Reports from the Economic Front

a blog by Marty Hart-Landsberg

Humanizing The Boss

Perhaps not surprisingly given the state of the economy, the media is trying to find ways of letting workers vent while simultaneously encouraging them to believe that reform is on the way.  Said differently, that those at the top will hear our cry and come to our aid.

One of the best examples of this is the new CBS show Undercover Boss.

Here is what CBS says about the show (which had its first airing on February 7, right after the Super Bowl):

Each week a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.

Companies whose chief executives will make the undercover journey include such corporate giants as Waste Management (Larry O’Donnell, President and C.O.O.), 7-Eleven (Joseph M. DePinto, President and C.E.O.), Hooters (Coby G. Brooks, President and C.E.O.), White Castle (Dave Rife, Owner/Executive Board Member) and Churchill Downs (William C. Carstanjen, C.O.O.).

The premiere episode of UNDERCOVER BOSS will follow Larry O’Donnell, the President and C.O.O. of Waste Management, as he works alongside his employees, cleaning porta-potties, sorting waste at one of their recycling plants, collecting garbage from a landfill and even being fired for the first time in his life. O’Donnell’s mission is to garner an up-close look at his company and workforce to see how and where improvements can be made from both an operational and morale standpoint.

For a critical look at the show, including a discussion of how it is filmed, check out this Working Class Perspectives blog entry.

According to a NPR blog discussion of the premier episode, when O’Donnell (the head of Waste Management) is pressed by a reviewer at a post-premier discussion to highlight some of the changes he might make in light of the terrible working conditions he observed, about the only thing he can suggest is a renewed corporate effort to better explain corporate policies to the workers.

That should make everyone feel better–including the female trash collector who, “under the watchful eye of the . . . supervisor surveillance truck, . . .  is reduced to urinating into a tin can rather than compromising productivity by taking a bathroom break.”

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