Records Management

On Managing Records and Personal Data at Dunder Mifflin: The Michael Scott Approach

I’ve recently been watching the US series of the Office – for purely professional purposes, of course… I was struck by the amount of times records management issues jumped out at me (a worrying thing to admit, I know!).

In Series 2, Episode 21 “Conflict Resolution” which originally aired in May 2006, the office manager Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) resolves a conflict between two members of staff. He then approaches the HR rep and wrestles from his hands a confidential file of staff complaints.

Determined to resolve the conflicts documented in the file, Michael reads out the contents to the staff, publicly revealing names and circumstances which the staff point out were supposed to be confidential, even revealing the contents of records marked “redacted”. I won’t reveal too much about the plot but suffice it to say the office is discontent, tense and angry.

There is of course no comprehensive equivalent to the Data Protection Act in the United States, but this episode shows the consequences of negligent treatment of personal data: tension, sadness and anger.

In an ending reminiscent of the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark, the episode concludes panning out on the HR rep putting the complaints files into storage with hundreds of thousands of identical boxes. Like the Ark of the Covenant in the Indiana Jones film, the files will be held securely, away from prying members of staff and, particularly, away from Michael Scott, Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin.

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