The Office Cringe Bracket

IT’S HAPPENING: The Office Cringe July Madness

Meghan Hatalla
12 min readJul 29, 2021

There are literally hundreds of articles and listicles and Subreddits discussing the most cringeworthy episodes of NBC’S The Office. As a fan (of cringe comedy and the show), I was always excited to come across a new one but always displeased to find the same episodes in sightly different order.

— These people must all be stealing content from one another —

I griped to myself as I read yet another article claiming that Gay Witch Hunt is the ultimate cringe moment.

Webster’s Dictionary Defines…

Cringe is highly subjective. But you you know it when you see it, or rather feel it in my case. Even thinking of notoriously cringey things, like when Michael insists Tony get on the table, or Jim trying to figure out how to create a *rundown* for Charles, give me a sticky icky feeling. Cringe is an internal, uncontrollable recoil.

Developmental psychologist Phillipe Rochat says

…Cringe is an automatic empathy response of either contempt or compassion. An empathy response involves the necessity of experience — one cannot cringe without knowing what an embarrassing situation feels like.

Viewing these kinds of moments on TV, particularly with characters we know and love, have to walk that fine line between eliciting contempt or compassion while mixing shame and empathy. So I asked myself (and others): What are those moments that elicit such strong emotions among Office fans?

Seeding the Cringefest Bracket

After collating all the cringe lists I could find, I seeded each entry based on how many times they appeared and how high they ranked. In order to make a true March Madness style bracket, I had to source a few additional moments. And to truly illustrate how biased and horribly subject to scrutiny this bracket should be, I picked my favorite cringe moments.

Winners are bolded and we’ll start at the top for the most obvious matchups.


(1) Scott’s Tots

Meghan Hatalla

Minnesota — based UX researcher and yoga instructor. You can find me as @megtalla in most spaces!