interaction. That’s a great lesson for effective management: build strong relationships, and don’t simply tell people what to do, but leave them feeling inspired!  

Life and Business are About Human Connection

The quote: “People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me the choice is easy.”

Some Deeper Meaning: Michael Scott typically surrounds his best insights in anecdotal nonsense.

As of the writing of this article, computers still aren’t trying to murder us in lakes, so it’s really just the first half of this sentence that’s worth paying attention to. Business and management are certainly about human connections. It’s hard to sell a product or a service without a human connection, and even more difficult to inspire employees without involving emotions that are innately human.

The People You Work With Are Your Best Friends

The quote: “The people that you work with are, when you get down to it, your very best friends.”

Some Deeper Meaning: Did you know that when people work with their best friends, they’re seven times more likely to be engaged at work? It should be no surprise, then, that even though Michael seemingly spent all of his day developing the camaraderie within his office, he also ran the most productive branch of the company.

Michael Scott was never the most traditional boss, and honestly never even a good boss. But between the craziness and nonsense, there were true moments of humanity and wisdom. Here’s a bonus quote, from Michael’s one-time employee, Vikram:

“Confidence. It’s the food of the wise man, but the liquor of the fool.”

If your managers are struggling to inspire and motivate your employees, check out our new playbook to help them master this element of leading:


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