Last night marked a milestone in American sitcom history: the beginning of the end for Steve Carell on the NBC comedy “The Office”. Even if you happen to like the British version of this comedy more than its longer-running American counterpart, you have to admit that Carell has carved out his acting niche in the role of Michael Scott, the bumbling boss of a regional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The Michael Scott character is often seen as incompetent by those above him on the corporate ladder (such as Jan Levinson-Gould and CFO David Wallace.) Of course, both of those seemingly more competent people were eventually fired from the company, while bumbling Michael Scott got to stick around for seven seasons.

The second part of “Goodbye, Michael”, which will be Steve Carell’s last episode of “The Office”, is set to air on April 28th, 2011. As Steve Carell’s final season on “The Office” begins to wind down, we’re compelled to take a look back at the last seven seasons of the show, and answer one burning question. Since Lifehack is all about helping people to boost their productivity, we just have to ask: How productive was Michael Scott, anyway?

Real-Life Michael Scotts

According to an article from U.S. News & World Report, Michael Scott’s wacky antics are actually firmly grounded in reality.

“Ninety percent of the population deals with a Michael Scott in their lives,” says Aine Donovan, a professor of business ethics at Dartmouth’s Tuck business school.

The article goes on to add that Kelly Leonard, a New York City publishing executive, recalls early in her career working for a “female Michael Scott type” who, among other things, would invite staffers into her office to watch Lifetime movies on TV. “Other departments thought we were hapless idiots who lucked into our good work results,” she says. “Just like the gang in Scranton.”

Michael’s Unproductive Behavior

There is no question that Michael Scott is not an ideal employee. He’s got a serious YouTube addiction, as seen in episodes like “Business Ethics” where he reveals that he didn’t work at all during the first 5 days after he discovered the free video site. As he says, “I viewed ‘Cookie Monster sings Chocolate Rain’ about 1,000 times.” And because this is Michael we’re talking about, it’s likely he’s speaking literally there.

In another episode, Jim Halpert makes a pie chart of how Michael spends his time: 80% “distracting others,” 19% “procrastination,” and 1% “critical thinking”, adding that he inflated the “critical thinking” percentage so people could actually see it on the graph.

And let’s not forget Michael’s penchant for indulging in personal interests as a priority over work, a habit that leads to frequent parties and off-topic seminars in the conference room, usually headed up by alter egos like “Michael Klump” or “Prison Mike”.

Most damaging of all to his productivity, however, is his constant procrastination. Consider the episode “Initiation”, where Michael’s boss asks Pam to keep a detailed log of how Michael spends every hour that he is at work. Michael then proceeds to spend the day standing in line waiting for a free pretzel. As he explains, “Productivity is important but how can I be productive if I have this one little thing in my brain? That I cannot get out. And that one little thing is a soft pretzel. So I’m just going to have my soft pretzel, then I’ll get to work, and I’ll be super productive.”

He then eats a giant pretzel covered in cotton candy, chocolate, caramel, and a dozen other types of sugary treats, goes on a rant about productivity during his sugar high, and then crashes spectacularly.

Examples of Productive Behavior

But it turns out that even though he spent most of the day dealing with pretzel-related activities, at the end of the day he nails an impressive sale, and Pam is stunned. Michael Scott is a prime example of a manager working smarter, not harder. He nailed a big new account for the company, doing a single day’s work in less than an hour.

And this is a trend we see again, in episodes like “The Client” where Michael woos a new client with a single, well-timed sentence over dinner at a Chili’s, and in the episode “The Duel” where Corporate reveals that the Scranton branch is the best-performing company branch. Ultimately, Michael is asked to visit each Dunder-Mifflin branch to share his secrets for productivity and business success. By working in a method that maximizes his personal productivity, he “works” very few hours per day, but still manages to get ahead in business.

Conclusion

Andrew Alexander, CEO and executive producer of The Second City comedy troupe adds that Michael also spurs his employees to be very productive…by being insufferable. “This causes his staff to be highly productive, since they would much rather work than have another potentially awkward exchange with him.”

“He takes ownership of his flock,” adds Noah Rowles, CEO of Los Angeles software company Iolo Technologies. “The lesson learned is that people would much rather follow someone who is passionate and dedicated than someone who may be perfect on paper but otherwise uncommitted to achieving success as a group.”

What do you think of Michael Scott’s productivity? Is he someone you’d want to work with? Tell us in the comments below!

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