'That's what she said!'

by Chris Dickerson |
May 11, 2007, 3:00am


Almost everyone has horror stories about a boss – past or present – who made the daily grind of the office even more unbearable.

That is a big reason why NBC's "The Office" has become such a big hit.

Filmed as a documentary showing the workings of a paper company in Scranton, Pa., much of the humor on "The Office" comes from the antics of Regional Manager Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell.

Some of his funniest moments have included hiring two strippers for matching in-office bachelor and bachelorette parties, using company funds to throw parties, outing a homosexual employee and unauthorized use of warehouse equipment.

One Atlanta attorney has taken her love of the show and is using it to help her clients.

Julie Elgar writes a blog called "That's What She Said!" on the Web site www.hrheroblogs.com.

A labor and employment attorney at the law firm of Ford & Harrison in Atlanta, Elgar represent management in companies that have been sued by their employees and former employees.

"As you might guess, I spend a great deal of my time counseling companies on avoiding lawsuits and providing managers with training on how to comply with various state and federal employment laws," she says on her Web profile.

She says she enjoys "The Office" for more than its humor.

"It is fascinating to consider how many zeros a company would have to add to the settlement check if the antics of the folks at Dunder Mifflin appeared in a real lawsuit," she says.

She turned her love of the show into a way to enlighten her clients.

"We just thought it would be an interesting, light-hearted way to send out messages to our clients and the business community," Elgar said. "Using a pop culture phenomenon is something everyone can relate to."

Admittedly, Elgar said she hasn't encountered any situations as egregious as the ones shown on the show. A recent episode, for example, had Scott sticking his finger through the zipper of his pants after a female employee was flashed in the office parking lot.

"But there is an element of truth in every episode," she said. "It's close enough to reality that everyone can relate."

On her blog, Elgar details what Scott does in each episode and what those actions could cost a company in the real world.

One character who has to deal with Scott's shenanigans is HR director Toby Flenderson, who is played by Paul Lieberstein. Lieberstein also is a producer and writer on the show.

Lieberstein said he enjoys reading Elgar's blog.

"Michael not a guy who can't hear," Lieberstein said. "He intends well, but it catches up with him. I think he means well every step along the way."

Lieberstein also said it is fun writing for such a character.

"It's so much fun to write someone with such a tangential awareness of himself," he said of Scott. "He's in such a deep state of denial. I don't think I've ever written for a character that is so unrelated to."

Another character who doesn't work for Scott but receives a fair amount of abuse from him is Bob Vance, the owner of Vance Refrigeration next door.

Vance is played by Charleston native Bobby Ray Shafer.

"I really enjoyed it," Shafer said of Elgar's blog. "It is astonishing to think about Michael's actions in real-world terms. To varying degrees, I've known guys like that. They have that grandiose need to be wanted and liked."

Fortunately, Shafer said, Scott's actions are made for TV.

"It's borderline tasteless," he said. "But they (the writers and producers) just like to push the envelope.

"I like the idea of it being real-world, but thanksfully it's not."

In an episode earlier this season, Vance married Phyllis, one of Scott's employees. Shafer said he particularly enjoyed that episode … and Scott's silliness in it.

"When he goes into her bridal chambers, he's done six really rude things in about 10 seconds," Shafer said.

Elgar says she typically has her laptop by the TV each Thursday night while watching the show.

"I try to post them that evening, but sometimes they take a while to write," she said.

"What we're trying to do is with the blog is just to provide HR executives and managers -- and fans -- with a light and funny take on the work place. The show is hilarious, but there are real-world problems.

"The best thing for today's employers is prevention. Humor is a great way to do that. And 'The Office' is such a fun vehicle."

She said she has received good feedback on the blog.

"Most people think it's funny and lighthearted," Elgar said. "My HR audience can use it anecdotally. It's good watercooler talk."

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