It’s Not Business, It’s Personal

One of the common sayings when someone is fired or laid off from a job or given a reprimand on job performance is, “It isn’t personal, it’s just business”. Well, sometimes it might be but, at other times, the firing or reprimand is due to personal issues and/or office politics. This came up in a recent episode of NBC’s The Office called Did I Stutter.  In this clip, HR manager Toby and regional VP of Sales Ryan combine forces to go after Jim who they both have personal reasons to dislike.

For those of you who can’t watch Hulu or who aren’t familiar with the show, here’s the backstory. Ryan was promoted over a number of more qualified people, including Jim, for his position. This was because the company wanted someone with an MBA more than someone older who was more qualified. His performance has had a number of rough spots due to his lack of experience and emphasis on what’s cool, like putting a social networking feature on a corporate ecommerce site, instead of on what works and produces sales for the company. Jim had the audacity to point out some problems with Ryan’s pet web site project to Ryan’s boss, the corporation’s CFO. Toby, the office’s HR manager, has a crush on Jim’s girlfriend, Pam, the receptionist in the office. Both have a reason to throw Jim under the bus and they take this opportunity to serve him a formal reprimand for poor job performance, possibly setting him up for firing later on.

The thing I like about The Office is how they throw in over-the-top situations with real life corporate situations. I’ve been in a situation similar to what Jim finds himself in here and I’ve known other people who have as well. If Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company in the series, had a program like Forced Ranking it would be a snap for Toby and Ryan to get their rival. That’s a common problem with this system that was introduced by GE CEO Jack Welch. It can be easily abused by savvy office politicians to turn a office into a real life reality show. Of course, karma can be a bitch when someone does this, as a couple of people who did something like this to me a while back recently discovered.

Have you ever been in a bad job situation where you were told, “It’s just business”, when it really wasn’t? If so, leave me a comment and let me hear from you.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like karma showed up and gave Ryan a wedgie


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Comment by Jacob Angel
2008-07-13 15:02:45

I enjoyed that episode, as I usually do .. this is one of the few times a British series has been remade in the US and hasn’t been a disaster.

But good as the US version is, it still pales next to the British original. The cringe-inducing awfulness of the boss on that show is just unparalleled!

Comment by Bunn Coffee Makers
2008-08-10 02:13:10

Wow, that Forced Ranking concept is horrid … so much of work is (or at least, should be) collaborative teamwork, yet this kind of process rewards people who are willing to vote their colleagues off the island.

2008-08-12 18:54:57

When peer review started showing up in annual review packets, I just knew it was the beginning of the end for my career. I never did master the politics of middle school, so office politics was not something I excelled in.

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