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Feb 9, 201509:56 AMMad @ Mgmt

with Walter Simson

What ‘Undercover Boss’ gets wrong

(page 2 of 2)

At a time when both political parties are expressing concern about income inequality, this show celebrates it in a particularly unseemly way. Get to know the CEO and you will be generously compensated. But toil in obscurity and you are out of luck.

What steams me most about Undercover Boss is that the company is used as a site to emphasize the wealth, power, and prestige of management. While wealth and power are logical consequences of career success, this show makes it seem that they are the only consequence. So the practical problems the workers bring up are never addressed. The boss rewards favored persons but never addresses the underlying business issues so fleetingly referred to in the course of the show. The company is just a backdrop for fake generosity, not a serious place where real work gets done.

I guess the reason this all bothers me so much is that I find that good managers don’t resort to selective and unseemly toadying. Good managers favor good business processes that work for all and don’t just look out for the welfare of preferred employees.

Some managers go so far as to make the jobs, and the lives, of employees easier. The CEO serves the company, not — as is so woefully portrayed on TV — the other way around. This is a powerful philosophy called servant leadership, which I’ll talk more about in my next post.

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Feb 11, 2015 06:41 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Guess you haven't watched all the shows, Walter. I see leaders who take the time to really understand what is happening out in the trenches and do make long-term changes. And indeed, the boss made changes in a humans life--giving them the gift of an education and helping them grow as defined by servant leadership. Maybe we watched different episodes.

Feb 11, 2015 08:04 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Thank you for your comment and especially its respectful tone.

I guess I don't feel servant leadership is, by definition, episodic. Reality TV, by definition, is. Happy you enjoy the show.--Walter

Feb 11, 2015 08:12 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

I agree with some of these points ... yeah, if this is such a great company, why are so many of your employees low wage earners? The concept of the CEO getting in the trenches and being aware of the customer experience is very important, though. I've always said I'd never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do myself. The CEO should have a basic knowledge of what his workers do and then figure out how to make it better. One of the first episodes they did (before workers got wise to it) was on the Great Wolf Resorts. The CEO discovered the registration system was ridiculously long and convoluted and needed to be changed. The message is important. The made-for-tv-drama part of it, not so much.

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