You're Not The Boss of Me. Wait, Are You?
A couple of weeks ago CBS premiered a show called Undercover Boss. The premise of this new reality show is to take the CEOs of huge companies and have them go undercover as entry level employees to see what really goes on in their businesses. There have been two episodes so far, Waste Management and Hooters. Both can be seen online in their entirety on CBS's video streaming site.
I remember briefly seeing a commercial for the show and I had assumed they went undercover to give their employees shit and fire them. Because, you know, America.
The CEO's see that working in America is complete shit and resolve to do what they can to fix it, give good people promotions, and fire bad people. But at the same time, I get the sneaking suspicion that it's just apologia for the rich. I mean, the show should really be entitled "Random anecdotal evidence for why capitalism isn't bad".
The show is the dumbest shit and I can't believe anyone is actually fooled by it. Do you honestly think that the CEO's didn't already know about these shit conditions and the "goal setting" in order to cut cost? It just comes down to being a pet show of the right because it shows that all CEO's are really kind and loving at heart, and Capitalism works!
In the Waste Management episode the CEO made it so that one of his female employees didn't have to pee in a can to keep up with the pace. Gee, thanks again. I think it would be an improvement if they made them live on the salaries they pay their employees as well. I'd be more interested.
Also in the Waste Management episode they showed a black guy who was on Dialysis and had a sort of sob story that pulled on your heart strings. Want to know the gritty reality? 4 months after they shot the episode last year the guy got laid off.
If I were the president of a company, I would kill to be on this show. Just do a week of shitty jobs, make certain people with good stories very happy and get a shit ton of delicious PR. If you don't follow through or have a life changing experience or hand over the means of production, do you think anyone is going to notice or care? Ha!
In the case of the Hooters episode, the CEO of that company came across an overworked manager who was the mother of two kids and didn't get to see them enough. What was the resolution to that issue? He gave her a long all-expenses-paid vacation to anywhere in the world for her and her family. He's still running a ridiculously sexually demeaning restaurant and the larger problem is that he gave a token gift to a single manager, meanwhile all the other managers are still overworked and struggling to make ends meet. Fuck structural solutions, a week vacation will fix everything.
The most comical aspect of the episode was that they were surprised that people don't want to eat at hooters because they think it's a degrading and embarrassing place. It is. Maybe I should start a bar called The Itty Bitty Titty Committee and wonder why it gets protested or very few customers. Strip clubs on game night function better than hooters.
To play devil's advocate on this though, I find eating at T.G.I.F, Applebees and Cracker Barrel to be equally embarrassing. Those places have management who encourage their wait staff to be just as slutty, be it in the restrains of their own uniform, as possible for the purpose of potentially making extra tips.
In the episode a manager was making women eat beans without their hands and other demeaning shit that makes when I make sarcastic misogynistic comments on this blog look like school yard teasing. That manager should have been fired, or at the very least sent off to sexist re-education camp. The only way to justify not canning him is that the franchise is wholly liable for any lawsuits regarding his behavior, but even that is bad PR.
That vacation thing is just the worse though. It's simply a PR move and nothing else. There were no structural changes made that needed to be changed. Just a bullshit gimmick gift that won't help the woman or anyone else in the long run. Now if they'd change actual company policy and give her more time off to spend with her kids, then I'd be impressed.
The Hooters episode is a great example of how the private sector is in no way superior to the public sector. The president and CEO has his position for no other reason than his dad founded the company. From what I saw he was not assertive enough to hold his own among the kinds of personalities you find in an exec board, and unlike the waste management guy, he didn't have any structural solutions to the problems that he identified. He couldn't even follow his fathers example and make himself seen among the workers.
I also have to point out that five days is not enough to truly understand what a person who works week in week out in a physically and mentally demanding environment goes through. Even when I work on a film production that has 12-14 hour days I'm able to rationalize it by knowing that the production will be over in X weeks and I could have a couple of weeks off of work to recover and know that all that over time and golden time pay will allow me to not worry about money as another film project comes along.
But for these workers, doing those kind of hours for shit pay and realizing that you can't support yourself (or anyone else for that matter) and live a life that's worth living for all these years and if at any point you were forced to stop for any length of time or risk getting completely over taken with a finical burden.. that must be soul-crushing. So no, I don't think a week is long enough for these CEO's to really see the full gravity of their employee's work.
Especially when they are doing the whole wrap-up montage. I realized that the premise was bullshit. Everyone individually got out of the shit, but the only change that actually helped anyone else out was fixing the penalties on a couple extra minutes of break. Middle management may have realized that the president was going to maybe be breathing own his neck and by the time the one woman said "I'm just glad that all my hard work was finally noticed and rewaded" I knew it was bullshit capitalist propaganda. The one woman had an accent that was half Sarah Palin and half Fargo, and if that isn't pandering directly to middle America, I don't know what is.
It's also very strange to see these CEO's witness blatantly illegal acts by their own managers yet never stop to think about firing them. They just let the camera roll and ask for a promise "to improve" and "form a task force". How the fuck are these shit stains not held liable for simply letting this shit happen, participate in a filming of it, and then participate in the filming of an absolute nonsense "resolution"?
All those things combined as well as the rest of the stuff that happens on this show is a great example as to why America is so terrible. The show is basically like "Oh, the plantation owner is a real gentleman, it's that damn slave driver who's the real villain!" I'm sure the average viewer is watching this and thinking that it's all about how CEO's changing the world into a better place. They're jut misunderstood uber-mensch really. Philanthropists at heart. Everyone one of them. Hearts of gold.
I'd like to see a health care CEO have to work one of the boards that denies claims for little old grannies and stuff. Ha, who am I kidding, he'll actually enjoy that job given that he has no heart. This is just apologist bullshit to make CEO's, COO's and other execs who aren't middle management look pretty in front of the camera without changing corporate policies, except for the very few people they show.
Even then, it doesn't mean those people were not dicked with after the cameras were gone. I'm sure stuff like this has happened in the past on that rare instance where the CEO is so disconnected to the average worker below them, but perhaps that's the problem. CEO's being so disconnected from the workers leads to them not thinking of their work staff as human. This show just makes them look like they actually give a shit about the welfare of their workers. It's all for PR here.
The next episodes are going to be focusing on 7-11, White Castle and Churchill Downs. I can't wait to see the CEO of White Castle try to eat one of his own burgers when totally sober. I'm also curious to see if 7-11's owner is actually from India as well. That in itself will lead to an odd situation.