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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

Undercover Boss: is executive management out of touch?

Categories: office life


I don’t know about you, but I eagerly anticipated the premier of Undercover Boss after Sunday’s Superbowl. Sure, I may be a reality TV junkie. But, really, this premise intrigued me more than Jake the Bachelor ever could. A CEO going undercover in his own company, taking on jobs of his everyday working class employees, and experiencing firsthand the impact of his decisions.

The first episode followed Lawerence O’Donnell, the President and COO of Waste Management, as he posed as a newbie on front-line jobs that his employees do every day. He learned firsthand that some of them do really hard, messy work for low pay. While most of us aren’t literally picking up other people’s shit, it sure can feel like it some days. Right?

If I was an employee of Waste Management, I would have a deeper appreciation for my COO right now. He saw problems with how his own policies were implemented and how his decisions, made in a pretty corner office, impacted the real people of Waste Management. In the end, he vowed to make some policy changes to make some of their work lives easier.

Don’t you want to know what really happened after the cameras left? I sure do.

What struck me most were the faces of his midlevel managers when he reported on his undercover experiences to them. I saw defensiveness. Fear. And a whole lotta skepticism. Do you think the plant supervisor who sat at a desk, watching his employees on closed-circuit video has really changed? He looked like a third-grader getting called to the principal’s office when his draconian time-clock policies were challenged. Mr. CEO said he never intended that time policies be construed to justify docking two minutes of pay for every minute an employee was late clocking in from the 30-minute lunch break. I’m pretty sure the policy, while nasty to the employee, is also illegal. I didn’t think that employers could dock your pay. Like ever.

I think that Larry’s willingness to solve issues that he confronted while undercover is a testament to his own leadership. But I also hope that executive management doesn’t think that they need to go on a reality show to get answers or get their employees engaged. If you genuinely care about your employees, if you treat them well and show them that they are respected and valued, then you’ll have engaged employees. When we feel like we matter, then we’ll share our opinion.  (And some of us loudmouths will always share our opinion, whether you want it or not.)

A reality check doesn’t have to start with reality TV.

Photo credit: CBS

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2 comments so far...

  • I’m sorry I missed that, heard good things about. Sadly I’m sure there are many CEOs who don’t really want to listen, or don’t believe it. I remember when we were doing all this cost-cutting, but the fancy customer events still went on, just scaled down a bit but publicized as if the employees would be excited to hear about them. We cancelled a proposal to buy every employee lunch one day - which would have cost maybe $50K, because of the “perception” of spending money, but spent easily three times that on a very cool, but not really necessary, tradeshow display seen by many 10% of employees and customers. I’m sure many people advised the CEO the big employee productivity benefits of a $5 lunch.

    Nicole Pelton  |  February 11th, 2010 at 12:16 pm

  • Though i agree… reality check doesnt start with TV… honestly, by the time news reaches top management it has been massaged a lot. They will know its not pretty, but they will know its not that bad. They will claim employee morale, give comp time. But not really understand why the balance is off.
    I think it was really great. Right after the show, over discussions, we went as far as saying that may be it should be mandatory for all boards to implement this. I completely agree, that his executives were dumb founded.. and may be thinking “Has he lost his mind!” May be they will follow through with some plans. But honestly for a complete picture.. they should do a “before” and “After” not just for the same people.. but over all company graphs, charts etc.
    Though i was thinking… if i were an employee and not picked! I would hate that it was not my shift! :-)

    GNSD  |  February 12th, 2010 at 10:43 am