Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Undercover Boss

Every once in a while television stumbles across a novel idea, full of promise. Let's face it, there are not too many undiscovered ideas left out there for the medium that are unique. The CBS show Undercover Boss was one such show.

I was intrigued from the start. The premise, the boss/CEO/president would leave his high pressure job leading said company and go undercover for a week doing the entry level jobs required by the employees of his organization. Interesting I thought, as I work for a large company and train entry level employees. Let's see all the shirkers and stumble-bums doing things wrong. That's reality TV. All gave the same reason for having a camera follow them around, a documentary of jobs or similar excuse for validation.

It started off with Hooter's restaurants with the president cleaning kitchens, waiting tables and all the other messy stuff that happens in a restaurant. One manager of a franchise made his waitresses eat beans off a plate with their hands behind their backs for anyone that wanted to go home early. Ahh, just what the viewing public wants; scandal! Then, at the end of the show he would call those he worked for to the corporate office and reveal himself and tell everyone what he learned.

After watching several episodes it was becoming very apparent the leaders of these companies couldn't hold a candle to his associates. (All company heads were men). They did everything from cleaning port-a-johns to boxing chocolates to packing trucks. Except for two instances shown what they found as a group were employees that worked harder than they could, performing jobs at which they were totally inept and overmatched. They found people passionate and driven no matter what the circumstances, forced to work with rules and conditions imposed by corporate leaders who had no basis of reality on how these rules affected actual people.

This show, short lived as it was (seven episodes), gave new meaning to how the real world works to those leaders. It brought to light how out of touch high paid CEO's are with their own companies and the human touch required. Every corporation needs smart people leading but seventy hours in an office, holding meetings and looking at budgets isn't as demanding as the entry level work performed day in and day out.

I hope this was viewed by many other high level execs who will leave their cushy offices and roll up their sleeves and learn what it takes to work in the real world without judging others based strictly on numbers listed on a spreadsheet.

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