This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (October 2012)
|First appearance||July 31, 1989 in Dilbert|
|Created by||Scott Adams|
|Portrayed by||Todd Susman (Dilbert's Desktop Games) |
Larry Miller (TV series)
The Pointy-haired Boss (often abbreviated to just PHB or "The Boss") is Dilbert's boss in the Dilbert comic strip. He is notable for his micromanagement, gross incompetence, obliviousness to his surroundings, and unhelpful buzzword usage; yet somehow retains power in the workplace. In the Dilbert TV series, in which he is voiced by comedian Larry Miller, the character is notably smarter (although still quite stupid and inept) and more openly corrupt. He is also parodied in Bee Movie as Dean Buzzwell, also voiced by Larry Miller. Mr Perkins in Despicable Me is visually based on him. His motto is Anything I Don't Understand Must Be Easy.
The PHB's real name is unknown in the comic, although in one episode of the TV series ("The Return"), he signs for a package using his line dancing pseudonym "Eunice". Later in that episode, two other aliases are posted on the "Most Wanted" board in the post office (however, he thinks that is because they like him). In another episode of the series, "Art", the boss signs for another package with his real name (which is unseen), and the delivery man seems shocked when reading it. Creator Scott Adams has said it is easier to imagine the PHB as one's own boss when he is not given a name.
The Pointy-haired Boss is mostly bald, except for a fringe of hair across the back of the head, and two tufts that rise to points above his ears (hence the name). Scott Adams has admitted that the Boss's odd hair was inspired by devil horns. He used to have jowls at first because Adams wanted the character to look gruff, but the boss ended up looking dumb instead.
When he first appeared, the Boss was very cruel and uncaring (shocking people with electric belts or wanting them to work 178 hours a week, although there are only 168 hours in a week — he expected the employees' families to contribute a few hours). He showed few obvious signs of cluelessness. However, as the series continued, he became less malicious and more incompetent. He still shows signs of this by referring to his department as his empire.
The Boss is frequently childish, immature, ignorant, and rude, yet also annoyingly cheerful and oblivious to his own actions. He frequently uses bizarre metaphors and analogies to "motivate" employees (Adams admits this to be a pet peeve), and on the TV series engages in rambling non sequiturs in conversation. In some strips, when he displays an above-average intelligence, or at least exhibits surprisingly original and cunning (albeit unethical or unscrupulous) thinking, Dilbert calls him a resourceful idiot. But most of his actions are incredibly stupid, including once in the TV series using Moviefone to check on his IBM stock. At one time on the strip, the PHB recognizes that the biggest contribution that his department does to the company is actually the "brown table meetings", and that it is the only asset that prevents them from being outsourced. In another strip the department gives a disastrous presentation to a new VP who decides to cut half the employees, but it is revealed that the Boss, anticipating the department's characteristic poor performance, told the VP that they were the marketing department.
The boss made his most significant change on October 21, 1991, when his hair began to appear pointed. The last daily strip appearance of the jowly boss was in the strip dated September 20, 1991, although his backside may have been seen in the September 26, 1991, strip. Following a protracted series about Elbonia, the boss reappeared on October 21, 1991, without the jowls and with the pointed hair. A version of the boss with slightly pointy hair but with jowls appeared in the December 1, 1991, Sunday strip; this was changed the next time the boss appeared in a Sunday strip, March 22, 1992. A series of flashbacks shown in the April 28, 1995 strip shows the Boss with a full head of hair in 1985, then with his original look in 1990.
The Boss's family sometimes makes an appearance in the strips, and are frequently presented as being as incompetent as he is. In 1998, the Boss's son, who hid in the attic for four years instead of attending college, was hired for the company and made VP of marketing due to his complete lack of knowledge. In the July 10, 2003 strip the Boss receives a phone call (presumably from his current or ex-wife) telling him that while he was working his children grew up and moved away, which the Boss reflects as being his most successful plan ever. In the December 28, 2003 strip, the Boss's wife was hired as a receptionist for the company. (This would be at least his third wife, as in the May 22, 2001 strip he tells Alice that he got his first and third wives using the "bait-lube-and-switch trick". A wife with hair unlike his appears on April 7, 1994, and a different pointy-haired wife appears on February 13, 2010.) On August 31, 2012, the Boss's daughter appeared, a late teenager disparaged by her father for wanting to study visual and performing arts and clearly smarter and more open-minded than him. The Boss's wife, son, and daughter all share his trademark pointy hairstyle, as do many managers in the comic strips. Dilbert was also once asked to interview the PHB's nephew for a position. He listed his work experience as "bowling" (because, although he'd only bowled once, the balls were heavy and it felt like work), and contrary to Dilbert's suggestion (to have him whacked), the PHB made him Dilbert's new boss. It was revealed in one strip that the Boss' mother calls him at work every Monday to loudly swear and insult him. The Pointy-haired Boss finds pointy hair as a positive and attractive feature, and often judges people based on the pointiness of their hair, such as when he promoted an employee named Ted because of a pointy "beard" that was growing on his forehead, or when he became attracted to Alice because she styled her hair like his. The PHB also has a brother named Phil, the ruler of "Heck" (a subsidiary of Hell). In the animated series, The Boss is seen driving an SUV that resembles a third-generation Mitsubishi Pajero. In the series The Boss shows blatant favoritism for Wally.
In an episode of the animated series, he sends all the engineers to mandatory ethics training camp, even though management had committed all the violations. He also had very poor knowledge of ethical guidelines:
- PHB: You may have heard that our company has been accused of unethical business practices.
- Alice: Is it the falsified product safety reports?
- Wally: Is it the false stories planted in the media about our competitors?
- Dilbert: Is it the crime family connections?
- PHB: What?! Are you saying those are considered unethical too?!? Good God, this thing is just snowballing!
Within Dilbert's company, the PHB represents middle management. Until recently, the CEOs and vice presidents of the firm were constantly changing, and typically were even more inept or unethical than the PHB. (The extremely rare occasions where the PHB is portrayed sympathetically usually deal with upper management.) The strip isn't particularly shy about killing members of upper management. The Boss' actual position and level of authority within the company seems to change from strip to strip; in some strips he is portrayed as being as powerless as the peons he manages, in others he is seen working closely with the CEO. Due to the frequent reorganisations and mergers within the company, and the fact that the Boss has had his position and title changed several times at the whim of his superiors, it is probable that he has been bounced up and down the corporate ladder several times over the course of his career.
The Boss engages in empire building and political gamesmanship with other managers, often to the detriment of the company, for instance deliberately not buying critical infrastructure to force another department head to do so, so that his rival will be reprimanded for exceeding his budget. He also deliberately fosters a culture of inefficiency to justify hiring more employees to boost his title and compensation, and engages in wasteful spending every December to avoid having his budget cut the next year, e.g. buying $10,000 worth of mousepads and allowing Wally to buy a coffee-holding panda. In one strip Dilbert asked him if they could move on to hosing the competition instead of their own company, to which the Boss replies "Our customers are next".
The company's actual name, as spoken in the TV series, was "Path-Way Electronics" before merging with "E-Tech Management", making it "Path-E-Tech Management" (a play on the word "pathetic"), but when Dogbert acquired it later in the episode, there was a "Dogbert Inc." sign being lifted into place. Dogbert is later mentioned as selling the company for "not quite $100 billion".
In the television series, he was mentioned as being a former atheist, having converted to some religion.
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