HR & Management

Business leaders on whether they would hire David Brent

11 min read

22 August 2016

Deputy Editor, Real Business

We recently received an infographic that made us laugh and cringe. The topic, you ask? What David Brent’s CV looked like. This begs the question: would you actually have hired him if he were real?

Image: Shutterstock

“David Brent – Life on the Road”, hit the big screens on 19 August – so it’s no surprise the Internet is flooded with reviews and articles galore about the mockumentary. We didn’t expect to come across his CV though, courtesy of euroffice. It’s a shining example of what shouldn’t ever be sent to a potential employer.

Here are a few quotes he had to offer. On survival: “If you can keep your head when all around you have lost theirs, then you probably haven’t understood the seriousness of the situation.”

On ambition: “Know your limitations and be content with them. Too much ambition results in promotion to a job you can’t do.”

On quitting: “Quitters never win, winners never quit. But those who never win and never quit are idiots.”

But what’s more interesting is that he “mentioned” his unorthodox management style. And with it having been put on display for all to see during The Office series, the most important question seems to be whether UK bosses would have hired him in the first place. Curiosity at hand, we asked that very question – and here are the results: an overwhelming yes.

According to Paul Blanchard, CEO and founder of Right Angles, Brent has hidden depths and managed correctly could be a real asset – “seriously!” He further added: “On the surface he seems like an idiot but actually he’s a clever guy and he has huge amounts of energy, drive and determination. These are things that can be harnessed. I suspect if you gave him a project he had to do himself, one with clearly defined parameters and deadlines, he’d do it very well.   

“At the risk of sounding like Brent, I need to explain that my practice is small, lively and has a flat structure where everyone’s views and opinions are treated equally. In this kind of environment, the worst excesses of Brent’s personality such as his pride, lack of empathy and need to play to the crowd would be kept in check by the team.

“It’s hard to be an idiot in a small team of bright people who have strong voices. Plus, because we’re such a tight-knit team, he wouldn’t feel quite so insecure and desperate to be liked. He is a loveable bloke who doesn’t believe he’s worth loving. But if he saw what he could achieve and had the right support mechanism in the office, he would make an excellent employee.”

Similarly, Charles Reilly, director of Fridgesmart, claimed Brent cares about his staff and that he has unwavering self-believe and will do whatever it takes for his staff to like him. “He even regularly entertains them with his extensive musical repertoire and his inspirational dancing skills. Sure, he might go a bit too far, or be a bit ‘clumsy’ from time to time, but we’ve all worked with or for people like that in the past. It’s people like him who make going to work more interesting!”

And being a regional branch manager isn’t an easy job, explained Matt Humphries, director of Babel PR. He said: “Think about the constant pressure from senior management to improve the business and the weight of making decisions that will affect your own operation and the wider group. Not to mention the imposition of group-wide policies that sometimes fall flat because they don’t translate well at a regional level.”

He’s a renegade a man who breaks the rules, claimed Humphries. “The fact he has no idea what the rules are to begin with makes no difference. He is a shining example of how to run a company by ignoring the function of the business altogether. It’s a risky strategy; one that can jeopardise relationships. Yet he proved as long as you believe in yourself, you can brush off criticism and follow your own path. Unfortunately that path often leads to the sack or redundancy. With all this in mind, I would probably hire Brent to take on a very small role in the business, one where he could do very little damage. But, it would be good to have him around.”

Continue to find out how his ability to make staff cry could be a hinderance to the workplace.

Ed Molyneux, CEO and co-founder of FreeAgent, is of two minds, and makes an equal case for both. There are numerous reasons why he would consider hiring Brent. First of all, Molyneux suggested that business success can often be determined by staff. And if there’s one thing that David Brent does well it’s trying to engage with his staff. 

Read more about engaging staff:

“He may not always succeed, but he knows all of the members of his team and he’s clearly passionate about trying to make them laugh and feel happy in their jobs,” he said. “Given the right role, he could potentially be a good addition to an HR department or a company social convener – but you wouldn’t necessarily want him as a middle manager. 

“He also has a wide range of experience and knowledge – including business management, a musical career, a one-time motivational speaking gig and becoming an entrepreneurial fixture on the Z-list celebrity circuit. And he takes his pub quizzes seriously, which suggests he’s intelligent and knowledgeable. The Office also hints that he was a bit of a shrewd business hawk before the documentary – so it’s possible that the filmmakers misrepresented him to create a better narrative for their TV show. Is that enough to warrant a second chance?”

But there are a range of traits up his sleeve that can get in the way of any of the above positive comments. At number one: he doesn’t actually manage people well. He’s not a motivator or a confidante and his style of management isn’t conducive to success. He’s more concerned about keeping his employees entertained, even when those employees are staggeringly bad at their jobs.

“He tries too hard to be liked by everyone,” said Molyneux. “Being a boss is a hard job –you’ve got big decisions to make and your employees won’t necessarily always like them. You have to be secure with the strength of your convictions and see the bigger picture, which Brent doesn’t do. 

“He’s in it for the here and now, and the adulation of his underlings: not the good of the business. And he’s not a good communicator. Brent’s verbiage is a barrage of buzzwords and cliches straight out of a second-rate management guide. Businesses need people who can clearly communicate goals and duties without the need for confusing corporate-speak.

“He’s ignorant of others. No boss should make one of their employees cry by joking they should be fired for taking Post It notes. Or make so many embarrassing faux pas – regardless of whether they’re the product of naivety rather than maliciousness. Moreover, Brent may not have the over-demanding superiority complex that, say, Office Space’s micro-managing vice-honcho Bill Lumbergh does (his staff tolerate him, rather than actively detesting him), but he’s nevertheless incompetent.”

What are Molyneux’s parting thoughts? Anyone who thinks they’re great at their job while maintaining a mantra that they’re “a friend first, a boss second and probably an entertainer third” should be viewed with extreme caution.

Meanwhile, comedian and actor Ricky Gervais is no stranger to creative thinking or playing around – two abilities he has suggested need to come hand in hand no matter the sector you may be in.