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Office Space : A Lesson in Interpersonal Relationships from a film

Updated on February 20, 2012

Office Space: Interpersonal Relationships


Interpersonal Relationships : Office Space

The movie Office Space, though it is a dark humor has many valuable lessons and shows great examples of interpersonal relationships and human interactions. The movie shows what happens in a workplace when an employee undergoes hypnotherapy to relieve himself from his monotonous everyday life.

The main character, Peter, is unhappy with the state of his life at the beginning of the movie, which becomes abundantly clear in the first few minutes. He is in a relationship with a woman he can’t stand, Anne, who forces him to go to see a hypnotherapist to see if he can relieve some of the stress and pressure he feels in all areas of his life.

Peter has a definite distaste for his boss, Bill Lumbergh, and often tries to avoid him at any cost. Peter doesn’t want to stir things up by confronting him so he just takes whatever Lumbergh dishes out, that is until he is hypnotized. After undergoing hypnosis, Peter has a certain disregard and almost aloofness towards Lumbergh and no longer tries to appease him. The hypnosis left Peter in a complete state of relaxation and he wasn’t worried any longer about being a people pleaser. Peter begins living his life as if nothing mattered, and just did as he wished, utilizing almost no identity management.

Peter is the same in his private life as he is in his public life after the hypnosis and he has no regard for status quo and societal expectations. He is himself even when it is seemingly inappropriate. A good example of this is when he comes back to work and promptly removes a wall from his cubicle so he would have a better view out of the window nearby. Michael Bolton is another employee who works with Peter at Initech. Michael is very straight laced and does everything at his job the proper way. Michael uses a high level of identity management which we first see when he finds out he is losing his job. Up until that point he had always been a very proper gentleman, and once he is now facing unemployment he becomes this cussing, angry man ready for revenge. There are many examples of how characters changed throughout the movie.

Peter’s entire self-concept changed after the hypnosis. He realized that he was able to do whatever he pleased, and ended up getting a promotion. He got the promotion by telling two consultants, hired by Initech, exactly what he did there, including how much he didn’t work and how much he slacked off. He gained courage to ask out the girl he had been eyeing up for months, at the restaurant that he and Michael and another co-worker, Samir would eat or get coffee.

His new love interest is named Joanna, they bonded over kung-fu movies and began dating. She works at a job she can’t stand, and though she tries to do what she is asked by her boss, over time it becomes clear that she is unable to meet his high standards, she finally freaked out on her boss and flipped him off, thus losing her job. In a way, I think Peter inspired Joanna to quit her job. I think she saw his new found happiness and decided if he could be happy, she needed to change the things in her life that were making her unhappy. That seemed to be a recurring theme in this film.

There is another very interesting character who underwent a serious transformation, and his name is Milton. He was a coworker of Peter, Michael and Samir at Initech. At the beginning of the movie it shows him as a soft spoken man, that may have some mental malfunctions, and he will only vent to Peter. Throughout the movie, Lumbergh makes him move his desk around several times and each time he threatens to burn down the building. Throughout the movie we see more and more of his mental instability, namely his obsession with his red stapler. He is very awkward and we see how hard it is for him to stand up or even interact with other people in his workplace.

During the middle of the movie it is discovered that Milton was actually fired years ago but due to a glitch he continued getting a paycheck and no one bothered to tell him he was fired, for fear his instability may lead to an incident. At the end of the movie we can imply that Milton finally burned down Initech and made off with the money that Michael, Samir and Peter stole from Initech. We see Milton on a tropical island ordering around the staff, and exerting his new found power. There are many different examples of relationship and personality issues interlaced in the movie.

I think there were many instances of self-fulfilling prophecies in Office Space. One such instance was when Peter stated he got the feeling Anne was cheating on him. Almost every one of his friends replied with “Yeah, I get that feeling too.” When they finally break up, Anne admits to cheating on Peter.

There is another instance of a self-fulfilling prophecy when Samir talks about not wanting to get caught stealing from the company and go to prison. Later they find out there was a glitch causing the amount of money that they were stealing to be exponentially larger than originally anticipated, and they would be likely to go to prison, this is confirmed by a lawyer portrayed in the film.

The movie Office Space is not only one about personal growth and perception, but it also shows how important it is to have people skills in personal and professional settings. The movie illustrated concepts of self- fulfilling prophecies, self-concept and identity management, while addressing social faux pas that occur frequently within a normal American work day.

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