Maybe it is the format of Channel 4 TV series Undercover Boss but I find it very irritating. The bosses in question seem so surprised at what they find, they play the good guy in front of the camera and never take their senior management team to task for not knowing what was going on.
Last week was a classic case in point. We were expected to believe that the boss had no idea that staff in different parts of the country were paid different rates for the same work, and that high absenteeism rates due to back injuries in one area of work had gone unnoticed.
‘The company has been exploiting this individual for eight months, requiring him to work on a day to day basis, not paying sick leave or holiday pay’
But what really has me shouting at the TV is the way they address issues as a one-off, totally failing to take the strategic overview you would expect from a senior manager.
Missing the big picture
In this particular episode, the kindly chief executive said: “I have made sure that, in future, staff from your depot will be paid the same as staff in Stoke.” Yes, but what about all the other depots? Surely what was required was a review of the remuneration arrangements across this national company to ensure people doing the same job were paid the same amount.
The bad back problem was responded to by the provision of a visit from a physio every two weeks. But clearly there was a health and safety issue around why all these injuries were being suffered and what changes in working practices were needed to safeguard staff.
Most exasperating of all was a reward to a member of staff who so impressed the boss. This individual had the required TV backstory: a poor immigrant who came to this country to escape poverty and unemployment and was sending half his wages back home to his parents.
Reviewing bad practices
He gets a reward of a flight back home and a permanent contract. All smiles and handshakes – what a generous boss. No! The company had been exploiting this individual for eight months, requiring him to work on a day to day basis, not paying sick leave or holiday pay and not contributing to a pension. The boss made no reference to a review of employment practice to ensure others were not exploited.
Maybe off camera these strategic issues were addressed with HR and his senior management team. Maybe behind closed doors he gave them the bollocking they deserved.