Thursday, 13 January 2011

Every 'boss's fear - am I David Brent?

When Ricky Gervais first leapt out of our unsuspecting TV screens and unveiled himself as the boss from hell – David Brent – I, like many others, began a comedy journey that has never ended.

I loved The Office from day one and to my own surprise maybe, just maybe, I now enjoy the witty and intelligent American version even more. It is quite simply a brilliant show – whichever side of the Atlantic you are watching it on.

And yet . . .

The issue for anyone who is a 'boss' at any level is that as you watch David Brent, while other people are howling with laughter, you are thinking “oh my Lord, I’ve said/done that myself”. The problem is, you see, I think that there is bit of Brent in everyone. And a lot of Brent in nearly every boss.

Personally, for example, I work in a tough industry but I believe it’s still possible to be quite a positive soul. And, in my experience, when you smile at the people you work with, you get far more out of them than when you scowl.

The trouble is that’s exactly what David Brent believes as well –- and the great joke is that he is totally self-deluded. So, you do worry.

This all came back to mind afresh this week because we were filmed by a group of students on a creative media studies course at Bath Spa University. They wanted to do a fly-on-the-wall documentary about how the Bath Chronicle is put together and we were delighted to help.

The problem is that it was a mock fly-on-the-wall documentary that was the basis for The Office too and in it Mr Brent and his excellent supporting cast of characters vied to look as good as possible as the cameras whirled. Therefore, as I sat being interviewed by my charming interrogator Ed, all the time I kept thinking “just don’t sound like David Brent”.

I thought I did OK (ish) until I noticed that I had a number of self-congratulatory awards that the paper has won on my wall and I kept thinking of the way in The Office DB kept highlighting some terrible award he’d won years before. It was just one example of how The Office was so brilliantly realised – it exposed all our clichés in a frighteningly well-realised way.

The whole Office phenomenon, however, has at least created a plethora of wonderful “Brent-isms” which can be easily found on the internet. The irony is that he never said most of them in the show but they all sound good enough that he should have done.

So, may I leave you with four Brent-esque slices of officespeak which will be worth dropping into conversation with colleagues today.

  • There may be no I in team but there’s a ‘ME’ if you look hard enough.

  • If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven’t understood the seriousness of the situation.

  • Never do today that which will become someone else’s responsibility tomorrow.

  • A problem shared is a problem halved so is your problem really yours or just half of someone else’s?

Anyone fancy a Brent-like dance?

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