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

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  538 ratings  ·  55 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, 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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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 Agarwal
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
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.
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...
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
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
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
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
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.
Ng 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.
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
Durin Gleaves
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely one of the best books on organizational dynamics that I have ever read. Ever.

Sep 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Book 2 of 7 read in the two Ribbonfarm series. Pretty good despite the fact I've never seen The Office. Would have been a lot better and more relevant if I had.
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Much more profound and insightful than I expected when I started reading
Nov 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Great read for The Office and Office Space fans that work in corporations...
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's a dangerous read, you will start labeling people in your workplace according to rules described here.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooked
Fun stuff, I thought his was an interesting and unique voice. I listened to this via the Pocket app, and typically award an extra star for brevity.
Manas Saloi
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Depressing read but something which will help you understand office dynamics
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
The basic three groups division (losers, clueless, sociopaths) is useful. Wish there was empirical evidence mustered that this applies outside TV. Stretches thin
Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it
There is a lot of knowledge on this series of articles, tho the author does not make it a easy read.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Partial truth, mostly entertainment. Found only the second half of the book fun.
Riley Holmes
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very entertaining philosophy of corporate groups and subgroups.
Charlie Gavey
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Think I would've enjoyed this more in the blog format, Rao reaches new heights of gratuitous overanalysis, which made for quite a dense read as a book. Very funny in parts.
Ask Franck
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very good and interesting. Too bad the author peaked at this point and hasn't gotten much better. A respectable piece, nonetheless.
Nicholas Garcia
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book caught and held my attention. It is pretty short and simple and helps you see things in a new light, that may more or less be true everywhere.
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