Who should it be?

February 3rd, 2011

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?


3 Responses to “Who should it be?”

  1. Hope on February 3, 2011 1:36 pm

    Well, the team seems to thrive under terrible bosses, so why buck the trend? :p

    Actually, Dwight is the only person I wouldn’t go with. I’d want him to continue selling and not have his time wasted with management duties. I’d probably give him a small raise and a title bump, though. So he doesn’t start to feel resentful.

  2. Robin on February 3, 2011 3:56 pm

    Since salesmen can now make more than the top boss, Dwight might be happy to remain in sales. If the incentive system is structured so that the sales force is not in competition, Dwight could be given some kind of role teaching sales techniques or coaching others. Base some portion of his compensation on how much his proteges improve over time, and I bet it would be a good deal all around.

    I would promote Andy. What you really need in that job is someone who can give broad direction, find ways to generate new business, keep the branch connected with corporate and Sabre, and stay out of people’s way. Andy has some good business ideas, and he has the social skills and the privileged background to feel comfortable with upper-level management. He just can’t do anything. So bump him upstairs where his preppy ties and “speech mirroring” can do some good.

    Darryl is clearly the smartest of the three, and he’s ambitious. But going from being the foreman of manual laborers to being a partner at the table at an upper-management meeting in the course of a year is probably too much, too soon. I would put Darryl in some kind of intensive development program to build out his skill set to match his potential. If part of that could be a reverse-mentoring program with Andy, Darryl could rein in some of Andy’s more unrealistic ideas and help him understand office realpolitik, while Andy could help Darryl get his footing in the white-collar world.

    By the way, I don’t really spend this much time thinking about “The Office.” I’m thinking about my business-school job. I’m just using “The Office” to think with.

    (And of course, the question of what would make the best television show is a different one, and for that I’d vote Kelly. I think Mindy Kaling is one of the best performers, and Kelly Kapoor is strong-willed, ambitious, and clueless enough to create some wonderful situations.)

  3. M. Eden on February 5, 2011 4:13 pm

    I think Darryl is the best choice, but really I choose Pam. She’s basically done Michael’s job for years anyway.

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