“It’s not just about me and my dream of doing nothing. It’s about all of us.”
Peter (Ron Livingtston) works a mundane, 9-to-5 job. He cannot stand his boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole) and he is constantly retold to do things correctly if he makes small mistakes. The only bright spot about his job is that he has a few friends there, Michael (David Herman) and Samir (Ajay Naidu). After visiting an occupational hypnotherapist, Peter suddenly has the fortitude to relax a little and that’s when things at work start to change drastically.
Like our buddy Dante from Clerks, Peter probably suffers from some form of major depressive disorder, or depression. He has a case of the Sunday Scaries – a common term for anxiety that builds up on Sundays as a way of dreading the work week that looms ahead. Although Peter appears to chill out once he is hypnotized, he does continue to have feelings about sticking it to his company and his boss. He even ropes Samir and Michael in on a financial crime, to ensure that the three boneheads will not have to spend most of their adult lives in cubicles.
Unlike Dante, Peter does work for a company that holds long-term prospects. This is not just a guy that hates his dead end job; this is a guy that loathes his career.
The truth is that some companies and some higher-ups are truly toxic, and a case can be made that there is more than one Initech employee that is suffering.
Meet Milton. He mumbles; he gets overlooked; and he makes threats. The threats are difficult to hear since his is mumbling, but multiple times during Office Space, Milton expresses his desire to “set the building on fire.” No one really hears him because no one is really listening. In the course of the film, Milton’s stapler is stolen by Bill Lumbergh – a harmless mistake to many, but Milton takes this affront personally – and his office is moved to the basement. He is also apparently not an Initech employee at all. When it is discovered that Milton was laid off years ago, payroll is addressed to stop sending him paychecks, but no one tells Milton. Though these antics are funny in Office Space, they have real psychological consequences.
The Disgruntled Employee
If we analyze the moods of all the Initech employees, it is clear that there is a lack of motivation, lack of interest, and suppressed rage woven through all of their actions. While Peter prefers to take it easy for awhile, he also attempts theft with Michael and Samir. Then there’s Milton.
He’s probably not a pyromaniac, if one believes that Milton does set the building on fire. However, Milton might actually be a narcissist. Since most of the film’s focus is on Peter, it’s difficult to say for sure, but Milton does throw temper tantrums the way a narcissist would. Once he leaves for a vacation, Milton mumbles and complains to hotel staff the same way he used to mumble and complain at work. He even suggests that he could have the hotel condemned. In a sense, Milton may have been justified complaining about Initech, but his possible arson and adult temper tantrums indicate that he might be this way all the time.
In Peter’s case, once the Initech problem is solved, a lot of Peter’s problems are solved too.