Last night, Dunder Mifflin got a new boss, albeit temporarily. As Steve Carell's Michael Scott prepares to leave "The Office" later this month, an equally bumbling interim branch manager, played by funnyman Will Ferrell, has stepped in.
Sure, it's hilarious to watch such workplace buffoonery from the safety of one's living room. But it's no laughing matter when in real life your boss' clueless comments and discombobulated directives make you nuts week after week.
I asked readers to weigh in with their worst bumbling boss tales. Following are three stumbling supervisor archetypes that emerged, with suggestions for dealing with each.
"Fiona," a communications professional who likes her job well enough, works for a fair, kindhearted boss whose professional persona can best be described as inept. (Like all employees interviewed for this column, Fiona didn't want her real name mentioned for fear of hurting her career.)
"My boss can't keep very good track of his employees' assignments," Fiona said. "He once told me, several weeks before one of our clients' events, that we were not helping them with it and I should not go. But five minutes after the event started, he called and asked if I had gone to the event, and was upset with me when he learned I was still sitting at my desk."
But that's just the tip of the incompetence iceberg.
"He sends out communications filled with misspellings, grammatical errors and, sometimes, factual errors," Fiona said.
What's more, she added, "He is so notoriously late to meetings, clients ask before meeting with him, 'Is he coming at 9 a.m. on regular time or 9 a.m. on his own sense of time?'"
How to handle it: When suggesting to such managerial doofuses that there may be room for improvement, diplomacy is key.
Workplace expert Alexandra Levit, author of "They Don't Teach Corporate in College: A Twenty-Something's Guide to the Business World," makes this recommendation:
"Subtly share your own productivity tips and tricks by saying something like, 'I downloaded this great new app that keeps track of meeting times when the participants are in different time zones. Want me to send you the link?'"
Career expert Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, a marketing firm for organizations with products targeting job seekers and employers, agreed.
"While this situation may be annoying, helping out your boss could be a win-win in that he or she recognizes you as a go-getter," Huhman said. "If you can anticipate your boss's needs and help him or her with simple [productivity] issues, you might be looking at climbing the corporate ladder quicker than you thought. Just be sure to approach the subject in a way that won't offend him or her."
"Michael [the fictitious boss on the 'The Office'] looks totally competent compared to my boss," said "Jonah," a government employee who was planning to quit his job when I first spoke with him in March. (Jonah has since turned in his letter of resignation and landed a new position with another employer.)
Among Jonah's gripes about his manager: "He constantly changes missions and taskings so it is impossible to get anything done."
And: "He keeps finished projects in a desk drawer rather than forwarding them to [his own] boss."