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Corporate Crisis Management Lessons from Dunder Mifflin Scranton

Published on April 15, 2019, at 4:20 p.m.
by Hudson Nuckolls.

NBC’s “The Office” ended in 2013 as one of the best shows of the 2000s, according to COMPLEX . The show’s loyal fans made it the top show watched on Netflix in 2018 — more than 7 percent of all views on the streaming platform in 2018 were of “The Office,” according to Recode. To this day, it remains somewhat of a cultural phenomenon.

According to its description on Netflix, the show “chronicles the foibles of disgruntled office workers — led by deluded boss Michael Scott — at the Dunder Mifflin paper company.” In episode 20 of season three, the company sends out paper that a vengeful paper mill employee defaced with a crude watermark. A public relations crisis unfolds, and we observe how Michael Scott, the regional manager of the Scranton branch, reacts. Here are three corporate crisis management lessons from the episode:

Image via Netflix

Act quickly.
Michael brings the entire office into the conference room by calling out, “Everybody in here, stat. No time to lose. Cri-man-squa, f and c, double time.” Of course, nobody understands the abbreviations he’s using, so he has to translate — “crisis management squad, front and center, twice as fast as you would normally go.” Pam, the receptionist, quickly points out that it actually took more time to explain than if he hadn’t abbreviated any words at all.

Michael has the right idea, though. When a crisis comes, one of the most important things to do is to act quickly. Of course, you don’t want to go so fast as to carelessly mishandle the situation even more, but being efficient with your time during a crisis can pay off.


Image via Youtube

Michael starts by having everyone in the office answer phone calls from angry clients. He also invites a customer in to apologize, and even films an official apology video with his office background set mirroring a presidential address.

If something is actually your fault, it is very important to apologize on a personal level. You must be willing to take those angry calls and respond gracefully with the words “I’m sorry” verbatim in your response.

Stand your ground.
Inviting a customer to apologize in-person doesn’t go as Michael plans when she doesn’t accept his apology (or his large novelty check with a worthless coupon on it). She also calls for his resignation. He angrily refuses and asks her to leave. He addresses her demand in his apology video by claiming “it will take a SWAT team” to remove him from the office — and maybe not even then. Dwight, a salesman and assistant to Michael, immediately corrects his statement off camera, explaining that he wouldn’t stand a chance against a SWAT team.

While the quality of this apology video is low, the substance contains a great lesson. During a crisis, many people will overreact and make outlandish demands of a company. You can’t please everyone, so you have to make decisions in a crisis based on data. Even though you are vulnerable, you must keep a strong foundation by not making rash decisions.

Michael Scott’s methods are not always conventional, and most of the time, they are just stupid, but there are still some great lessons to be learned from the way he navigates a crisis in this episode of “The Office.”

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