Saturday, May 26, 2012

Undercover Boss: TV series

I began watching this TV series Undercover Boss on Netflix just a few days ago. I get to watch the  American version of this show on Netflix. So, the story line of this reality show is that the top boss (usually CEO, but in some cases, the COO, marketing head, legal advisor, etc.) of a particular company go undercover (under a disguise) for a week and work at the lowest level in their organisation, in different locations.

The workers, with whom they 'train' for their job, are (generally) told that this person is one amongst the two who are competing in a reality show for filling one open position in the corporation. They (the employee) have to evaluate his/her (the CXO's) performance on the job. The selling point of the show is that a wealthy CXO, who lives in a mansion, has expensive club memberships and jet-sets around US (perhaps the globe), is willing to reach employees at the lowest rung and work with them to understand the company better. At the end of the show, (s)he is supposed to announce what is being done to make the company a better place to work.

Of course, the show was meant for prime-time viewing, which means there has to be lots of drama and emotions thrown in. Human beings have a somewhat irrational reaction towards emotions and reality shows take complete advantage of this. So, the boss is sent to work with people who have struggled a lot before having this job or who have a family crisis or issues, which strike an emotional chord with the boss (and more importantly the viewers). In almost every show, the boss come out realising the (s)he cannot deliver with the same efficiency that those workers have been delivering (Oh, give me a break! Even I cannot do someone else's job with the same efficiency, but same hold true the other way round). And it also dawns upon them about how those employees are the ones who have made the company successful.

Well, well. Where was all this knowledge hiding till now? When you are chasing quarterly results, busy trying to impress Wall Street and shareholders, employees' happiness and well-being tends to take a back seat. But, at the end of this show, the CXO is supposed to realise what is not working in the organisation. (S)he has to attempt to fix the flaws that are stagnating or contrary to overall employees' growth. But you almost never see that happen!! On an average the CXO works with 4-5 employees in different locations and doing different jobs. Each employee narrates a set of problems (s)he is facing in life. Some are personal and some are professional. Some professional problems are a result of personal issues, while some personal problems arise from professional (on the job) issues. The CXO in almost all episodes seem to address the problems of individual employees. So, as a reward the employee sees his/her problem being addressed in the form of a vacation or a one-time cash grant. But then, doesn't this leave other employees, who were not selected to work with the CXO, unhappy? They could have problems far more serious than those selected. Besides, by announcing personal reward, how does it benefit the organisation? Where are the policy changes? Of the more than ten episodes that I saw, there have hardly been 3-4 policy decisions compared to almost 60 personal rewards. Or will there be policy decisions behind the camera? If that's the case, how will the prime-time viewer know whether the company is actually doing something for its employees? And the intention of the show is to demonstrate that the top management is willing to actually look into employees' problems and not just indulge in improving the top-line and golfing!!
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