Are You An Undercover Boss?

CBS Network premiered a new television show in 2010 airing immediately after the Super Bowl that had corporate board rooms trembling. The name? Undercover Boss. It is based on a British series of the same name. Each episode of the show features a senior executive at a major corporation, working incognito as a new entry-level hire in his or her company for one week, to find out how the company really works (including the impact of “corporate policy”) and identify some of the unsung heroes among the employees. CEOs of Waste Management, Hooters, 7 Eleven and White Castle were some of the first to slip out of their suits and work the front lines.

What they discovered about the company culture and their own reputations shook their corporate world. Their policies weren’t being implemented. Their people didn’t respect them. “I always thought everyone liked working for me.” Several bosses said. “I never cared what they thought…until now,” one admitted. They learned that they hadn’t been communicating because they weren’t connecting with their organizations. They learned through the experience to connect with their people.

Even if you aren’t aware of it, your company has a culture with traditions, habits, taboos and unwritten policies. There are subjects people just don’t discuss openly. There are stories told about former employees, former supervisors and even you. There are vendettas, resentments and unappreciated contributions lurking around certain corners in the office. There are rules that aren’t in writing, but they are more powerful than the ones that are recorded.

Your people tell them to each other year after year and pass them along to new employees, once they have checked them out and approved them (another unwritten policy) to stay. The new crop of trainees has already been indoctrinated with them.

But much worse, these are most often revealed to customers both verbally and non-verbally. They are given away with looks, glances, rolling of the eyes and outright truth-telling. The most dangerous employee is one who is assisting your competitors by driving your business away. They are sabotaging your customers with stories that support their claims of poor service. “You think this is bad? Let me tell you what it is like working for him/her….” Get the picture? You can do what you like, but these stories persist.

Try building the “Cult of You” within your organization. Get them working for you instead of against or in spite of you. Your own people know what will make it a better, more efficient workplace. They are brilliant and intuitive. Release their creativity and you will tap an untold wealth of experience and knowledge. It will relieve them to know that their input is making a difference as well.

Find out how to build a culture of positive attitudes.

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