Why “Undercover Boss” Gets Leadership All Wrong

The Washington Post | Feb 08, 2010

CBS’ new reality TV show, “Undercover Boss,” may be good entertainment, but it absolutely sends the wrong message to bosses and employees. Watch it and snicker, throw popcorn at will, and always remember - it may be called reality TV, but it’s not a reality you want to emulate.

The short term impact: good TV. Longer term: a big hit to teamwork, productivity and performance and, probably, the bottom line. Would you want to work in a place where you didn’t know whether your mate was a co-worker or a corporate spy? Had the boss simply visited with teams, or worked night shifts, or utilized an employee survey, he or she would have learned most of the same information without destroying trust.

A boss who misrepresents him or herself invites employees to misrepresent themselves, or perhaps misrepresent the company or its products and services to customers. Sneaky leadership authorizes sneaky behavior from others. What’s next?