Who should it be?

Steve Carell is leaving “The Office,” and according to rumor, the top candidates for Michael’s position are Dwight, Andy, and Darryl. Look, I … I have to. This is a perfect little business case study. You could remove some of the grosser absurdities of the characters and teach this baby in a classroom: The underperforming boss of a fairly solid, stable team is leaving. Do you replace him from within or bring on an outsider? If you replace him from within, whom do you choose: the highest achiever, who is disliked by most of his coworkers; the popular and pedigreed underachiever; or the recently promoted, but high-potential, former production worker?

See? When it’s not just the “the idiot’s leaving, do we replace him with the Amish Klingon beet farmer, the Cornell falsetto, or the black dude with the Kindle,” it actually sounds like something worth thinking about, doesn’t it?

All of them have their plusses and minuses.

Dwight can clearly sell, which will give him credibility even if he isn’t liked. And it may be the case that for an company that’s having to fight to stay alive in its sector, the bottom line is that employees want someone who will keep the doors open and the lights on. People do tend to prefer authoritarian leaders in hard and uncertain times. While Dwight’s poor interpersonal skills would have made him a bad manager during boom times, he might be a surprisingly good “war president.”

Andy is an incompetent salesman; even a warehouse worker or two has outsold him. However, he has a Cornell degree, making him by far the most on-paper qualified, and has a network of alumni and former coworkers at high-profile (now defunct) corporations to draw on. He is well-liked in the office, and is quick to take good advice when it is offered.

Darryl, the former warehouse foreman, was recently promoted to administration. He has little formal education but is intelligent and hardworking, and committed to self-improvement. He also has a strong sense of organizational dynamics, and has been known to advise people much higher up in the organization to their benefit. He is respected and well-liked both in the warehouse and in the office.

Whom would you promote and why?

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