Make things better

In the “Nepotism” episode of the iconic workplace comedy The Office, bumbling boss Michael hires his nephew, Luke, to work as an intern. And it’s immediately clear to everyone but Uncle Michael that Luke is not a good addition to the team, as Luke is unable to muster any effort at all to do the job well.

He not only arrives late with the morning coffee, but also orders the wrong drinks for just about everyone.

When asked to rush a shipment of samples to a client, he forgets to complete the job and leaves the shipment in the trunk of his car.

Devoid of initiative, he does nothing until he’s asked to do anything, choosing instead to look at his phone, play games on the computer, aim the laser pointer at people’s heads, etc.

But what’s most frustrating (to both coworkers and Office viewers) is Luke’s attitude. He’s not at all bothered by his mistakes. He makes no effort to apologize or to improve. He takes no pride in his work. He does less than the bare minimum and even that seems taxing to him.

Can you imagine someone like Luke asking for a reference or a letter of recommendation from a supervisor? What could someone on that job possibly point to as an example of Luke’s contribution or potential? The writer would have nothing to work with because Luke did nothing at work.

But the episode can be a good reminder of how much potential there is to contribute in just about any role.

What if Luke had treated that internship like the proving ground it is to show future potential employers what kind of impact he makes?

What if he’d made the effort to do what was asked of him a little better and a little faster than he was expected to?

What if he’d looked around and found ways to contribute beyond what was asked of him, like taking out the garbage or restocking the break room or alerting someone when the supplies were running low?

What if he’d given his boss and his coworkers dozens of examples to cite about why work got a little better when Luke came aboard?

It wouldn’t have made for funny television. But it’s exactly how to approach any worthwhile commitment: exert the effort to make things better.

For more on this, here’s a past post on how to thrive at your part-time job, and another on the value of internships.