That's What She Said

Michael Scott and the Popularity Contest at The Office

There is no question that Michael Scott wants all his employees at The Office to like him. He even fessed up to it in the episode where he hit Meredith with his car. Well, sort of — Michael said, “I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.”

The problem with this character trait in the workplace is that it can lead to favoritism, inequitable treatment, and in Michael’s case, just bad decision-making. Whether he’s wanting to hang out with the cool kids or stopping work altogether so the office can do any number of nonwork-related activities (the fun run, the basketball game, the Survivor games, etc.), Michael is always getting into trouble because of his need to be liked.

None of us go that far, but certainly we all would like to be liked by others. (Well, maybe not Creed.) So, HR needs to make sure that company managers and supervisors are cognizant of this motivation and ensure that they aren’t elevating that need over workplace fairness concerns. It’s hard to treat everyone equally (like that annoying Toby, for example) or to discipline employees with whom we also have personal relationships. But it’s better to suffer the interpersonal consequences than to create an unhappy, unfair workplace, or worse, open the company up to a lawsuit by a disgruntled employee.

Hopefully, your employees will be extremely gruntled, as Michael once said, because employees are generally happy and productive if you treat them fairly.