The Office - lessons in community

As a pastor and one who’s done Master’s work in the area of religion and community, it’s not surprising I expend a fair bit of energy on this blog reflecting on this cultural buzz word, “community.”

I also like The Office.

And as I sat in anticipation of the premiere of the 7th season of the show, my community-radar began to sense some pretty obvious connections between The Office and community. Let me explain.

Diversity (with a dose of dysfunction) - The show has a host of characters ranging from somewhat normal (Jim and Pam?), to geeky (Dwight?), to anti-social (Creed?), to zany (Michael?), all navigating together the realm everyday work life. Through the interactions of these people, The Office portrays the complex diversity most people encounter on a daily basis in the various environments we inhabit. Sure, some of the stories are far-fetched, but seriously, who hasn’t had their version of office Olympics or had their boss burn his foot on a George Foreman grill? My point is this: diversity (often in weird quantities) is a reality we all live with. For community’s sake, accept it!

"Come on, stir the pot. Stir the melting pot, Pam!" (Michael Scott on Diversity Day)

Perseverance - considering their diversity and the regular crises the Dunder Mifflin community encounters, it may be a surprise to some that they stick together. But they do. It makes me realize that community - sticking together - takes work. How many of you actually thought Stanley would still be working at Dunder Mifflin? And despite Michael’s unintentional best efforts to ruin Stanley’s life and just about everyone else’s, their togetherness is a lesson in perseverance we should all take note of.

"I wake up every morning in a bed that’s too small, drive my daughter to a school that’s too expensive and then I go to work to a job for which I get paid too little. But on Pretzel Day? Well, I like Pretzel Day…" (Stanley Hudson on Pretzel Day)

Fun - From office pranks - my favorite is still the jello stapler - to office games, to holiday parties, to more pranks, the folks at Dunder Mifflin know how to have fun together. In fact, from what little we know of the characters’ personal lives, sometimes you wonder if they have more fun at work than anywhere else. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend the day at the beach with your boss in a sumo suit? Or take part in a “Run for Rabies” in honor of a coworker? I do, however, think they are onto something. Success doesn’t have to eliminate fun. Effective community should be fun. And in a day and age where relationships supposedly matter, including in the business world, we could take a page of out the Michael Scott leadership manual on this one (but definitely not everything!).

"Hey! Who put my stapler in jello again?" (Dwight Schrute)

I’m sure there are many more lessons we can learn, but for now I encourage all to participate in better community by persevering with the diversity of people we encounter. And don't forget to have some fun along the way. Cause hey, if the employees of Dunder Mifflin can function in community, anyone can!

For those new to this blog, you may enjoy these “Adventures with Dwight” from a few years back. He currently resides on my office desk.


Post a Comment