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Decoding Dilbert

Decoding Dilbert (Part 4)

You could argue that all of the workers in Dilbert are pretty remote. That is, they don’t seem to do much work, or listen very well, or accomplish… anything. We’ll get to that in a moment. This strip is about telecommuting and actual remote employees. It also portrays an interesting relationship between remote employees and their in-house management.

Decoding Dilbert

At first glance, this strip is a simple 3-panel story about a remote employee being disappointed that he’ll have to do “real work” now that he’s moved to the home office.

The funny question is: is the former remote employee’s work load really going to change now that he’s in-house? We know that the Pointy Haired Boss is an ineffective manager to his in-house employees. We know they never get anything accomplished. In case we had forgotten this, Dilbert is sitting right there through the whole strip to remind us.

Dilbert is really the star of this strip. He just sits there, silently, through the whole conversation. Talk about a remote employee. There’s no reason for him to be in this strip, except to show the real joke in the exchange. The PHB will ignore the new co-worker just as much now as he did while he was telecommuting.

This strip suggests that the work done by in-house and remote employees is the same. Increasingly, Human Resource managers are starting to agree. The backlash against Marissa Mayer’s decision to bring in Yahoo! remote employees is a perfect illustration of the movement. Mayer made her decision with an eye toward increasing collaboration between her employees. However, from a productivity standpoint, here are some interesting statistics:

For many companies, telecommuting is an important part of keeping their workforce happy and productive. Statistically speaking, the former remote co-worker will be doing less work now that he’s at the home office!

Of course, now that we’ve talked about the benefits of telecommuting; how it makes employees happier, more productive, and more engaged… it makes perfect sense that Dilbert’s company would get rid of that policy. Maybe that is the secret underlying message in this strip: don’t be like Dilbert!

Decoding Dilbert: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Decoding Dilbert unravels the real-world HR problems in the cartoon world of Dilbert comics. The series focuses on a different strip every week, with an eye toward improving employee-management relations. Suggest a strip by leaving a comment below, or send Kristin a tweet: @ithinkther4iamb #DecodingDilbert

IMAGE: Courtesy of

Kristin Anderson

Kristin has a B.A. in English from the University of Iowa, with an emphasis in creative writing. In her free time she enjoys long walks, kitchen adventures, and making puns.

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