Gung-Ho And Office Space: How NOT To Manage
Chapter 1 of James C - Gung-Ho And Office Space: How NOT To Manage introduction. McCroskey’s “Organizational Communication for Survival” states that “some people believe ‘competent communication’ is ‘competent communication’ no matter where it is practiced”. (1) I believe this to be entirely untrue. Subordinate to subordinate communication differs greatly from subordinate to supervisor communication. As is true for different cultures communicating. In the movies “Office Space” and “Gung-Ho” we see two different work places with different management styles, different office culture, different everything.
They both are similar in the way that they feature a clash between management and the employees. While both feature a flair for the dramatic (obvious considering these are movies for entertainment not factual purposes) they both do offer a semi-realistic work place, perfect to study for this class. Both feature management styles and more in-depth styles of leadership straight out of our book. I believe both movies are a crash course in how NOT to manage your employees. The movie “Gung-Ho” Is about a Japanese company that purchases a factory in an American town.
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The Japanese send their management to make the factory up to their standards. There is a severe culture clash made worse by the stereotypical American employees and the stereotypical Japanese bosses. The book states when “organizations branch into new cultures and try to make things work the way they do in their home culture. They virtually always fail. ” (142) the movie offers several examples of the dangers of poor intercultural communication and organizational communication.
The Japanese use a Theory X management style, in our book, McGregor’s Theory X management style is described as, “assum(ing) most people had little capacity for creativity in problem solving, most personnel needed to be closesly controlled and often coerced to achieve goals, work was inherently distasteful to most people, most people were not ambitious and had little desire for responsibility”. In the movie the character Oishi Kazihiro is a moderate leader placed under the watchful eye of his boss’s nephew. Unfortunately for Oishi and the americans, his boss is a Task leader and anagement has little concern for the American way of life. The Japanese workplace culture (atleast according to this movie) has no time for personal relationships or anything other than accomplishing tasks. The Japanese decide to use an American liaison named Hunt Stevenson to get everyone up to speed on the new way of doing things. Hunt is a social leader. The difference of leadership from level to level causes a great deal of miscommunications and issues. The Task leader executives demand the Americans do many things they were never expected to do before and give them little leeway.
One worker can’t even leave work early to take his son to get his tonsils removed. When the executives aren’t happy Oishi (the moderate leader) attempts to let Hunt know the Americans must work harder. Hunt asks for incentive, if they can produce 15,000 cars in a month he asks for a pay raise. Oishi agrees. The semi-lazy and at this point fed up Americans are discouraged at the amount they have to produce for a raise, Hunt attempts to get them to work harder by lying and saying 13,000 cars still gives them half a raise.
Most of the movie you can clearly see whether it is Japanese or American workplace culture that is flawed depending on the situation, this is a perfect example of when Hunt, attempting to be a social leader and as such too much of a friend to his employees rather than a stern leader is the one causing problems. Hunt placed more value in friendship than in the work place; this caused him to end up getting his friends into trouble at work. Oishi and his bosses placed all value on work and absolutely none on personal or social lives.
This movie offers opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of the dangers of being a hard-nosed, unapproachable task-leader or a happy-go-lucky, be-all-things-to-all-people social leader. The Movie “Office Space” features a typical cubicle style office environment. There is no culture clash, just classic examples of bad management. Peter and Joanna are two people in different environments who both suffer from dissatisfaction. Peter works at a company similar to Intel or IBM, Joanna at a restaurant similar to TGI Friday’s.
The office environment is exactly how our book says it should not be, which leads to many comical scenes. Communication comes from the top-down only, in the form of impersonal memos. There are 8 bosses that Peter all must answer to. This is described as a “Tall” structure of business in our book, like IBM. “At IBM there are many units, with many supervisors, and fewer employees per supervisor” (53). Power is very centralized at Peter’s job; his main boss is named Bill Lumbergh.
Bill is a greedy, overbearing authoritarian and abuses his power in many ways – he has his own reserved parking spot right in front of the building, he forces Peter to come in to work on the weekends, and he is very condescending to his employees. The multiple bosses just create a more negative work environment. For example, when Peter forgets to put coversheets on his TBS reports, Lumbergh and a couple of his other bosses talk to him like he is stupid, asking if he “got the memo. ” The memo represents the formal, written mode of communication that classical organizations use.
As stated, Communication comes from the top-down, and any communicative misunderstanding is seen as the worker’s fault, in this case Peter’s. Those in higher positions at Initech (Peter’s job) do not see the workers as individuals who are worth knowing either, as one worker (who has been with the organization for a long time) constantly has his last name mispronounced by higher ups. Another workers name is “Michael Bolton” like the eighties singer, his bosses constantly joke him with him condescendingly about it.
Neither of these workers is allowed an identity at work. The state of work makes most the employees so miserable that Peter and his friends end up stealing from the company, while one other worker lights the building on fire. Obviously these movies are just that, movies. Burning down your work like in Office Space, or revolting against management like in Gung-Ho is unreasonable and stupid. It should still be noted how easily the situations could have been a lot different, if management had taken different approaches.
In both cases, a more honest effort to have real relationships with the workers is the main problem. In Gung-Ho, The Japanese management and American employees both suffer from ethnocentrism. “Literally, this term refers to the view that one’s country is the center of the universe. ” (143) I believe it can even be broken down into the point where the Japanese are highly ethnocentric and believe they are just much harder workers than the Americans. I believe the Americans are somewhat ethnocentric but in reality most of them suffer from Egocentrism.
They consistently “see themselves as central to everything that goes on in the universe” (143) Oishi actually yells nearly this exact sentence at Hunt during the movie! In reality there is a common ground out there that should have been found. A balance must be attained, you can’t be reasonably expected to put work before your family, but you are paid by the company to do a job, and this job allows you the money necessary to live, so it is not unreasonable for employees to work hard.
In Office Space you can only say so much good about management, as a matter of fact; I’d go as far as to say there isn’t one redeeming quality to be found in the management in that movie. Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory analyzes different workplace characteristics that lead to happiness and satisfaction. In order for a worker to be both happy and satisfied with their job, certain motivating qualities must be present, such as “the possibility of personal growth at the job, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, opportunity for advancement and achievment. (188) Herzberg also includes other aspects, such as “peers, status, interpersonal relationships with supervisors, working conditions, policy, administration and job security” (188). If both sets of characteristics are present, then workers are happy and satisfied. If they are absent, workers are unhappy and unsatisfied. Most of these characteristics are absent at Initech, which suggests that Initech workers are neither happy nor satisfied with their jobs. The primary reason they are unhappy and dissatisfied may be lack of motivation.
Peter tells the two men giving lay-offs about his job, “If I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime. So where’s the motivation? ” In conclusion, these movies are similar in that they both feature bad management, although different types. One is bad management due to Ethnocentrism, the other is bad management due to incompetent and unthoughtful bosses. Though no work place can be expected to be perfect, we can expect more fairness from our bosses than these movies showed.
All the problems and issues in either movie could have been avoided if management had been a little friendlier. Instead of trying using their power as a form of alienation they could have built relationships with their subordinates, atleast to some degree. If the Japanese would have had sympathy for a hurt worker, or Peter’s boss would have given him the weekend off sometimes, things would have been a lot different. That’s not to say these were model employees, but management is expected to be held to a higher standard. Small steps can go a long way when communicating in the work place.