Peter Gibbons is a computer programmer at Initech whose main task is to convert units in file dates to the 2000 switch. He absolutely hates his job, but after an encounter with a hypnotherapist, Pete stops caring as much about his work and decides to just do what he wants.
Tropes that apply to Peter:
- Berserk Button: Basically everything he hears in the office, from the woman answering phones a cubicle over, to hearing all eight of his bosses comment on something he messes up, to being told he has a case of the Mondays.
- Butt-Monkey: Sees himself as this, claiming that every day is the worst day of his life because every day since he started working at Initech has managed to be even worse than the one before it.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Due to his hypnotherapist dying mid-session, Peter is left seeing no reason to care about his work, which hilariously ends up getting him promoted instead of anything karmic.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: When Peter stops caring about the consequences of his actions, he starts breaking rules just because they feel good, such as parking in Lumbergh's spot and gutting his fish over TPS reports.
- The Dog Bites Back: The whole "Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangster" sequence shows him nonchalantly standing up to all the mundane things in the office that made him so miserable to begin with, and it is glorious.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Ends up getting a job at Lawrence's construction company after Milton destroys any evidence of his crimes. Somewhat subverted, of course, due to the fact that Peter avoided prosecution for fraud, albeit inadvertently, given that his attempt to confess was foiled by the fire set by Milton.
- Foe Cooties: He's horrified when he mistakenly thinks that Joanna had had sex with his boss, Bill Lumbergh, before meeting him.
- Godwin's Law: When talking to Joanna about how much he thinks she should hate her job.Peter: You know, the Nazis had little pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear.
- Heel Realization: He eventually comes to realize what he did was wrong with the embezzlement and that other people felt worse about their jobs, yet did them anyway. By that point, however, things have already been set into motion and it looks too late to recover.
- Hypno Fool: He goes from a giant ball of stress to a carefree worker thanks to a hypnotic trance. It lasts far longer than it should have because the hypnotherapist who employed it died before he could bring Peter out of the trance. The effect eventually goes away on its own, though.
- Hypocritical Humor: When he realizes that Michael's program is taking far more money than they intended, he and Samir take turns yelling at him over it, until Michael points out that the plan was Peter's idea. Peter quickly suggests that they avoid getting angry at each other in favor of figuring out how to deal with the problem.
- I Knew It!: Suspects that his girlfriend was cheating on him, only for her to admit it after he stops caring.
- If I Were a Rich Man: Peter states that if he had a million dollars, he would just sit on his ass and do nothing due to no longer having to worry about financial security.
- Karma Houdini: Somewhat. Peter makes a written confession of his crimes and puts it in Lumbergh's office overnight with checks containing the money that he and the guys stole. When Milton sets Initech on fire and finds the checks, any evidence that the guys even committed a crime disappears, albeit unintentionally. It's hard to feel bad for Lumbergh and Initech though.
- Kicked Upstairs: Instead of facing punishment for starting to flake on work and diss his responsibilities, the Bobs recommend Peter be considered for an upper-management position due to his insightful attitude on office motivation.
- Lame Comeback: He has one of these when Joanna starts calling him a criminal.Peter: That may be. But at least I never slept with Lumbergh.
- Madden Into Misanthropy: Peter gets so fed up with his job that he stops caring. When it still doesn't end, he decides that he's in the moral right even as he plans to steal money from Initech.
- Never My Fault: He points his finger at Michael for creating the virus, but when Mike and Samir point theirs back at him for coming up with the idea to begin with, he says that they shouldn't turn against each other.
- Only Sane Employee: He shares this with Michael and Samir.
- Phrase Catcher: "Did you get that memo?"
- Promotion, Not Punishment: Instead of getting sacked, when Peter tells the truth about how pointless and unsatisfying his job is, the Bobs put him on the promotion fast-track.
- Refuge in Audacity: His candid "I don't give a damn if you fire me" attitude straight to the faces of the people who could cost him his job. If he'd been less over-the-top, Peter could have been canned on the spot.
- Running Gag: Constantly being reminded of his screw up on the TPS reports.
- Salaryman: Along with Samir and Michael.
Michael Bolton works at Initech as a computer programmer. He appreciates his job despite his distaste for the company, and swears he has a virus at his disposal that could rip them off if he ever wanted to.
Tropes applying to Michael
- AM/FM Characterization: Hilariously subverted when he's seen listening to bad-ass rap music in his car and then almost wetting himself when a street vendor approaches.
- Atrocious Alias: He refuses to go by "Mike" despite his constant annoyance at people bringing up Michael Bolton when they first meet him.Michael: Why should I change? He's the one who sucks!
- Berserk Button: Do not bring up the similarity in his name and a certain famous power ballad singer.
- The Dog Bites Back: He's perfectly okay with stealing money from the company once he learns that he was going to be fired.
- Gone Horribly Right: Subverted. His virus works like a complete charm except for the fact that a decimal point was off a digit or two, incriminating him and his buddies in some very noticeable account loss.
- Inherently Funny Words: He thinks "occupational hypnotherapist" sounds more cheesy than professional.
- Irony: Michael, one of the two self-proclaimed best programmers at Initech (the other being Samir) crafts a virus to siphon off fractions of a cent from every financial transaction by Initech. His code is missing a decimal place or two causing the virus to steal a very large amount of money. He later admits he is always messing up some mundane detail like this. Makes you wonder how good he actually is.
- Karma Houdini: He never faces the music after his virus steals over $300,000 from the company due to Milton burning it to the ground and destroying any evidence that it actually happened. Like Peter, however, this was more Deus ex Machina.
- Named Like My Name: See Atrocious Alias above.
- Never Heard That One Before: "Michael Bolton? Any relation to the pop singer?"
- Only Sane Employee: Shares this with Peter and Samir.
- Phrase Catcher: "Is that your real name?" and "Any relation to the singer?"
- Salaryman: Along with Peter and Samir.
- Tuckerization: Parodied.
Samir Nagan... Nagheney... Nagheenanajar is a programmer at Initech who moved to America for better opportunities and job security.
Tropes applying to Samir:
- Angrish: Samir, caught in traffic in the opening. He gives the impression of having not quite mastered English-language swearing.Samir: This is a f-fuck!
- Atrocious Alias: Go ahead and give his last name your best shot.
- The Dog Bites Back: Though it takes a little warming up to the idea, Samir hops on board with Peter and Michael's scheme to steal from the company after he's informed that he's going to be fired.
- Funny Foreigner: His lack of familiarity with swearing in English is played for laughs throughout most of the film.
- Karma Houdini: Just like the rest of the film's protagonists, Samir gets off with Michael and Peter after Milton burns Initech to the ground, destroying all evidence of their crime, albeit unintentionally given the nature of the circumstances.
- Only Sane Employee: Despite his eccentricities, he, Peter, and Michael are the only ones around the office who seem to have a clue.
- Running Gag:
- The pronunciation of his last name.Samir: No one in this country can ever pronounce my name right. It's not that hard: Na-ghee-na-na-jar. Nagheenanajar.
- How he doesn't quite get how English swearing works. His very first line is "Mother shitter son of a...ass," and he later gives us stuff like "This is a fuck."
- The pronunciation of his last name.
- Salaryman: Along with Peter and Michael.
Bill Lumbergh is the mundane leader around the office, and Peter's Pointy-Haired Boss. He talks in a monotone, passive aggressive way with lots of "yeahs" and "okays" littered throughout his sentences, and doesn't care about the well-being of his employees despite constantly promoting office morale.
Tropes applying to Lumbergh:
- Armor-Piercing Question: Is the recipient of one from the Bobs, when asked if he actually reads the TPS reports after he complains about Peter not completing them properly.
- Bad News in a Good Way: Being a Pointy-Haired Boss who's nonchalant about everything, this is his specialty.Bill: I almost forgot, um, I'm also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too. We, um, lost some people this week and we need to sort of play catch-up. Thaaaanks.
- Faux Affably Evil: To the main characters, anyway. He acts like he's friends with his employees in a seriously passive-aggressive manner, especially Milton, whose life he is determined to ruin.
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Played completely straight. Peter even describes Lumbergh as representing "all that is soulless and wrong."
- Hollywood Dress Code: Those infuriating suspenders.
- Insufferable Genius: In a Freeze-Frame Bonus, according to his employee records, he has a BS in Physics from MIT.
- Jerkass: He has no regard for the well-being of his employees and continually belittles Peter for messing up one thing on his TPS reports. He's especially dickish towards Milton, and cancels his paycheck without even confronting him when it's revealed that Milton was laid off years before and just never informed.
- Jerkass to One: A soulless boss to everyone, but a complete asshole to Milton.
- Killed Offscreen: A deleted scene reveals that he died in the fire Milton started. However, it's unknown if this is still considered canon.
- Karmic Death: If you consider the deleted funeral scene to be canon, then Lumbergh is ultimately killed in a fire caused by Milton, the same employee who he went out of his way to mistreat and bully.
- Kick the Dog: Whenever you might start to think that Lumbergh is just a guy trying to do his job in a company that happens to be bogged down with stupid and inane policies, he starts kicking Milton around for no apparent reason other than because he can. When he finds out that Milton technically doesn't have a job at Initech, he gets even worse, seemingly going out of his way to think of new ways to demean the guy while deliberately withholding the information that Milton's "missing" paycheck doesn't exist and never will again, cementing for the audience that he's every bit the soulless monster his employees consider him to be.
- Mean Boss/Pointy-Haired Boss: Bill Lumbergh, a passive-aggressive Smug Snake who always speaks in measured tones, comes up with silly ways of motivating employees (ie. "Hawaiian Shirt Day"), and uses a lot of stereotypical corporate euphemisms and buzzwords, which for a manager is often Truth in Television.
- He might genuinely believe that never raising your voice is all it takes to be considered "nice" by the rules of divine judgment.
- One Steve Limit: Shares a name with a man who moved away years before the story began who Joanna slept with.
- Strawman Has a Point: When it comes to his treatment of Peter, he kind of has a point. Peter admits to the Bobs that he always shows up late, zones out at his desk, goofs off, and rarely ever gets any actual work done. Given how production-oriented being a software engineer is, this likely means his co-workers have been forced to pick up the slack.
- Verbal Tic: He constantly repeats words like "yeah," "hi," "um," and "that would be great" in the most annoyingly mundane way possible.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: No mention of him is made after Initech burns down, but in a deleted scene, Peter asks Samir and Michael if they're going to Lumbergh's funeral, revealing that he died in the fire.
Joanna is a cute waiter who works at Chotchkie's who Peter has a crush on. He asks her out after his hypnotherapy, and the two begin a relationship over the course of the movie.
Tropes applying to Joanna:
- Adorkable: Just look at the awkward way she plays with her hair and fumbles with things on the table on her first date with Peter. And, of course, she loves Kung Fu.
- Berserk Button: She really doesn't like talking about her flair.
- Buffy Speak: When she and Peter get into an argument, she calls him "penny-stealing wannabe criminal man!"
- The Dog Bites Back: After being chewed out by her boss for only wearing the minimum required amount of flair on her uniform, she decides to flip him off and quit.
- Flipping the Bird: Her reaction to her boss insisting that she "express herself".
- Really Gets Around: According to Drew, who warns Peter to wear a condom and lists Lumbergh among the guys she's done it with. He fails to mention that the Lumbergh in question moved away years ago and in fact only shares a name with Peter's boss with an apparent lack of relation.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Gives one of these to Peter late in the film, informing him that it's not okay to commit embezzlement just because you hate your job.
Milton Waddams is an oddball employee at Initech who mumbles all of his words and is constantly asked to move desks by his bosses. Milton also has a strange obsession with his red Swingline stapler.
Tropes applying to Milton:
- Berserk Button: A combination of his desk constantly getting moved and his stapler getting taken away drive him to arson.
- Beware the Quiet Ones: He may only be mumbling his threats, but he'll go through with them, especially when he says he'll burn the building down.
- Boss's Unfavorite Employee: Lumbergh makes Milton move his desk three times a week and takes his stapler. When Milton is laid off, Lumbergh doesn't tell him; instead he cuts off his paycheck, moves him to the basement, and makes him hunt cockroaches.
- Butt-Monkey: He is told to move his desk around at least three times a week, Lumbergh takes his stapler for no reason, and he doesn't even get a piece of cake when Lumbergh's birthday rolls around. It turns out he was laid off five years prior to the film, but no one ever told him and the payroll was never updated, meaning he kept getting a paycheck. Lumbergh decides not only to continue not telling him about his lack of employment but cut him from payroll and move him to the basement. All the while Milton keeps coming in, wondering about his missing paycheck, and Lumbergh keeps on being an ass to him and not telling him any of the above.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Ends up fixing things for Peter and the boys when he burns the office building to the ground, destroying any evidence of their crime.
- Comedic Sociopathy: Constantly threatening to burn down the building and eventually doing it and killing Lumbergh in a Deleted Scene is all Played for Laughs.
- The Dog Bites Back: After spending the whole film as the Butt-Monkey, Milton burns the company to the ground.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: He's never caught for burning Initech to the ground, and instead escapes to a tropical paradise. Except he's also miserable there.
- Extreme Doormat: Endures bullying and mistreatment from basically every aspect of his job. And tropical resorts too.
- Forgettable Character: Milton is a mousy office drone who is so inconspicuous that several years before the movie he was actually fired from the company, and everybody forgot to tell him about it. He continued to work there with no employment file because a glitch in the payroll system continued to send him a monthly salary, which nobody noticed either. Once the bosses find out, they decide it's not even worth telling him.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Milton really loves that stapler, and the poor guy looks like he's about to have a heart attack when Lumbergh takes it. He also gets his desk moved to a cramped storage closet in the basement, and upon being asked to take care of the cockroach problem down there?Milton: Well... Okay. That's the last straw.
Lawrence is Peter's neighbor who talks to him through the walls of their apartment building. He works for a construction company and regularly tries scheduling fishing dates with his neighbor.
Tropes applying to Lawrence
- Catchphrase: Seems to be "Fuckin' A."
- If I Were a Rich Man: When Peter asks him what he'd do with a million dollars, Lawrence unflinchingly responds with "two girls at the same time."
- Never Say That Again: He wouldn't do very well working in an office setting.Peter: When you come in on Monday and you're not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, "Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays"?Lawrence: No... No! Shit, no, man. I believe you'd get your ass kicked saying something like that, man.
- Serious Business: Peter laughs off Lawrence's insistence that he'd have sex with two chicks at once if he had a million dollars. Lawrence doesn't seem to find it the least bit funny.
- Verbal Tic: It goes with his Texas accent, man.
Tom Smykowski is an employee at Initech with Peter, Michael, and Samir. He often latches on to their friend group to spout about his fears of getting laid off and lame eccentricities outside of the company.
Tropes applying to Tom:
- Angst Aversion: Deliberately invoked. Tom is left paralyzed after a car accident, but he retires with a huge sum of money due to the court settlement. When Peter sees him again, he's ecstatic, and doesn't even mention his paralysis.
- Brick Joke: He mentions his "jump to conclusions mat" idea early on in the film. Later at his retirement party, he shows Peter a prototype he made.
- Driven to Suicide: Attempts it after his layoff via carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage. His wife obliviously walks in on the attempt, and seeing her changes his mind.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Played With. Tom gets laid off and is Driven to Suicide, but decides to live upon seeing his wife's face. Immediately after this, he's paralyzed in a car accident, but the settlement gives him seven figures to retire on, which everyone envies despite his condition. Even Tom suffers a complete Angst Aversion.
- Hypocritical Humor: When he's asked by the Bobs what exactly he does at Initech, he becomes increasingly agitated as he tries to convince them he has good people skills.
- I Knew It!: Predicted that he would be fired before it actually happened, but it doesn't make it sting any less.
- Inventor of the Mundane: He eventually goes on to create a prototype of his "jump to conclusions mat" using the money he gained from his court settlement.
- Nervous Wreck: Easily agitated. Justified, considering he is fearing for his job.
- Properly Paranoid: Suspects he's going to be fired based solely off of a staff meeting memo. He's right.
- Salaryman: Along with Peter, Michael, and Samir.
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: His prediction that he's going to be fired essentially comes true from him worrying about it too much. By the time of his interview, he's a nervous, sweating wreck, and the Bobs aren't the least bit impressed by what he has to say.
- What, Exactly, Is His Job?: An interview with the Bobs reveals that his only job is to translate information from the customers to the engineers. He even has a secretary!
A pair of consultants who are brought in to help downsize the company.
Tropes applying to the Bobs:
- Affably Evil: While heartless hatchet men who aren't above trimming the fat, they can be polite and rewarding to people who genuinely impress them.
- Everyone Has Standards: The two aren't exactly nice, but they do genuinely dislike office mismanagment. They are astonished when Peter tells them about bloated and sclerotic the hierarchy at the company is. And they also look down at Lumbergh for his poor management, even given HIM their usual treatment.
- Inhuman Resources: The "hatchet man" variety.
- Jerkass: While not as bad as Lumbergh, they can also be quite callous. They even gave Lumbergh the advice of not telling Milton about his lack of employment.
- Those Two Guys: Literally — they are together in every scene they are in