Roll Up Your Sleeves!

I just couldn’t resist blogging about “Undercover Boss,” the new television reality show where top executives from companies go to the frontline, undercover, and perform entry-level jobs.

The first episode was really good. The COO changed various operational items based on what he had experienced. However, my enthusiasm faded after the second and third episode. This could be the result of “Reality TV,” but it seemed like the other episodes resulted in the executives giving away vacations and promotions to the employees they met. That changes the dynamic and purpose of the show. It leaves the viewer anticipating “What is he going to do for that employee?” versus “What is he going to change operationally to avoid this situation in the future?” For example, the Hooters and 7-11 CEOs gave away a vacation to each of their employees. This was very generous, but not necessary. The 7-11 CEO heard from one of his store night managers that they didn’t feel there were any other opportunities within the organization and the job was a dead end! After the undercover “operation,” the employee was promoted and moved into another position. Nothing was said about how the Company addressed the issue of communicating career opportunities to the stores! I would be more interested in how to impact thousands of employees rather than just one.

I did see some “snip-its” at the end of the show about the employees participating in some corporate efforts, but it seemed to be more afterthought and certainly not a highlight. Again, this is probably a result of a “Reality TV” production rather than a business lesson.

Employees LOVE to tell you about and show you their jobs. However, if you engage in this, you need to be ready to take action that will impact the majority and not just appease an individual. At minimum, you will need to respond to what you have seen even if you can’t give the employees what they want. Don’t ignore the issues but rather acknowledge them and engage your people to create and participate in change.

Perhaps it is time you “roll up your sleeves!”


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