For those who need reminding, Ricky Gervais’ timeless character is the regional manager of Slough-based paper company, Wernham Hogg.
Brent is a melting pot of offensive insults, poor motivational skills, self-importance and a complete lack of leadership qualities, but let’s be honest, that’s why we love him. However, the same can’t be said for Brent’s HR department.
When it comes to HR, it’s possible that David Brent creates problems that even the most senior HR professional can’t handle. If your HR team can take on someone like Brent, they can take on anyone. Let’s take a look back at some of David Brent’s worst moments, and how an HR department should handle them.
1. The Insults
David Brent: “This is the accounts department, the number bods. Do not be fooled by their job descriptions, they are absolutely mad, all of ’em. Especially that one, he’s mental. Not literally of course, that wouldn’t work. Last place you’d want someone like that is in accounts…”
The Problem: In the first ever episode of The Office, David Brent takes us around the Wernham Hogg office, introducing us to his slightly less than loyal staff. Here, Brent introduces us to those lucky number bods, and throws in a couple of disability-related insults while he’s at it, too.
The Solution: David usually sticks his foot it in when it comes to a sensitive issue, but if you’ve got someone in the office who regularly discriminates on the basis of protected characteristics such as disability, then you should make it clear that there is a zero-tolerance policy on such behaviour.
2. The Fake-Fire
David Brent: “I’m going to have to let you go first.”
Dawn: “What? Why?”
David Brent: “Why? Stealing. Thieving.”
Dawn: “Thieving? What am I meant to have stolen?”
David Brent: “Post-It notes.”
The Problem: We all remember the toe-curling scene in which David Brent fake-fired lovable receptionist, Dawn. Poor Dawn was reduced to tears in the office after Brent’s prank didn’t quite go to plan.
The Solution: If you’re dealing with an employee who is upset at work due to work or personal problems, a manager or member of HR should sit down with them and lend a supportive ear. If the problems are work related, you should work with all staff in order to identify the issues and put a plan in place to eradicate them or minimise their impact. If the cause of their distress is personal, then you should consider whether there are any workplace benefits that may assist them (for example a confidential advice line) or whether there are any other steps that could be taken in order to minimise their distress (e.g. granting a short period of annual leave/unpaid leave).
3. The Unprofessionalism
Neil Godwin: “You’re acting like a petulant little kid.”
David Brent: [shrugs] “Young at heart.”
The Problem: When the manager of the Swinton branch, Neil Godwin, came down for a visit, it’s safe to say he and Brent didn’t exactly get along. This led to Godwin telling Brent he was a ‘acting like a petulant little kid’. In true David Brent style, this comment wasn’t taken on board as a criticism, but a compliment about his apparent youthful nature.
The Solution: If someone at work isn’t taking any hints about their lack of professionalism, inform HR. If the problems persist, HR should sit down with the person in question for a more serious talk about their conduct. Hopefully this will nip any Brent-like behaviour in the bud. Alternatively, if the unprofessional behaviour exists then HR will likely advise that the company’s performance management procedure or disciplinary procedure should to be invoked. Sometimes the David Brents of this world need to the threat of formal action to keep them in line.
4. The Inductions
David Brent: “You will never work in a place like this again. This is brilliant – fact. And you will never have another boss like me. Someone who’s basically a chilled out entertainer.”
The Problem: During the episode ‘Merger’, Brent makes a speech to the new employees from the Swinton branch. As expected, the speech went terribly. But Brent also gave his new employees a reminder that this is the best job they’ll ever have, in an attempt to re-assure them not to worry. Unsurprisingly, this induction had the opposite effect on the new members of staff.
The Solution: Think carefully about the roles that you assign to an individual and play to that their strengths. First impressions count. We’re not sure that there was anything that Wernham Hogg could have done to curb the more excessive elements of Brent’s personality but they might have considered sending him on our Introduction to Employment Law training course. Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of training their managers in order to provide them will the skills and understanding that they need to be able to function effectively in the modern workplace.
David Brent may be the biggest pain any HR department has ever seen, but let’s not forget, ultimately he wants the same thing they want…
David Brent: “Professionalism is… and that is what I want.”
(Image Source: www.thetelegraph.co.uk)
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.