Work Sucks at Initech

Work Sucks at Initech

The movie Office Space (1999) satirises work life in a typical 1990s software company and, while not as well known in the mainstream, it became a cult classic among those in the IT profession.

The film focuses on Peter, a disgruntled IT programmer at Initech, a software company plagued by bureaucracy, low worker morale and insubordination. In one and a half hours, the movie distills almost everything that an utterly disengaged group of employees can look like.

Peter complains to his friends about his working conditions, can’t stand his boss (Lumbergh) and dreams of exacting revenge on the company. When two consultants called “the Bobs” (because they share the same first name) are called in to cut costs and find out what is wrong with the company, Peter is interviewed and asked to describe his typical day…


Peter Gibbons: Well, I generally come in at least 15 minutes late, ah, I use the side door - that way Lumbergh can't see me - and, uh, after that I just sorta space out for about an hour.

Bob Porter: Space out?

Peter Gibbons: Yeah, I just stare at my desk; but it looks like I'm working. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too. I'd say in a given week I probably only do about 15 minutes of real, actual, work.

The consultants are stunned.

Peter decides to put it to them bluntly…

Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care.

Bob Porter: Don't... don't care?

Peter Gibbons: It's a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation? And here's something else Bob, I have eight different bosses right now.

Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?

Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.

Bob Slydell: Eight?

Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

The piece of dialogue is DEAD ON. "It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care" has been commemorated on many a t-shirt and "that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired" perfectly captures the mindset of the disengaged worker. The essence of engagement is going the extra mile for the company. The essence of disengagement is only caring just enough to hang around for a pay cheque.

Peter is dogged by a patronising boss, the constant sense of being under-appreciated for his efforts, mind-numbing work, general mis-management, which is topped off by malfunctioning office equipment.

Basically, the movie highlights the perfect mixture for disengagement.


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