How to be the World's Worst Boss
(Business 2.0) – Never heard of The Office, the hilarious workplace comedy on BBC America? If you're an aspiring corporate titan, start watching now. Don't have cable? Luckily for you, the second (and final) season of The Office just came out on DVD.
Filmed in a mockumentary style, the show revolves around David Brent, the regional manager of a paper company who thinks that leadership is about being liked--a fatal flaw that makes his character painfully entertaining (and instructive).
Brent is played by British comedian Ricky Gervais, who helped conceive, direct, and produce the show--making him the boss in reality as well as on camera. Business 2.0 asked Gervais to share some of the management insights that make The Office required viewing for anyone who wants to avoid stumbling on the way up the corporate ladder. -- DAMON DARLIN
Is your show a good representation of office life?
I'd like to think so. I'd like to think it was based in truth, so that at the very least, it all seems possible. We didn't do fantastic plots. No one's long-lost brother turns up; there are no bombs and no buried treasure. It's all normal, mundane stuff about how people get through their life. It's about the arbitrary nature of being thrown together with 50 people who have just one thing in common: They all work on the same piece of carpet every day.
What kind of boss were you?
I don't know, really. It's difficult to say. I think I was quite nice.
Were you like David Brent?
No, I hope not. Well, I was, in a sense, because I was annoying. I muck around and I annoy the other actors, and I ad-lib to put them off. But I don't think I was like Brent. I didn't take things quite so seriously. I hope I didn't spout pretentious philosophy too often.
What makes Brent such a horrible manager?
He's not a bad bloke. He's just confused popularity with respect. And they're not related. He wants everyone to say, "You are the best boss and my best mate." But he's just hoping it's true. Life's not going the way he hoped. If he would just sit down and say, "You know, I'm fed up," people would like him more. But he can't admit things are going badly.
OK, then, if playing practical jokes on subordinates and lying to headquarters won't make me a brilliant leader, what will?
I've thought about that a lot, and I think it's fairness. Brent spouts off about being "task orientated" or a "people person," but he doesn't really know what those ideas mean. If you're fair, people might not like you. But they can't hold anything against you.
Does it help to be a good entertainer?
An entertainer? That's optional.