On February 7th, following the Super Bowl,
CBS will premier a new reality show called “Undercover Boss,” starring Waste
Management President and COO Lawrence O’Donnell. In the trailer O’Donnell is seen picking up paper and
clearing trash and riding the Waste Management truck. The days of hard labor exhaust him and he wonders if he can
go on. He learns the hardships and
struggles of his employees and comes to an understanding (when his identify is
revealed) that he must change company policy to help his workers. (I’m not
giving anything away, folks; it’s all in the trailer.) O’Donnell is a changed man and the
workers he encounters over the course of a few days or weeks are changed people
as well. Some are given better job
titles, a substantial raise, and some assistance with their workload.
Warm and fuzzy, sentimental, PR-driven, a
tugging-of-the-heart device to attract the common worker. Call it what you may, but “Undercover
Boss” might actually be beneficial viewing—for both presidents and CEOs of
Fortune 1000 companies and their often forgotten employees. Forget the entertainment value. What employee wouldn’t love to see his
employer getting his chops busted on national television?
Will other CEOs and presidents tune in? That’s the question. Don’t quote me, but I think most people
running large corporations don’t have time to watch reality shows, never mind
participate in them (with the exception of Donald Trump who is more of a
celebrity now than a businessman).
But they need not apply to the “Looking for CEO to Bare Soul”
position. They don’t even need to
watch “Undercover Boss”. All they
need to do is be aware of the show’s premise, which is, “Do I know what’s going
on in my own company?”
The timing of the show couldn’t be better. Right now there are thousands of angry
employees who believe they are undervalued, and many of these same people
wonder what exactly their C-Level bosses do. Many believe that the higher you advance up the corporate
ladder the less you do. And that
may be true. Just take a look at
your local golf course Monday through Friday. There’s a lot of corporate money walking those courses.
It’s time for CEOs and presidents to leave their
office in the sky and hit the floors below and visit with their employees. Make the rounds, ask questions, get
feedback, send a company wide email when you return to your office in the
sky. In other words, get real.
Reality TV is anything but real. It’s scripted, it’s edited, and if it’s
not entertaining it’s scrapped. It
will be interesting to see what kind of ratings “Undercover Boss” does, and who
exactly tunes in. Hopefully, it
will be C-Level executives who will take note (and act!) and make their company
a better and more understanding place than it was yesterday.
There’s another show to make about the work
environment. It’s called “Employee
Undercover” and it’s about an average overworked and underpaid employee who
follows his CEO around all day.
And the viewers learn over the weeks to come what exactly this CEO does
and why he’s paid so much.