I'm hoping my editor won't lose confidence in me when I confess that my column this month is inspired by a reality TV show. It's not even a particularly good show, as one can sense the handprints of corporate public relations teams throughout the hour. Yet, the concept is elegant and the potential lessons for inside counsel are meaningful. I'm talking about "Undercover Boss," which tracks CEOs for a week as they pretend to be new trainees in unglamorous jobs at their companies--with a camera crew in tow.
Episodes that have aired as I write this included CEOs of Waste Management, 7-Eleven and White Castle. Mainly we watch CEOs gain a new appreciation for hardworking employees who are making the best of their situations. Yet in each episode the CEO seems genuinely surprised when a corporate policy does not translate into the field. An example is the wasteful dumping of bagels at a 7-Eleven store, even though 7-Eleven has a program in place to donate such food to homeless shelters. The show also revealed misbehavior--such as a male manager at Hooters who treated his female servers disrespectfully.