It’s time to dedicate a short post for Milton, the pimply, mumbling outcast with stained tie – which he probably wears all year long – still the most interesting character of Office Space.
He is sitting on the bottom of the carrier ladder with no prospectives, on the contrary, he is getting in a more and more miserable position as he is pushed to move his desk to a worse and even worse places within the office. The film shows a great example how some managers (hmmmm….yeeeaah… Lumberg) can do with their employees whatever they want. Everybody know guys like Milton who live in their space, and don’t like to come out. He’s one of those guys.
If you watched the movie, you might know what he is not even an official employee, as he was fired 5 years ago, still due to some mess at the finance, he’s still getting his paycheck, and nobody told him leave. When the efficiency advisor „Bobs” arrive to Initech, they reveal the „fix the glitch”. Of course its a huge exegeration of the situation, but honestly, we all know employees working around us, but have no the faintest idea what he/she supposed to hired for, right? Is that also familiar that you need to move your seat, pack up your staff and make space for the new people? Yeah we all love open office.
Initech has also got a mid-manager like Tom Smykowski – bringing the software documentation from the customers to the software engineer– oh, its actually done by his secretary – so during the advisory interviews the question remained – „What would you say you are doing at this company ?!” And the answer goes:„ I’ve already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have PEOPLE’S SKILLS!!!”
Experienced Office Specers are prepared for this question, not only burping off their title from their businesscard, but articulate a full description how is he answering certain customer needs, which makes at least a little sense. In other words „What do you do – which is GOOD FOR THE COMPANY?”
Milton is a great archetype of the office worker with great deal of stress tolarance, he is not fighting with the management but accepts all the devaluation of his position. I guess he was working decades at the same position at Initech. He is sticking to the same routines as an employee, like listening to the radio (at an agreed volume during the agreed period) and he has the right to use the Swingline stapler instead of the Boston. He can hardly digest when Lumberg is taking back the Swingline from him. Also he is the miserable guy at Lumberg’s birthday party, where he must pass on each plates he gets, but finally there was no cake left for him. (Then Lumberg – munching the last bits of the cake is asking him to move down to Storage B and solve the „cockroach problem”. It is the last strow, he decides to set the building on fire.
Interestingly there’s no story of development of Milton’s character – I could pair it with Michael Douglas’ Falling Down – being pushed to the edge, but the beginning is as miserable as the end.
Moral is – as you can read in many cites from business advisors – „do not push your employees to the limit where they do not care any more”. Its exactly what happened to Milton Waddams. He was a regular office guy, making his work isolated, listened to the radio and watched the merried squirell couple opposite to his window.
Iconically the only item found after the fire was the Swingline stapler, which survived. And as Swingline had some smart marketing guys, for the 20th anniversary of the movie they came out to the market with a Milton’s Office Space Edition Swingline Big Red Stapler.
In not a fuckin joke, they really did.
Poor Milton – in my opinion – is not a positive character. Although we felt for him during the whole movie, he has to screw it at the end scene when he proves to be mean with the spanish waiter too, becouse he put too much salt on his glass of margarita. So we’ll realize he is not a warm hearted squarell -watcher with a with a big heart, but a mean little bastard.
And we can still yell at our collegues at the office: “Milton, move your desk!”