This Week’s Marathon Of “HR Nightmare” Episodes Of The Office Aren’t That Far-Fetched, Experts Say

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (March 28, 2007) – The managerial ineptitude that reaches epic proportions each week on NBC’s hit comedy The Office may be closer to reality than some think, according to researchers. And although the faux documentary is social satire at its best, thousands of comments posted on NBC message boards dedicated to the show attest that viewers frequently recognize features of their own workplaces and co-workers in the blunderings of the fictional office staff.

“Although the situations on the show are obviously extreme, The Office does a great job of highlighting things that can and often do go wrong in the course of a typical workday. The characters and plot lines are parodies of worst-case scenarios, but still, viewers may feel they have more than a grain of truth to them,” said Jay Jamrog, Senior Vice President of Research for the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp, formerly HRI), a leading research organization focused on workplace productivity.

This week’s "A Night at the Office" marathon of what NBC calls “human resource nightmare” episodes of the quirky dark comedy takes aim at several real issues that companies face all too often, such as sexual harassment, employee privacy and racism. And while the show’s shtick takes lampooning of lackluster leadership, poor communication and bad behavior on the job to extreme levels, there’s often a cringe factor too, one that touches nerves and resonates with viewers.

Issues highlighted in Thursday’s marathon – leadership, health care, and sexual harassment – are highly significant to business, Jamrog says. Among the findings of i4cp research:

· A major issues survey conducted by i4cp found that of the 120 issues ranked by North American companies, leadership was identified as the number-one concern now and 10 years from now, and the issue was rated by 73% of those respondents as “extremely important.”

  • Many U.S. workers (43%) are willing to go without a pay raise in order to maintain their current level of health insurance benefits.
  • The reported number of sexually related offensive comments uttered in the workplace increased for the third consecutive year in 2005.
  • Whatever the cause of the conflicts that arise between workers and employers, they tend to exact a high toll. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission litigation reaped more than $160 million in monetary benefits for workers in fiscal year 2004, an all-time high.
  • Almost one-fifth of U.S. employees (16%) say they have been discriminated against on the basis of their appearance, and 33% say that their employers are more likely to hire and promote physically attractive people.
  • As many as 8.1% of full-time workers between the ages of 18 and 49 report that they are heavy alcohol users, and 7.8% report that they use illicit drugs.
  • The pitched battle over gay marriage taking place in the U.S. is finding its way into the workplace. Some workers think that, by implementing a diversity policy, the company is trying to make them change their beliefs.

The action on The Office is from the perspective of a documentary film crew. Characters frequently pause for interviews and address the camera to discuss what’s happening in the Scranton, PA-based branch of the struggling fictional Dunder Mifflin paper company. The “mockumentary” offers up a weekly minefield of management issues ranging from office romance (including a female executive sleeping with a male subordinate), homophobia, and religious discrimination. Most of the characters are send-ups of archetypal problem employees, including a substance abuser, a compulsive thief, a relentless sycophant, a religious zealot, a narcissist and a few slackers who specialize in underperforming.

The marathon of encore episodes with newly added scenes from this season airs Thursday, March 29 (8:00-9:30 p.m. and 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET) and is hosted by co-executive producer/writer/actor Paul Lieberstein, who plays Toby, the beleaguered branch HR representative. The five episodes include “Diversity Day” (8:00-8:30 p.m. ET), “Healthcare” (8:30-9:00 p.m. ET), “Sexual Harassment” (9:00-9:30 p.m. ET), “The Injury” (10:00-10:30 p.m. ET) and “Gay Witch Hunt” (10:30-11:00 p.m. ET).

About i4cp, inc.

Building on the 35-year history of its predecessor (the Human Resource Institute), the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp, inc.) improves corporate productivity through a combination of research, community, tools and technology focused on the management of human capital. With more than 100 leading organizations as members, including many of the best-known companies in the world, i4cp draws upon one of the industry’s largest and most experienced research teams and executives-in-residence to produce more than 10,000 pages annually of rapid, reliable and respected research and analysis surrounding all facets of the management of people in organizations. Additionally, i4cp identifies and analyzes the upcoming major issues and future trends that are expected to influence workforce productivity and provides member clients with tools and technology to execute leading-edge strategies and “next practices” on these issues and trends. i4cp is a for-profit company with offices in St. Petersburg, FL.

For more information about i4cp research or corporate membership, please contact Greg Pernula at (727) 345-2226.