HR Myths vs. Reality: Michael and Toby from The Office

If you're thinking about a career in human resources (HR), you may want to consider the following examples from The Office of what not to do in your career. Ever. The Office is a television show about the office environment of a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, called Dunder Mifflin. The office manager's name is Michael Scott (played by Steve Carrell). Michael bumps heads with the HR manager, Toby Flenderson (played by Paul Lieberstein). It could be said that the two have a love-hate relationship, but it's probably closer to a hate-hurt relationship. Michael is always abusing Toby in a myriad of ways. He mainly doesn't like Toby because he's in charge of enforcing company policies for employees (employees whom Michael is desperate to gain approval from). The Office is fraught with inappropriate work relationships, which makes for wonderful television and also reveals some truth about real relationships. However, most companies have clear policies about fraternizing, especially when one holds a supervisory role. The Office seriously downplays this issue, even though Michael runs into trouble for engaging in this behavior himself. The show is full of inappropriate office antics, even in Toby's absence. During an ethics training seminar held by Holly, a new HR rep, Michael tells company employees to share what types of bad behavior they have engaged in, and he gives the impression that all is forgiven and everything is okay, therefore enabling the poor behavior. At one point, Meredith admits to sleeping with a company supplier for six years in exchange for discounted goods, and Michael called it a formality. Kendall, a corporate HR rep, surprisingly let the behavior go to get the discount. None of these circumstances are impossible, but extremely unlikely, especially within a legitimate company's HR department. Michael obviously doesn't like Toby because Toby does what a real human resources representative would do: his job. He challenges Michael's insensitive and unethical behavior in the office that would ordinarily be considered harassment or worse. Season five shows Toby coming back from Costa Rica in the episode, "Frame Toby," and Michael tries to find a way to get Toby fired. Michael's obnoxious and irresponsible behavior would never be tolerated in a real office environment. But at the same time, no human resources professional would lack the backbone required to do their job the way Toby is presented in the show. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that human resources manager candidates need to have strong interpersonal skills and serve as the link between management and employees. In conclusion, don't take after Toby or Michael if you're interested in a human resources career or any office career for that matter. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons [cf]skyword_tracking_tag[/cf]

Tags: Business & Professional, Business Administration, Business Management, Human Resources, online degrees

Rob Lawson

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