Office Sensitivity: Are you setting ground rules?

836 838 Ellen Ensher
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Vanessa Hernandez

Are you ever lonely on a Friday night with no plans? As a college student, watching The Office is one of my favorite past times. There is something about Michael Scott, the office manager, and his satirical humor that makes the show so entertaining. One of Michael’s biggest problems as the office manager is that he fails to set ground rules when he spearheads a training workshop for his employees.

I am a business management major, which means now I connect my real-life experiences to what I learn in class. In one of my binge-watching indulgences, I watched an episode where Michael was giving a training workshop to his employees on sensitivity. Michael is not the best manager and it’s evident when we see him trying to teach his employees something he thinks is valuable, which is sensitivity in the workplace. As a business management major, I can’t help but to see the mistakes he has made in training workshop and what I would have done differently.

There are two main parts of the training that I would have changed. First, Michael stated that employees can make fun of things people have control over. In the video, Michael says that Oscar, his employee, has control over being gay and that he can make fun of him. How incredible wrong is that! It is especially not okay to make fun of race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation in the workplace. Instead, I would set ground rules for the training workshop. One of the best ground rules that I have heard is the Vegas Rule, which means what happens here stays here. This is a ground rule that I have used in a training workshop for my sorority to create a safe space. Second, Michael is actively making fun of his employees throughout the training workshop on sensitivity. He says “Who let the lemonhead in the room? You are a waste of life and you should give up”. See the irony? As a manager, you should also follow the ground rules that you expect your employees to follow.

In the show, Michael is used to being the one making fun of his employees, but once the roles are reversed, he isn’t okay with the treatment he has received. It’s not okay to put your sensitivity above everyone else’s in the office. If you were Michael, what is something you would do to make the workplace a safe and accepting environment?