Although I am not a weekly viewer of the TV show The Office, I do find myself tuning in if I am home on a Thursday night.  The ensemble cast is brilliantly eclectic and they all have interesting quirks that makes for some very entertaining television.   But it is the boss of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) who is almost painful to watch.  Every week he says things so embarrassing that I cover my own mouth.  “This is our receptionist Pam, if you think she is cute now you should have seen her a couple of years ago.”

He is so socially inappropriate that it is funny.  That’s the point actually.   His unique ability to sexually or racially stereo-type is a running gag.  In one episode Oscar says, “Both my parents were born in Mexico, and they moved to the United States a year before I was born, so I grew up in the United States… my parents were Mexican.” Wow“, says Michael, “that is a great story. That’s the American dream right there, right? Um, let me ask you, is there a term besides ‘Mexican’ that you prefer? Something less offensive?” Then when Michael attempts to assemble a basketball team, Oscar responds, “I can play, if you need any help”. Michael rebuffs him, “I will use your talents come baseball season, my friend. Or if we ever decide to box.”

The thing that makes Michael Scott so funny is that he is usually not trying to be nasty.  He is hopelessly unaware of how mean-spirited he comes across.  He is obnoxious, narrow-minded and has no social graces.  Michael actually thinks he’s a wise boss, trying to teach, motivate, and entertain his employees.  Instead, his ignorance, desire to be popular, and enthusiasm, combine to produce some outstandingly inappropriate comments!   He is a caricature,  no manager would last 5 minutes in the corporate world being so insensitive.  Michael Scott is the world’s worst boss.

The reason we laugh at him is that we all know someone who is somewhat like him.  We were once traveling abroad with a group of friends.  One of our party was trying to impress upon us the dangers of venturing out at night alone.  After explaining that there were sexual predators in the region, he said to us, and to one of our group (who might be described as a dowdy middle-age woman), “They’ll go after anything… even you Rachel!”  Ouch!  Smooth move Bonehead.  A Michael Scott moment if there ever was one.  Pop culture has now given a name to this social inappropriateness.  It is called the Michael Scott Syndrome.  Life imitates art.

I watch The Office in awe wondering how the writers can dream up so many inappropriate remarks for only one episode.  I can only think of one or two stupid things to say on TV every week.  Michael is so incredibly obnoxious primarily because he has no sense of self-awareness.  It is all rooted in his insecurity and self-centeredness.  He has no idea how people really see him because he can only see things from his point of view or vantage point.  Although taken to the extreme on The Office, Michael Scott Syndrome is far more widespread than we might think at first blush.  Our goal in interpersonal relationships needs to be twofold; to seek to understand AND to be understood.  We are better at the later.  We want others to see our point of view so we talk incessantly, usually about our favorite subject… ourselves.  No one enjoys a one sided relationship where there is no effort to seek to understand.  Instead of listening to you, when they do give you a chance to speak, they are busy thinking about what they are going to say next.  It usually sounds something like, “Oh, that’s nothing, do you know what happened to me”! Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  (Phil. 2:4)

In any relationship we need to spend at least as much time listening as we do talking.  If you are always doing the talking, you are not learning ANYTHING that you did not know before.  You are probably far more boring and tedious than you could possibly ever tolerate from another.   And you don’t even know it!  Michael Scott Syndrome is when it is all about ME.  Millions suffer from the disease and there may be no cure.

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  1. ag says:

    that’s what she said!

  2. Karen says:

    My husband and I have been having conversations about this very topic for weeks now. We are amazed how often we are frustrated by this and we thought it was just us noticing this syndrome!
    Once again a very thought provoking topic. I am going to copy that verse and put it on my fridge (all the important things go there) so that I can remind myself that “It’s not about me,”
    Thanks Mark

  3. Karen says:

    Hi Mark,
    This was very amusing. Thanks for the laugh. It made me wonder if I’m anything like Scott . . . . . . not for talking too much about myself because I truly am interested in hearing about others, but about saying things that are inappropriate, just to get a laugh. (ADHD will do that to you!)
    Anyway, just wanted you to know that I enjoyed your piece. I love the Office because it is so truly inappropriate and the characters are such characters. We are all a bit of Scott . . . . never really trying to offend but falling all over ourselves at times tripping over our tongues.

  4. Evelyn Bennett says:

    This was all about research right Pastor Mark?

    Yes this television show is all about what inappropriate behavior looks like when it comes to communicating period.

    However it is shows like this that rubs off on those that are bored and just want to get a rise out of anyone who will listen.

    You do recall the offensive material written for the Simpsons.

    The mimickers of this society think life is just a big joke.

    I love to laugh like the next person. But I am going to pull the garbage in garbage out card. Sorry Pastor Mark.

  5. Steve says:

    You forgot to mention Dwight Schrute. I know I should be listening right now but if you’re going to talk about the office then you can’t leave out Dwight. It just wouldn’t be right.
    Micheal and Dwight have helped me laugh my way out of many stressful days. Watching those two is enough to make a person pass out from laughter.

  6. Wanda says:

    This sounds like a show I will like. Great blog about listening. Here’s a short story about listening.
    My 5 year-old little girl Charly was in her room playing yesterday.
    I was lying on her bed watching her…..enjoying her time. She picked up the play phone and started talking.
    I said “Charly….who are you talking to?”
    She says “God.”
    I said “Ask him where he is…why can’t we see him?” ( I just want to see what she comes up with here.)

    So she asks him.
    So I ask her….. “What did he say?”
    She responds ” He says he’s right in front of you.”
    With my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out of my head…..I got the message.

  7. Victoria says:

    Pastor Mark strikes again with a modern twist on ministering! I enjoyed your column and think you should sign up for “Urban dictionary”- its a site that emails an urban take on the english language,directly to you.Once a day you get a new word!
    My kids got Baptised last weekend and I feel we are so much more connected to God! I hope you all have a good week and don’t forget……when you listen to others, it shows you care,and it is the foundation of building good relationships. Bonsoiree!

  8. Sally says:

    Right on Pastor Mark! Although I don’t watch much secular television so have never watched “The Office”, I definitely can relate to the relationship problem that is out there. In confirming what you say, I have come across many people who are so self absorbed that is it hard to have a decent conversation with them…. they never ask how you are or are even interested in knowing what is happening in your life….it is a constant “all about me” scenario. One way conversations never develop into anything meaningful! I am so glad we serve a God who loves to hear what I have to say and is interested in me!
    I also have to agree with Evelyn with how what you watch can affect you so it definitely is garbage in and garbage out. We have seen the results of “All in the Family” and “the Simpsons”; just two, in a long list of many, that have contributed to the dumming down of America and Canada. It is shows like these that continue to spue out filth and most crucially feed into the lack of respect that people now have for one another. Long gone are the days of “Leave it to Beaver.”
    It is good to be aware of what the media is putting out there but I would not want to make it a regular part of my day.

  9. Isaac says:

    Wanda… the story of your daughter gave me goosebumps. Wow! It really is out of the mouths of babes that God does speak!

    about the listening, I am part of Overcomers’ in Christ which is a Christ-centred 12 step group, and God has really used it to help me listen well. We do round-table sharing with multiple questions each week, and at first I was so impatient for my turn to speak, but after much repetition I have learned a lot of patience and I’m able to really listen.
    The biggest thing that happens as I listen to each person share without thinking of my own ideas of what to say, is that I start to really genuinely care about them, and I start to empathize with their struggles.
    So it stands to reason then that if we don’t listen we aren’t really caring about people and we won’t develop that empathy we so desperately need.
    God Bless!

  10. Pamela says:

    I love The Office, and i love how Mark connected it to our lives. I think everyone may have a bit of the michael scott syndrome in them. Keep up the good writing and preaching mark.

  11. Betty says:

    Since I read this Blog, about The Michael Scott Syndrome, and the awesome story, by Wanda, I have been asking myself alot, how do I listen to or respond to other people that I come in contact with?
    This brought me back to the beginning of this year, when Jesus revealed to me, what it really means to be FREE INDEED, when we have Jesus Christ living in us, before when I talked to Jesus, there was alot of times, that I would ask Jesus to do things for me, now I understand it better, that HE HAS already done everything for me, now it is more, listening to Jesus, what He has to say to me and PRAISING HIM, for what He has already done for us.

  12. Merle says:

    Hey Mark! Thanks for making me laugh, I often think that a sense of humor is one of the best things God has built into us. I often see him in my minds eye laughing along with me at some of the things I say. I recall once when my ex wife was getting business cards done, and she had a picture on it. When the finished product came in she told me it wasn’t the picture she had chosen, that the manufacturer had picked it. I knew she wasn’t happy about it at all, she said that it had way too much makeup and was overdone. When I saw it I said that it looked so bad that it made her look old, like in her 40’s! (No offense intended to those who are in their 40’s, but she had just turned 30.) Of course I was only trying to give my support in the situation and I didn’t mean to offend her, but I heard about that one for quite awhile. No major damage was done, we could laugh at it eventually. I think that it caused me to examine how I communicate. Even though most people like to talk about ourselves, we aren’t even good at it. I feel that people including me, have trouble really expressing and clearly communicating who we are, what we think and feel. And if we can’t talk about ourselves clearly then how can we clearly understand others. My suggestion, first become aware of how you interact with people. I think Michael Scott has no idea how people see him, and doesn’t feel he needs to work on his people skills. Second learn to laugh a little. I think if you work or live with someone who you know cares about you, and you know they aren’t a malicious person trying to hurt you. Then laugh and forgive, we all screw up. I know that when I was married, I was completely oblivious sometimes that I had hurt my wife again not maliciously or intently, but it happened. We learned to say, that what was said hurt us. To ask for clarification if that was what was meant. And to laugh at our blunders. I just heard you Pastor Mark (I’m not sure if it was live or on t.v.) Tell a joke about the God’s conversation with Adam about Eve. How Adam said that Eve was so stupid. And God said that that’s how Eve could live with Adam. Or something to that effect. Now we all know it’s not stupidity, that it’s the differences between Men and Women, but we all laughed. Whether we are Christian or Non-Christian, we are all Men and Women and with that comes it own kind of “Stupidity!” If you watch life, I think Men are often hurt way more by women then by other Men, and vice versa. Why because we are different, men are insensitive and only talk and think about one thing, and women are overemotional and think and talk about everything else but that one thing.(Or so they say.) I think that all of us need to understand ourselves better, see ourselves the way God sees us and love ourselves the way He loves us, so that we can better share ourselves with the ones we love and the world. After that we can share with people how God sees them and how He loves them and what He did to show it. God says ” I will never leave you or forsake you” So we may boldly say “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 I know that people will hurt me (intentionally or not) and I will hurt others (intentionally or not). I know I will let others down and I will be let down at times by even my closest friends, but my Lord will always be there. Amen

  13. Carmen says:

    LOL! I think my son would love this article. He likes to watch the office and actually has a bobble head of the guy with the glasses.

  14. Dear Pastor Mark,
    l watch you every Sunday at 11.30 am ,and i just love you and your good message, cant wait till 11.30 comes ,l loved your jokes and storys,last Sunday was good as all your sermons are.
    l know you look better then Orpah, and lm sure you look better then her,when you wake up in the morning ,noone sees her then,ha ha . l have an email friend that goes to your services ,a very nice girl with a family,Angela Peterson is her name, we/ve been for a few yrs, l am 81, and feel good, l was a mail driver for yrs ,but my son is replacing me as l did not retire yet,Pastor Mark l think you look good on TV,lights or no lights,ld like to tell you a good story about looks,but l will leave it till the next time, May God Bless you ,and your better half Cathi and children,l think your wonderful ,l wish l was 40 yrs younger ha ha , l love lots of humar and l laugh alot,laughing a lot and its better then medicine, then any pills,l know you laugh alot and thats why you preach so great, ,l wish the camerman would show the croud,and show Angela my friend , MAY GOD KEEP YOU WELL AND CATHY AND FAMILY, KAYE ROBINSON ,BADDECK, NOVA SCOTIA,CANADA

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