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This article is about the Dilbert comic strip. For other uses, see Dilbert (disambiguation).
"Announcement of changes in company password policy". From left: the Pointy-Haired Boss, Dilbert, Alice, and Wally
(Pub. September 10, 2005)
Author(s) Scott Adams
Website http://www.dilbert.com/
Launch date April 16, 1989; 26 years ago (April 16, 1989)[1]
Syndicate(s) United Media (1989–2011)
Universal Uclick (June 2011–)
Publisher(s) Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre(s) Humor

Dilbert is an American comic strip written and illustrated by Scott Adams, first published on April 16, 1989.[1] The strip is known for its satirical office humor about a white-collar, micromanaged office featuring engineer Dilbert as the title character. The strip has spawned several books, an animated television series, a video game, and hundreds of Dilbert-themed merchandise items. Dilbert Future and The Joy of Work are among the most read books in the series. Adams received the National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award in 1997 and the Newspaper Comic Strip Award in the same year for his work on the strip. Dilbert appears online and in 2,000 newspapers worldwide in 65 countries and 25 languages.[2]


The comic strip originally revolved around Dilbert and his "pet" dog Dogbert in their home. Many plots revolved around Dilbert's engineer nature or his bizarre inventions. Also prominent were plots based on Dogbert's megalomaniacal ambitions. Later, the location of most of the action moved to Dilbert's workplace and the strip started to satirize technology, workplace, and company issues. The comic strip's popular success is attributable to its workplace setting and themes, which are familiar to a large and appreciative audience;[3] Adams has said that switching the setting from Dilbert's home to his office was "when the strip really started to take off".[4] The workplace location is Silicon Valley.[5]

Dilbert portrays corporate culture as a Kafkaesque world of bureaucracy for its own sake and office politics that stand in the way of productivity, where employees' skills and efforts are not rewarded, and busy work is praised. Much of the humor emerges as the audience sees the characters making obviously ridiculous decisions that are natural reactions to mismanagement.

Themes explored include:

  • Engineers' personal traits
    • Idiosyncrasy of style
    • Hopelessness in dating (and general lack of social skills)
    • Attraction to tools and technological products
  • Business ethics (or lack thereof)
  • Esotericism
  • Incompetent and sadistic management
    • Scheduling and budgeting without reference to reality
    • Failure to reward success or penalize laziness
    • Penalizing employees for failures caused by bad management
    • Micromanagement
    • Failure to improve others' morale, lowering it instead
    • Failure to communicate objectives
    • Handling of projects doomed to failure or cancellation
    • Sadistic HR policies with evil rationale
    • Susceptibility to business trends and popular buzzwords
  • Corporate bureaucracy
  • ISO audits
  • Budgeting, accounting, payroll and financial advisors
  • Stupidity of the general public
    • Susceptibility to advertising
    • Susceptibility to peer pressure
    • Susceptibility to flattery
    • Gullibility in the face of obvious scams
  • Fourth World countries and outsourcing (Elbonia)
    • Dilapidation
    • Bizarre cultural habits
    • Lack of understanding of capitalism


The Republic of Elbonia is a fictional country to which Dilbert's company frequently outsources work. It is an impoverished and dysfunctional former communist state in Eastern Europe that has embraced capitalism,[6] although North Elbonia remains totalitarian. The entire country is covered in waist-deep mud; the inhabitants (aside from the occasional sentient pig) all have heavy beards and clothing similar to Orthodox Christian monks.


Popular culture[edit]

The popularity of the comic strip within the corporate sector has led to the Dilbert character being used in many business magazines and publications, including several appearances on the cover of Fortune Magazine. Many newspapers run the comic in their business section rather than in the regular comics section (similar to the way that Doonesbury is often featured in the editorial section, due to its pointed commentary).[citation needed]

Criticism and parody[edit]

Media analyst Norman Solomon and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow claim[7] that Adams's caricatures of corporate culture seem to project empathy for white-collar workers, but the satire ultimately plays into the hands of upper corporate management itself. Solomon describes the characters of Dilbert as dysfunctional time-wasters, none of whom occupies a position higher than middle management, and whose inefficiencies detract from corporate values such as 'productivity' and 'growth'. Dilbert and his office-mates often find themselves baffled or victimized by the whims of managerial behavior, but they never seem to question it openly. Solomon cites the Xerox corporation's use of Dilbert strips and characters in internally distributed 'inspirational' pamphlets:

"Xerox management had recognized what more gullible Dilbert readers did not: Dilbert is an offbeat sugary substance that helps the corporate medicine go down. The Dilbert phenomenon accepts—and perversely eggs on—many negative aspects of corporate existence as unchangeable facets of human nature...As Xerox managers grasped, Dilbert speaks to some very real work experiences while simultaneously eroding inclinations to fight for better working conditions."

Adams responded in the February 2, 1998[8] strip and in his book The Joy of Work, simply by restating Solomon's argument, apparently suggesting that it was absurd and required no rebuttal.

In 1997, Tom Vanderbilt wrote in a similar vein in The Baffler magazine:

"Labor unions haven't adopted Dilbert characters as insignia. But corporations in droves have rushed to link themselves with Dilbert. Why? Dilbert mirrors the mass media's crocodile tears for working people—and echoes the ambient noises from Wall Street."

Bill Griffith used his daily strip Zippy the Pinhead as a forum to criticize Adams's artwork as simplistic.[citation needed] Adams responded on May 18, 1998[9] with a comic strip called Pippy the Ziphead, "cramming as much artwork in as possible so no one will notice there's only one joke...[and] it's on the reader". Dilbert notes that the strip is "nothing but a clown with a small head who says random things", and Dogbert responds that he is "maintaining his artistic integrity by creating a comic that no one will enjoy".[10] In September of the same year, Griffith mocked Adams by mimicking his Pippy the Ziphead creation with a strip showing stiff, Dilbert-like creations in an office setting and one of the characters saying, "I sense a joke was delivered".[11]

In the late 1990s, an amateur cartoonist named Karl Hörnell began submitting a comic strip to Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen which parodied both Dilbert[12] and the Image Comics series The Savage Dragon. This soon became a regular feature in the Savage Dragon comic book, titled The Savage Dragonbert and Hitler's Brainbert ("Hitler's Brainbert" being a loose parody of both Dogbert and the Savage Dragon villain identified as Adolf Hitler's disembodied, superpowered brain). The strip began as a specific parody of the comic book itself, set loosely within the office structure of Dilbert, with Hörnell doing an emulation of Adams's cartooning style.[12]


Adams has invented words which have become popular among fans in describing their own office environments, such as "Induhvidual". This term is based on the American English slang expression "duh!" The conscious misspelling of individual as induhvidual is a pejorative term for people who are not in Dogbert's New Ruling Class (DNRC). Its coining is explained in Dilbert Newsletter #6. The strip has also popularized the usage of the terms "cow-orker" and PHB.


In 1997, Scott Adams masqueraded as a management consultant to Logitech executives (as Ray Mebert), with the cooperation of the company's vice-chairman. He acted in much the way that he portrays management consultants in the comic strip, with an arrogant manner and bizarre suggestions, such as comparing mission statements to broccoli soup. He convinced the executives to change their existing mission statement for their New Ventures Group from "provide Logitech with profitable growth and related new business areas" to "scout profitable growth opportunities in relationships, both internally and externally, in emerging, mission-inclusive markets, and explore new paradigms and then filter and communicate and evangelize the findings".[13][14][15]

To demonstrate what can be achieved with the most mundane objects if planned correctly and imaginatively, Adams has worked with companies to develop "dream" products for Dilbert and company. In 2001, he collaborated with design company IDEO to come up with the "perfect cubicle", a fitting creation since many of the Dilbert strips make fun of the standard cubicle desk and the environment which it creates. The result was both whimsical and practical.[16][17]

This project was followed in 2004 with designs for Dilbert's Ultimate House (abbreviated as DUH). An energy-efficient building was the result, designed to prevent many of the little problems that seem to creep into a normal building. For instance, to save time spent buying and decorating a Christmas tree every year, the house has a large (yet unapparent) closet adjacent to the living room where the tree can be stored from year to year.


In addition to the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Awards won by Adams, the Dilbert strip has received a variety of other awards. Adams was named best international comic strip artist of 1995 in the Adamson Awards given by the Swedish Academy of Comic Art.

Dilbert was named the best syndicated strip of 1997 in the Harvey Awards and won the Max & Moritz Prize as best international comic strip for 1998.


Comic strip compilations[edit]


Title Strips collected Date published Pages ISBN Notes
Always Postpone Meetings with Time-Wasting Morons April 16, 1989 — to October 21, 1989 October 1992 112 978-0886876883
Shave the Whales October 22, 1989 — August 4, 1990 April 1994 128 978-0836217407
Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy! August 5, 1990 — May 18, 1991 March 1995 128 978-0836217797
It's Obvious You Won't Survive by Your Wits Alone May 19, 1991 — December 13, 1992 August 1995 224 978-0836204155
Still Pumped from Using the Mouse December 14, 1992 — September 27, 1993 March 1996 128 978-0836210262
Fugitive From the Cubicle Police September 28, 1993 — February 4, 1995 September 1996 224 978-0836221190
Casual Day Has Gone Too Far February 5, 1995 — November 19, 1995 March 1997 128 978-0836228991
I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot November 20, 1995 — August 31, 1996 March 1998 128 978-0836251821
Journey to Cubeville September 1, 1996 — January 4, 1998 August 1998 224 978-0836267457
Don't Step in the Leadership January 12, 1998 — October 18, 1998 March 1999 128 978-0836278446
Random Acts of Management October 19, 1998 — July 25, 1999 March 2000 128 978-0740704536
Excuse Me While I Wag July 26, 1999 — April 30, 2000 April 2001 128 978-0740713903
When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View? May 1, 2000 — February 4, 2001 September 2001 128 978-0740718397
Another Day in Cubicle Paradise February 5, 2001 — November 11, 2001 March 2002 128 978-0740721946
When Body Language Goes Bad November 12, 2001 — August 18, 2002 March 2003 128 978-0740732980
Words You Don't Want to Hear During Your Annual Performance Review August 19, 2002 — May 25, 2003 October 2003 128 978-0740738050
Don't Stand Where the Comet is Assumed to Strike Oil May 26, 2003 — February 29, 2004 May 2004 128 978-0740745393
The Fluorescent Light Glistens Off Your Head March 1, 2004 — December 5, 2004 May 2005 128 978-0740751134
Thriving on Vague Objectives December 6, 2004 — September 11, 2005 November 2005 128 978-0740755330
Try Rebooting Yourself September 12, 2005 — June 18, 2006 October 2006 128 978-0740761904
Positive Attitude June 19, 2006 — March 25, 2007 July 2007 128 978-0740763793
This is the Part Where You Pretend to Add Value March 26, 2007 — January 5, 2008 May 2008 128 978-0740772276
Freedom's Just Another Word for People Finding Out You're Useless January 6, 2008 — October 12, 2008 April 2009 128 978-0740778155
14 Years of Loyal Service in a Fabric-Covered Box October 13, 2008 — July 25, 2009 October 2009 128 978-0740773655
I'm Tempted to Stop Acting Randomly July 26, 2009 — May 2, 2010 December 2010 128 978-0740778063
How's That Underling Thing Working Out for You? May 3, 2010 — February 12, 2011 November 2011 128 978-1449408190
Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side that's Right February 13, 2011 — November 20, 2011 April 2012 128 978-1449410186
Your New Job Title Is "Accomplice" November 21, 2011 — August 26, 2012 May 2013 128 978-1449427757 strips from 8/27/12 to 10/7/12 were not collected
I Sense a Coldness to Your Mentoring October 8, 2012 — July 14, 2013 October 2013 128 978-1449429386
Go Add Value Someplace Else July 15, 2013 — July 20, 2014 October 2014 168 978-1449446604
Optimism Sounds Exhausting July 21, 2014 — August 1, 2015 November 2015 168 978-1449463007


Title Date published Pages ISBN Notes
Build a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business November 1991 112 978-0886876371
'Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless August 1993 112 978-0836217377
Seven Years of Highly Defective People August 1997 256 978-0836236682 strips from 1989 to 1995 with handwritten notes by Scott Adams
'Dilbert Gives You the Business August 1999 224 978-0740700033 collection of favorites before 1999
A Treasury of Sunday Strips: Version 00 August 2000 224 978-0740705311 color version of all Sunday strips from 1995 to 1999
What Do You Call a Sociopath in a Cubicle? Answer: A Coworker August 2002 224 978-0740726637 compilation of strips featuring Dilbert's coworkers
It's Not Funny If I Have to Explain It October 2004 240 978-0740746581 strips from 1997 to 2004 with more of Adams's handwritten notes
What Would Wally Do? June 2006 224 978-0740757693 strips focused on Wally
Cubes and Punishment November 2007 224 978-0740768378 collection of comic strips on workplace cruelty
Problem Identified: And You're Probably Not Part of the Solution July 2010 224 978-0740785344
Your Accomplishments Are Suspiciously Hard to Verify August 2011 208 978-1449401023
I Can't Remember If We're Cheap or Smart October 2012 208 978-1449423094

Business books[edit]

Other books[edit]


  • Corporate Shuffle by Richard Garfield — 1997; A Dilbert-branded card game similar to Wizard of the Coast's The Great Dalmuti and the drinking game President
  • The Dilberito, a vegan microwave burrito
  • There was a line of Dilbert mints which had names along the lines of Manage-mints, Accomplish-mints, Perform-mints and Improve-mints
  • Dilbert: the Board Game – 2006; by Hyperion Games; A Dilbert-branded board game that was named one of Games magazine's Top 100 Games
  • Day-by-Day calendars featuring the comic strip are available every year.
  • Dilbert: Escape From Cubeville was released in 2010 in the Dilbert store section of dilbert.com

Animated series[edit]

Main article: Dilbert (TV series)

Dilbert was adapted into a UPN animated television series starring Daniel Stern as Dilbert, Chris Elliott as Dogbert, and Kathy Griffin as Alice. The series ran for two seasons from January 25, 1999 to July 25, 2000. The first season centered around the creation of a new product called the "Gruntmaster 6000". It was critically acclaimed and won a Golden Globe award, leading to its renewal for a second season. The second season did away with the serial format and was composed entirely of standalone episodes, many of which shifted focus away from the workplace and involved absurdist plots such as Wally being mistaken for a religious leader ("The Shroud of Wally") and Dilbert being accused of mass murder ("The Trial"). Critical and fan reception was resoundingly negative to the change in format and storytelling, and the series was not renewed for a third season. The second season two-episode finale included Dilbert getting pregnant with the child of a cow, a hillbilly, Robot DNA, "several dozen engineers", an elderly billionaire, and an alien, eventually ending up in a custody battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the Judge.

New animation[edit]

On April 7, 2008, dilbert.com presented its first Dilbert animation. The new Dilbert animations are animated versions of original comic strips produced by RingTales and animated by Powerhouse Animation Studios. The animation videos run for around 30 seconds each and are added every weekday. On December 10, 2009 the RingTales produced animations were made available as a calendar application for mobile devices.[18]

"Drunken lemurs" case[edit]

In October 2007, the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington, Iowa notified its staff that the casino was closing and they were going to be laid off. David Steward, an employee of seven years, then posted on an office bulletin board the Dilbert strip[19] of October 26, 2007 that compared management decisions to those of "drunken lemurs". The casino called this "very offensive"; they identified him from a surveillance tape, fired him, and tried to prevent him from receiving unemployment insurance benefits. However, an administrative law judge ruled in December 2007 that he would receive benefits, as his action was not intentional misbehavior. Scott Adams said that it might be the first confirmed case of an employee being fired for posting a Dilbert cartoon.[20] On February 20, 2008, the first of a series of Dilbert strips showed Wally being caught posting a comic strip which "compares managers to drunken lemurs".[21] Adams later said that fans should stick to posting Garfield strips, as no one gets fired for that.

Dilbert.com's interactive cartoons[edit]

In April 2008, Scott Adams announced that United Media would be instituting an interactive feature on Dilbert.com, allowing fans to write speech bubbles and, in the near future, interact with Adams about the content of the strips. Adams has spoken positively about the change, saying, "This makes cartooning a competitive sport."[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dilbert comic strip for April 16, 1989". Dilbert.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  2. ^ "Dilbert presentation at Kings Features Syndicate". Unitedfeatures.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  3. ^ Ennes, Meghan (2013-10-18). "How "Dilbert" Practically Wrote Itself". hbr.org. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2014-10-28. 
  4. ^ Adams, Scott (2007-07-23). "The Loser Decision". The Dilbert blog. 
  5. ^ Adams, Scott (w, a). {{{title}}} (2012-09-09)
  6. ^ "Dilbert.com". Dilbert.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  7. ^ "The Trouble With Dilbert: The Book". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2004-02-18. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  8. ^ "Dilbert comic strip for February 2, 1998". Dilbert.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  9. ^ "Dilbert comic strip for May 18, 1998". Dilbert.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  10. ^ "Dilbert comic strip for 19 May 1998 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive". Dilbert.com. Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  11. ^ "Zippy the Pinhead comic strip for 20 September 1998 from the official Zippy the Pinhead comic strips archive". zippythepinhead.com. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  12. ^ a b "Savage Dragonbert". Javaonthebrain.com. Retrieved 2013-06-30. 
  13. ^ Dilbert Creator Fools Execs With Soap Story, Associated Press, from the webpage of the Seattle Times, November 16, 1997.
  14. ^ Dilbert Creator Fools Executives, AP story, in full, preserved on MIT humor bulletin board, November 15, 1997. Link to the archive.org version.
  15. ^ The Dilbert Doctrines: An Interview with Scott Adams, by Virginia Postrel, Reason, February 1999.
  16. ^ Porter Anderson (2001-08-28). "Fred Dust: Designing for Dilbert". CNN Career. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  17. ^ Porter Anderson (2001-08-28). "Scott Adams: Dilbert's Ultimate Cubicle". CNN Career. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  18. ^ "Dilbert Animated Calendar". 2009-12-10. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  19. ^ Scott Adams (2007-10-26). "Dilbert". Retrieved 2008-04-24. 
  20. ^ Clark Kauffman (2007-12-19). "Bosses fire worker who put up 'Dilbert' comic". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  21. ^ Scott Adams (2008-02-20). "Dilbert". Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  22. ^ Brad Stone (2008-04-18). "Scott Adams Hands "Dilbert" Pen to Fans". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 

External links[edit]