One of my favorite shows that provides constant comedy and witty humor is The Office. The plot is framed around paper company Dunder Mifflin and its particular branch in Scranton Pennsylvania. The show captures the everyday lives of the employees at the branch while each episode has a particular focus on a specific dilemma, relationship, or event. Many of the topics or issues that arise on the show can be seen as broader ethical issues that apply to our business world today.
One particular episode that brings up ethical issues we have discussed so far in class is “Product Recall.” The episode starts with a crisis for the Stanford branch as many orders of paper are delivered to their customers with an obscene watermark. The watermark shows a beloved cartoon duck and mouse engaging in inappropriate activity. As soon as the company discovers the issue they go in to crisis management mode. Michael, the boss of the branch, tries to apologize, while the employees are taught how to handle upset customers. While the first actions of the branch are to apologize and go into damage control, the customers anger and reactions quickly change Dunder Mifflin’s approach. Michael tries to pay off the one angered customer and then threatens to call the “Ungrateful Biotch Hotline” when she refuses to accept his apology. Michael then makes an “apology video” claiming he is not to blame and he is an “escape goat.” Creed, the employee who was responsible for catching any errors like the watermark fiasco, works to frame another worker at the paper mill. The workers look to put the blame on someone else and avoid being charged with the fault.
This “blame game” or lack of responsibility, is an ethical issue we have see throughout the course so far. Who is to blame for Enron’s demise, or FoxConn’s work environment, or the financial crisis? There may not be one clear factor, but if you ask any of the key players who is responsible, they will be sure to tell you it wasn’t them. It seems that when errors occur, companies and executives are so quick to blame someone else. It might be the whole financial system, the auditors, the investors, the mortgage lenders or borrowers. One thing is for sure, it wasn’t me.
Check out some of the best moments of the Office’s Michael Scott!