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Thursday, October 26, 2006

“The Office” Strikes a Chord

This morning I made my first NPR national appearance, with about 6 seconds of commentary (but I swear, the recorded interview was about an hour long and full of witty insights about the various sketches) on how the hit series “The Office” rings true for a lot of American workers who spend most of their waking hours in cubicles and are expected to befriend their bosses sans questioning the power their bosses maintain over them. The audio is online here. A while ago I blogged about the episode that portrays diversity training programs in corporate America and the absurdities of presenting one hour “training” sessions as solutions for deep tensions and biases. Another episode I really like is when Michael, upset that he cannot attend the women's corporate networking session, takes the men on his team downstairs to see where the “real work” is done, the packing and delivery of the sold paper. He gathers the downstairs workers and states: “I am collar-blind. White-collar; Blue-collar, we are all the same.” It backfires – those “all the same” workers ask if they all have the same pay and when the word “union” comes up, it takes the tough Jan Levinson, Michael’s corporate boss, to bust the gathering.

Posted by Orly Lobel on October 26, 2006 at 12:45 AM | Permalink


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I had a bunch of key episodes prior prior to this season saved on DVR but, sadly, I lost them due to my lack of DVR/technical skill.... If I still had them, an " 'Office' Viewing Party" wouldn't be a bad idea to include as a conference event!

Two must-see episodes for labor/employment law, I think, would be (1) last season's (Season 2) episode in which Michael plays mediator to resolve all anonymous complaints, and (2) this season's first episode, in which Michael accidentally outs a gay employee, leading to sexual orientation harassment by the judgmentally religious coworker. There's also one I vaguely remember in which Michael starts befriending the warehouse workers and accidentally sets of a unionization drive, which his boss Jan promptly puts down by threatening to fire people.

Posted by: Scott Moss | Oct 26, 2006 1:38:51 PM

Shouldn't it be strikes a "chord", or am I missing some great pun?

Posted by: c | Oct 26, 2006 12:01:51 PM

yes, Jo, the first season is out on DVD.
Perhaps all 60 of us arriving to Milwaukee for the employment/labor law conference tonight can come over to Scott's house and watch it together...just kidding Scott, i may be Israeli and definitely have some Hutzpah, but I don't normally invite myself and others over to people i barely know :)

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Oct 26, 2006 11:24:55 AM

OK, I've avoided the American version of "The Office" because I was such a fan of the British version, but I've become convinced I need to catch up on the American verision. Is the American version out on DVD yet? Are there certain "must see" episodes for labor/employment law profs? Maybe Scott and/or Orly can tell me sometime in the next couple of days in scenic Milwaukee ....

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Oct 26, 2006 11:01:52 AM

I make regular references to "The Office" in Employment Discrimination class. My favorite employment-related piece was when Michael "solved" Oscar's offense at Angela's "creepy" poster by making Oscar wear the poster so that Angela could see it but Oscar couldn't -- I just recounted that one in teaching the Wilson v. U.S. West case, the one about the woman fired for wearing the anti-abortion button at work. Part of the Wilson case was about whether any of the employer's three compromise solutions would've worked; in reality, none seemed a heck of a lot better than "Oscar wears the button."

And once I started laughing at a student asking a serious question -- not because I was laughing at his question, but because he was wearing a "Dunder Mifflin" polo shirt.

Posted by: Scott Moss | Oct 26, 2006 9:30:55 AM

I have to agree the diversity episode was hilarious. When he wants to think of a replacement for the word "Mexicans" because he thinks it is pejorative and one of his employees says, "But I am Mexican" made me laugh out loud.

Posted by: Officefan | Oct 26, 2006 7:30:28 AM

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