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The Gervais Principle: The Complete Series, with a Bonus Essay on Office Space (Ribbonfarm Roughs)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  686 ratings  ·  76 reviews
The complete Internet cult classic series, the Gervais Principle, plus a bonus essay on the movie Office Space and a TV, movie and reading guide for connoisseurs of workplace politics. Written in six parts between 2009 and 2013 by Venkatesh Rao on ribbonfarm.com, and "Slashdotted" twice, this widely acclaimed series examines organizational dynamics through the lens of the ...more
Kindle Edition, 153 pages
Published September 16th 2013 by Ribbonfarm, Inc.
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Start your review of The Gervais Principle: The Complete Series, with a Bonus Essay on Office Space (Ribbonfarm Roughs)
Keith Wilson
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Gervais Principle, named after Ricky Gervais, the creator of The Office, and coined by Venkatesh Rao, of the not as popular blog, Ribbonfarm, states that at the top of any organization are sociopaths, at the bottom are losers, and in the middle are the clueless.

In case that isn’t self-evident to you, let me explain. A sociopath with an idea recruits losers to do the work and a company is born. The losers accept a bad bargain for the sake of a steady paycheck. They know who cashes in big, and
Aug 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
What the heck did I just read?

Do you think everything from The Office was incredibly true to life? Do you want someone to explain to you the underlying principles that make the world work as depicted in The Office? Do you agree that companies are made of exactly three types of people - Losers, Clueless, and Sociopaths? (I am not making this up!) No? Then I suggest you not read this.

This felt like an attempt at the Forer effect that got too specific and got all the specifics wrong. A lot of indiv
Aman A
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Highly recommend to my The Office obsessed friends.
I read this book in a day and then a year later reread it in a few days. As someone who has seen the American version of The Office multiple times and found myself obsessively analyzing it, this was a very interesting and captivating read. I'm not sure how much of the theories presented I believe and if I would at all apply them to my life but nonetheless it was very enlightening at times and I particularly enjoyed the last section on theists
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it
A fun, nasty, bitchy taxonomy of social class / psychological theory of the firm; a mishmash of economics, psychoanalysis and literary criticism; a series of massive blogposts apologising for being a book.

It splits employed people into three classes with terrible names - Leaders ("Sociopaths"), Loyalists ("Clueless"), Workers ("Losers") - and throws a massive amount of fictional evidence at each. That's obviously a formal hierarchy, Leaders > Loyalists > Workers, but Rao's first big left turn i
I don't write book reviews but this is by far one of the most insightful and brilliant pieces of commentary I've ever read. The fact that it's based on The Office, a personal favorite, makes it all the more enjoyable. ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book comes out of a certain genre of techbro blog that claims to rip the façade off of modern American reality and expose it for what it really is: think Slate Star Codex, The Last Psychiatrist, and their imitators. I’ve never been a fan of that narrative voice: the big insight of this genre seems to just be a Darwinian analysis that hey, what if everything is actually a status struggle for power/sex? It’s not a useless insight, but I think just about any rigorous work of history or philoso ...more
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I just saw Office Space last night to finish the book with the required essay. It fits the tone of the rest of the book perfectly.

Something like this is being played in all offices in the world, by both enlightened and unsuspecting parties.

This is a bit like taking the Red Pill in Matrix...
Mar 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Wow. Who knew the office was so deep. Or more like - who knew that other people were watching the office at 100x the level I was? Every character, every line is the embodiment of one of three roles that we play as members of any organization. We are all Losers, Clueless, or Sociopaths.

These descriptions are not used as we use them in a social sense, but more as the "deals we strike" with the rest of the organization and eventually - the level of reality that we chose to participate in. And if we
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Okay, I decided to bump it up to 4 stars. I read this with a friend of mine, and I had to raise the rating because of how much fun that was.

The book (freely available online) is a collection of essays analyzing The Office. It's very entertaining to go through and likely shouldn't be taken too seriously. The author has a lot of really interesting blog posts too on his website that I plan on checking out. It's sad to me that psuedo-intellectuals like Jordan Peterson or Robert Greene can make a nam
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Must read for anybody who look to understand how people tend to organize themselfs and others

It's fantastic take on organization. For those unfamiliar with the show it could be little too much in a sense of references, but it's manageable and above all deep and profound look on organization and the people within it.
Alexej Gerstmaier
May 22, 2022 rated it liked it
ACX review of this is better
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. I'm a bit hesitant to overly generalize based on Venkatesh's thoughts, but the scary part about reading this series of blog posts is that there are parts that are guaranteed to resonate with any reader who's ever worked in a corporate hierarchy. I particularly enjoyed the bit on how humor works when n=1,2,3+. I skipped the Office Space essay. ...more
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't think that it's overdoing it to say that this book (really a series of curated blog posts) will probably change how you think about work. As a synthesis of the Peter Principle (thesis) and the Dilbert Principle (antithesis), The Gervais Principle is a fitting synthesis of many timeless theories of organizational genesis, growth and stagnation, as well as organizational coercion and internal politics. It's an easy read, and well worth your time, although it is, as the introduction states, ...more
Julian Michael
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really funny, and maybe not to be taken too seriously, but still very thought-provoking. I think there are some real insights here into big corporations as well as general interpersonal dynamics. I certainly came away with lots to think about w.r.t. my own experiences in big corporations as well as my personal life and motivations. I think the ideas here apply more obviously to non-tech companies, just considering the skills, nature, and role of labor vs management and some general cultural diff ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Pretty interesting analysis of motivations within organizations. It mostly repackages concepts from other writers, and makes it more entertaining by using examples from "The Office".

It is self-important and claims that reading this book will permanently change your life forever.

The author claims to be a "sociopath" (using his own definition, which is about seeing through social constructs and not the clinical term). He claims to have stopped caring about any societal status or constructs. ... u
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
Some of the reviewers of this book start by asking themselves "What did I just read?"

I feel you, fellow reviewers.

The book--a series of blog posts in fact--starts reasonably enough by identifying three categories of office workers: the clueless, the losers, and the sociopaths. Sure, a bit reductionist, and a bit myopic, but fine, so be it.

It then proceeds to use (the same few) examples from "The Office" (the US version) to drive home the point.

I'm not sure what the author is going for: a sociolo
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An enjoyable read for the most part and at times illuminating too. It fails to be particularly useful for me because I haven't seen the American version of The Office so most of the examples are lost on me.

The cynical labels Rao has chosen for his archetypes may be amusing but ultimately prevent me from embracing his theory as a tool for reading my own work environments. That might make me 'clueless' or a 'loser' (two of the three archetypes) but I just don't like to self describe as a 'sociopa
Aug 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Read it at your own risk.
It might give you a new perspective on your job.
Either you will just chuckle and move on saying, 'it was fun to read, but that's not how things are in real life'.
Or you might start thinking about the category you belong in your organization and end up doing some serious shift in your career.

If you are a 'The Office' fan, go for it.
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This web-essay series turned ebook is basically a breakdown of the corporate hierarchy according to a sociopath. As a (mostly) non-sociopath this book was very enlightening and opened my eyes to a world I had not been able to verbalize. There are quite a few interesting concepts, from unmediated reality to unreconstructed ideals, that I found difficult to grasp because there was never an explicit definition that had to be deduced by context.

Overall, I think I can break it down to this: Non socio
Jude Morrissey
In this book, Venkatesh Rao introduces us to his very cynical analysis of organizational structure, using the tv show The Office as both model and example. While he focuses primarily on corporate organizational structure, the picture he presents has implications beyond the workplace, as it delves into the mindsets and psychology of the classes of workers involved.

Personally, I found his view interesting, and there is something right in it; but I am unconvinced that it is an entirely accurate por
Jurgen Dhaese
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
A hilarious book analyzing organization dynamics through the lens of the TV show "The Office".

Basically, each organization has three types of people :

1. Sociopaths at the top. Coldblooded visionaries who see the reality of how the world really works, and put themselves into advantageous economic positions - often at the expense of other people.
2. Clueless people in the middle. Those without competence that have deluded themselves into a sick sense of loyalty to organizations that don't have thei
Richard Meadows
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-non-fiction
Yes, this is a sociological model built around fictional characters from a popular TV show (The Office). Yes, it feels like Rao is just making shit up from the comfort of his couch: arbitrarily dividing the world into Sociopaths, Clueless, and Losers. But who cares! All models are wrong; at least this is one is entertaining and insightful.

I hadn’t even seen The Office, but I still got a lot out of this book stitched-together series of blog posts. Rao is brilliant at surfacing subterranean status
Nithesh S
Jul 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This is a book that teaches you organisational literacy. I am not sure where I came across this idea in the first place. I read the blogpost on Gervais Principle on Ribbonfarm blog few months ago. It was an eyeopener. However, I had not read the remaining six parts of the series. I realised that the the author had published a book on the same topic.

It is very essential to understand organisational literacy if you are not an entrepreneur. That's because your entire life is going to be affected b
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Wow, what did I just read? I can't really piece together a world that makes sense to me where this book was written (and read). This was, in parts: a different, cynical, but perhaps apt view of how companies work; an amusingly earnest analysis of the Office; a completely batty treatise that ricochets all over the place. I think I have to be okay with the thought that some people will find merit in every part of this manifesto, and it's okay if I don't.

I guess I'm glad that I read it, if only to
Mindaugas Mozūras
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting and often funny read. The author analyzes company politics through the lens of the TV series "The Office". I've seen this TV series, which makes reading this book much more interesting.

Author's view of the company politics is very cynical. It made me think (sometimes dark thoughts). While I see a couple of the things he mentioned in the companies I've worked at, it's just a few. Not something I can use day-to-day. Worth a read for the fun parts either way.
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty interesting. The social dynamics can be applied to most situations. After reading for a bit I began to realize my role in all the different groups I belong. It makes me begin to think about who is taking advantage of me, and if I should be attempting to take advantage of others. Kind of get bored of the Office show though, but I get that it.
Zi-Xiang (Zack)
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Easily 6 stars. An underrated gem. I'm gonna have to reread it though. The language used has quite a lot of subtlety to it, such that a second rereading (or actually watching the shows referenced) gives a better comprehension of the insights by the author. ...more
Jael Koh
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Everything by Rao is a godsend. He defies market economics because he sells priceless ideas for cents on the dollar.

This Gervais Principle in his opus.

One of the ONLY books I don't want others to know about
May 04, 2022 rated it liked it
Short and provocative analysis of human hierarchies, utilizing amusing pop-culture examples to support the more jargon-y sections. As neither a fan of the Office or pop-psychology I found it enjoyable. Worth a read if you have ever spent any amount of time working for some larger organization.
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