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Five workplace lessons learned from 'The Office'

Christopher Spata, TBO.com staff BY CHRISTOPHER SPATA
TBO.com staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

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After a nine-season run on NBC, “The Office” comes to an end Thursday when the 75-minute series finale airs at 9 p.m.

While the antics of Dunder Mifflin's employees are the stuff that HR reps' nightmares are made of, we still think there are some valuable lessons to be taken from the characters that have lived, loved and pranked. Here are five to consider:

Have a passion outside of work – It's important not to have too much of your identity wrapped up in your job, especially when that job is as mind-numbing as selling paper. The characters on "The Office" are masters at this. There's Dwight, whose farm is the No. 1 beet-related agritourism destination in northeastern Pennsylvania, Andy's a capella group “Here Comes Treble” and Creed's side business selling fake IDs to high school kids. And don't forget Michael's independent film, “Threat Level Midnight,” in which he played a secret agent who saved the MLB, NBA and NFL all-star games.

Motivate your employees – Sure, you can give your workers gift cards, time off or fancy new mouse pads, but maybe it's time to get creative with incentives. When sales were slumping at Dunder Mifflin, Andy Bernard instituted a points system. For 16 points, employees got a tablecloth; for 55, a maternity shirt. And for an impossible-to-get 5,000 points, Andy agreed to get a tattoo on his buttocks of his employees' choosing. Of course, the super-motivated office promptly hit 5,000 points by the end of the first day, and Andy ended up with some fresh “ink” on his “stink,” as he called it.

Stay out of gossip – It can only lead to trouble, as Michael found out when he outed Stanley for partying at a “young people's club” with a woman who was not his wife. Regretting his offense, Michael logically realizes the only way to cover for Stanley is to start a series of false rumors to conceal the true one. After spreading the falsities about Jim secretly being a J. Crew model, Dwight using store-bought manure on his farm and Oscar voicing the Taco Bell dog, the cycle ends with Stanley smashing Michael's car with a tire iron.

Office romances rarely work – Sure, Jim and Pam are an amazing couple, the kind of people who do overbearingly cute things such as sharing a single pair of ear buds or moving Dwight's desk to the men's room. But for every Pam and Jim, there are disasters such as Andy and Erin, who break up after Andy leaves to sail a boat and grow a gross beard, or Kelly and Ryan, who drunkenly get married only to divorce a week later, and, worst of all, Michael and his boss, Jan, whose relationship ends when she throws one of his homemade “Dundie” awards through his TV.

Know how to let loose – Office parties are important to morale, so do them right. That's why Dunder Mifflin devoted what seemed to be endless work hours to the official Party Planning Committee (not to be confused with the rogue offshoot, the Committee to Plan Parties). The committee pulled off such classic feats as Dwight decorating for Kelly's birthday party with brown and grey balloons (because they matched the carpet) and a Moroccan-themed Christmas bash that was so wild Meredith set her hair on fire and was treated to an intervention. Pam summed up, “At its worst, it was a toxic, political club used to make others feel miserable and left out. At its best, it planned parties.” Those were some great parties.

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