Damn, it Feels Good to be a Gangsta – 11 Lessons from Office Space

by Keith · 2 comments

office space - fax machine


Michael, we don’t have a lot of time on this earth. We weren’t meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computers all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about mission statements.


Office Space, Mike Judge’s millennial comedy of workplace errors, hit theatres in 1999 to little fanfare; the film barely earned back its (estimated) $10M budget.

In video rental and cable re-runs, though, Office Space received new life as a cult classic. The key to its enduring popularity seems to be more than just jokes. Office Space captures the struggles of the modern workplace in a way no other film does. As the old saying goes, “it’s funny because it’s true.”

1. A Case of the Mondays?: Nope. Avoid inane small talk. It makes you seem simple-minded and petty. Peter’s neighbor Lawrence said it best: “I believe you’d get your ass kicked, saying something like that.”

2. All You Need is a Great Idea: Tom Smykowski’s ‘Jump to Conclusions Mat’ is indeed “the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life,” but his point remains true. All you need is a great idea and some elbow grease. I mean, the ‘Pet Rock’ guy did make a million dollars.

3. Ask out the Waitress: Peter first escapes his rut by satisfying a simple, long-simmering desire: he asks out Joanna, the Chotchkie’s waitress. Later that day he beams: “I feel Great. Best day of my life.” You want something? Go get it.

4. Do Nothing: Recent science proves that quiet self reflection, i.e. “doing nothing,” has intense mental and physical benefits. So take a Saturday morning here and there to sleep in. Peter can barely restrain his glee after a morning to himself: “I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.”

5. Be ‘Gangsta’: In the context of Office Space, ‘gangsta’ is equal parts confidence, agency and honesty. It’s not the occupational officespace-bosshypnotherapist who improves Peter’s life. It’s Peter. In being blunt with the Bobs, perusing Joanna and destroying the electrified door handle, Peter shows—through confidence and honesty—“damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.”

6. Love Kung Fu: On their initial lunch date, Joanna gives all the signs of disinterest in Peter. But then he brings up the TV classic, Kung Fu, and Joanna melts: “I love Kung Fu.” Be it romantic or platonic, common ground is key in any relationship.

7. Destroy the Printer: Michael and Samir have every reason to be violent: after years of selfless toil, they’re tossed aside for newer (and cheaper) employees. The brilliance of Office Space is that instead of administering a (deserved) beating to Lumbergh, they vent their frustrations on the oft-malfunctioning office printer. It’s a cathartic release and the printer won’t press charges.

8. Mind the Mundane Details. From T.P.S. reports to Flair to decimally-challenged computer viruses, Office Space is a pageant of the mundane. Take pride in even the smallest task or end up sharing Michael Bolton’s frustration: “I must have put a decimal point in the wrong place or something…I always mess up some mundane detail.”

9. Bad Breeds Bad: Be it Lumbergh getting his Porsche defaced or the utter failure of Peter’s criminal turn, Office Space stresses time and again that doing evil returns more evil.

10. Fight for Your Stapler: It’s no accident that the squirrely Milton Waddams is the most self-realized character in Office Space. His cake is stolen, his desk moved to the storage basement and his paychecks stopped. But take the man’s stapler? He’ll burn the building down. Not that you should resort to arson, but you get the point. Every man has his limit; know yours and stick to it.

11. Work is Work:  Joanna sums it best as Peter faces jail for his crimes. “Most people don’t like their jobs. But you go out there and find something that makes you happy.” If work was meant to be fun, it wouldn’t be called work.

Be sure to check out our other “11 Lessons” series: Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Gary December 7, 2012 at 8:07 am

Gangsta list! Very nice. #1 & #2 are SO true. Small talk drives me crazy and I get especially frustrated when I find myself doing it to be socially acceptable. Hate that! So much small talk is another way of lying. (hey let’s talk to someone I don’t really care for about things I don’t care about) We’re so lame when we do it.

So many men have no kidding great ideas but they get swallowed with the distractions of every day life and nothing happens. We have to fight for our ideas in the most vital way possible, taking action on them! I have no idea the appeal of the Pet Rock or Chia Pet but I know someone monetized the snot out of those two things!

Great list!

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