Strong opinions, weakly held

What The Office teaches us

Venkat Rao deeply examines the US and British versions of The Office and tries to distill a theory of management from them. Seriously, read the whole thing.

Update: The essay’s description of over-performing losers moving up to join the ranks of the clueless (if you read the essay this will make sense) reminds me of a story. There was a guy on our high school football team who wanted to come in first in every drill. If the coaches told us to take two laps around the track, he had to finish those two laps first. If the coaches had us pushing a sled, he’d push the sled the hardest. I won’t tell you what all the other players called him, but even at that early age, most people seemed to get that his effort was almost entirely misspent.

The guy wasn’t a great player, and the coaches didn’t give him any extra playing time because he practiced harder than he needed to. His extra investment in over-performing in unimportant drills didn’t make him a better football player. I wonder what he’s up to today?


  1. This is the most depressing thing I’ve read in a long time about corporate culture. That said, I’m glad I read it because reflecting upon my own position in the Gervais Principle (probably somewhere between “loser” and “clueless”) prompted me to think long and hard about the effort that I am “throwing in” to attempt to change my own development team’s culture at my workplace.

    The hard question is: at the end of the day, does any of this change really matter? I’d like to think that it does, but the sociopaths in charge probably don’t care, and the folks at the bottom that are doing the minimal amount of effort will probably see it as something that makes them do more work, which isn’t necessarily a good thing from their point of view. The clueless in the middle will probably love what I’m doing, because “it’s all for the best of the company, etc.”

    Bottom line for me is that I need to remember the most important thing: after I’ve done my work for the day, go home and enjoy the rest of life — the stuff that really matters.

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