William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

Undercover Boss

I "saw" the first few minutes of the new show Undercover Boss when I was ostensibly finishing my astronomy homework. It happened to come on after the SuperBowl, and I hadn't yet changed the channel. ;-)

The first segment was with a waste management CEO who went to various jobsites and tried out different things, each for a day. The idea was that most of the workers except for maybe some regional managers or whatever wouldn't know who he was, and the ones that did would help him keep his cover.

I saw how he worked on the sorting belt, trying to take cardboard out of the stream, and he let a piece get by him and the whole system jammed. I felt bad for him - you could see how unimpressed everybody around him was. And the next day he was supposed to pick garbage off a hill at or near a landfill, and to keep that job he'd have to fill up a garbage bag every ten minutes. But he couldn't do it. I don't think I could either - I think about things too much and barely kept my data entry job. (It's only now that I'm attaining some kind of comfort level with doing calculations quickly in my physics labs, for instance.) I could barely watch as the ten minutes ticked off and he went to the supervisor with his third-full bag and got fired basically just after coming off lunch. Remember that he's actually the boss of the whole company. A humbling experience.

It's the third site he went to that I wonder about. He befriended a supervisor there, and she invited him to her house to have dinner and meet her family. (It must be noted that the TV crew came too, so the family must have known something was up, though the premise was that he was just a guy doing something like It's a Living.)

So it's revealed that this supervisor is basically doing two or more jobs due to cost-cutting measures but getting the pay of one, and her house - her family's dream house - is up for sale because she can't really afford it.

It's tragic.

But then Mr. CEO decides that he wants to help her. I didn't stick around to see how it progressed, but there was a clip of him in a vehicle with the regional manager saying how he wanted to help her out (but not blow his cover). And I'm thinking, "NO!" No! You can't pick out a Sally-sob-story and give her a raise or something. You're the CEO! You have to do something that floats everybody's boats - hers, the company's, and every employee's!

Sure, her situation sucks. But maybe she bought a bigger house than she could afford. And her social equity and money problems are not your company's responsibility. Your responsibility as the CEO is to keep your company profitable, albeit with due regard to employee, environmental, etc.. welfare.

I know that I too would be tempted to use my power to help someone I befriended. I get that. But, I dunno, it kind of seemed like the equivalent of giving one homeless guy on the street a $1000 bill and then ignoring all the other homeless people for the rest of your life. And maybe sometimes, privately, that is the right thing to do. If you want to do that, you should have that right. But this is a CEO of a public company, in the public sphere of work. You have to be fair and equitable to the nth degree. And in this case I think this CEO lost his senses and let his good nature get the better of him. (But, again, I didn't stick around to see what happened. Please feel free to fill me in!)
Tags: reviews, television

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