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How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott

Think of the last time you caught up with friends. Maybe you talked about dating or married life and your latest TV binge, but more likely than not, you devoted a good portion of that time to venting about your job. If that’s the case, you’re not alone. In fact, 60 percent of employees report being stressed all or most of the time at work, according to a study by online course provider Udemy. 

Recent studies show employees feel underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked. Fifty-one percent of employees polled by consulting firm West Monroe said they were afraid to ask their managers for time off for the holiday season. Another 44 percent felt their company was horrible with collecting and responding to feedback.  

While bigger decisions such as salary and vacation time may fall in the hands of the higher-ups, a lot of employee unrest could be relieved by hiring a qualified manager. Look at Michael Scott, from the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company on NBC’s The Office, for instance. He may not have been the most traditional leader, but he sure cared about his employees. And his team seemed to like him, too, since they stuck around despite continued workplace chaos. While Scott’s Somehow I Manage may not be a real book, managers can glean plenty of tangible, applicable advice from the fictional TV boss. Read on for lessons learned from some of our favorite Michael Scott musings.

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott

Don’t let your employees take advantage of you

“Fool me once, strike one. But fool me twice, strike three.” — Michael Scott

Any relationship — including that of manager and employee — benefits from mutual respect. In one report, 55 percent of participants say trust between employees and senior management was very important to their job satisfaction. It makes sense. If your employees don’t trust or respect you, it’s less likely they’ll feel motivated to work hard and excel in their career. Even worse, 40 percent of employees who don’t rate their bosses highly have interviewed for a new position in the last three months.

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Foster real relationships with your employees

“The people that you work with are, when you get down to it, your very best friends.” — Michael Scott

A whopping 69 percent of managers in a survey about workplace communication admitted to being uncomfortable talking to their employees. That obviously doesn’t bode well for the retention rate of those companies. How can you encourage your employees to be their best when you’re afraid of even speaking to them? Scott had no problem talking to his employees about everything — from the hotness of Hilary Swank and email forwards to their personal dating lives. Now, we don’t advise managers to get that personal, but opening a channel of communication could be the difference between a loyal employee that stays for the long haul and a disappointingly high turnover rate. 

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Know your employees’ worth

“People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me, the choice is easy.” — Michael Scott

Scott knew the importance of making his employees feel appreciated, whether through birthday or holiday parties, special outings, or the unforgettable Dundie Awards. Corporate didn’t always approve of his spending, but he had the right idea. In one study, 79 percent of people who quit their job say lack of appreciation was a primary reason for leaving. 

Gen Z and Millennial employees, in particular, value recognition. In a survey about workplace recognition, 79 percent of participants said an increase in recognition would make them more loyal to the company. On the other hand, employees that don’t feel appreciated are much more likely to look elsewhere for work. According to employee engagement platform, TINYpulse, 21.5 percent of employees admitted they have interviewed for a new job after feeling their work wasn’t appreciated. 

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Be open to feedback

“Guess what? I have flaws.” — Michael Scott

Open communication matters at work in order for employees to know what is expected of them and for bosses to understand what their team needs to succeed. Workers are 16 percent less likely to stay at their jobs if they don’t feel comfortable sharing feedback with upper management. 

Scott always made it a priority to hear how his employees were feeling, even holding meetings in the conference room for that express purpose. Corporate recognized Scott was on to something, as his branch consistently outperformed the others. A large part of that success traced back to his loyal salespeople.

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Keep your employees in the loop

“I guess the attitude that I’ve tried to create here is that I’m a friend first, and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third.” — Michael Scott

Millennials are 22 times more likely to stay for a long time at a company with a high-trust culture, according to the 2018 Best Workplaces for Millennials report. Scott never sat on information his employees would deem important. Even as Dunder Mifflin faced potential bankruptcy and a buyout, Scott immediately shared the news. While his team may not have been happy to hear bad news, he knew the importance of transparency. 

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Show you believe in work-life balance

“Sometimes you have to take a break from being the kind of boss that’s always trying to teach people things. Sometimes you just have to be the boss of dancing.” — Michael Scott

Employees that are happy with their work-life balance are 10 percent more likely to stay at the company, according to the 2018 TINYpulse Employee Retention Report. That’s why Scott fought against late night overtime or working on a Saturday. Millennials especially want to find harmony between life at home and the office: 83 percent rank work-life balance as the most important factor in evaluating a job prospect. 

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Know that great management can lead to higher employee engagement

“They say on your deathbed you never wish you spent more time at the office — but I will.” — Michael Scott

Remember when Scott made all the salespeople pair off and pretend their sales call was a challenge on The Amazing Race? Silly, perhaps, but studies show employees who feel committed and engaged at work are less likely to leave their current company. While 54 percent of disengaged employees would be willing to leave their current job for a raise of 20 percent or less that number drops to 37 percent when employees feel engaged at work, according to Gallup research. Great management can significantly increase employee engagement. In fact, managers account for at least 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores, according to an additional Gallup poll. 

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Prioritize diversity and inclusion

“Abraham Lincoln once said that, ‘If you’re a racist, I will attack you with the North.’ And those are the principles that I carry with me in the workplace.” — Michael Scott

More and more employees have taken notice of their prospective companies’ ethics. Unfortunately, workplace statistics are pretty bleak in the areas of diversity and inclusion. In fact, a workplace dignity survey found 34 percent of employees report their companies clearly lack the desired diversity when it comes to race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, diversity of thought, and more. But by making strides in the areas of diversity, ethnicity, and inclusion, companies not only show their dedication to bettering their current team, they can also attract top talent. According to a recent survey, 70 percent of job seekers want to work for a company that demonstrates a commitment to diversity.

How to lead your team to greatness, just like Michael Scott


Keep employees around longer with great benefits

“The most sacred thing I do is care and provide for my workers, my family. I give them money. I give them food. Not directly, but through the money. I heal them.” — Michael Scott

The easiest way to reduce employee dissatisfaction and turnover? Good benefits. A 2020 employee wellbeing study found that 69 percent of respondents said having a wider array of benefits would increase loyalty to their employer. While that may sound pricey, better work perks and benefits may very well cost less than the loss of great talent. According to the Work Institute’s annual retention report, it costs a company an average of $15,000 when an employee leaves. 


If we’ve learned anything from Scott, it’s that great management matters. Making the office a more fulfilling place doesn’t have to be a painful process — and in the end, it benefits everyone. Remember what Scott said: “An office is for not dying. An office is a place to live life to the fullest, to the max… An office is a place where dreams come true.”

If you’re looking to add a little The Office nostalgia to your office, check out our Dunder Mifflin paper options.

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