Has Undercover Boss jumped the shark already?

I regularly watch the CBS show, Undercover Boss, where top executives go 'undercover' in their own companies to find out what's really going on. Like many shows, there's a formula. Generally, a formulaic approach yields predictable results. If the formula yields predictable results, it better have good drama (see Law & Order). Undercover Boss has good drama, but it's more the daytime talkshow variety than the business variety. I think I'm losing interest.

Go ahead, watch the latest episode here first if you want.

Daytime talkshow drama

During the show, the undercover boss spends a day with five different employees. He inevitably discovers that several of them are facing quite a few obstacles and hardships in their personal lives. Later, the boss summons the employees to the corporate office, reveals he is the big cheese, and awards many of them fabulous cash and prizes to deal with their hardships. Just like any daytime talkshow host would.

This week, Rick Arquilla, President and COO of Roto Rooter met several employees who later received fabulous cash and prizes. One of them was Darrell, a technician who had recently returned to work after missing several months due to illness. Darrell's disability insurance claim was denied and he was now facing some financial hardships. During the 'reveal', Rick told Darrell that he had investigated the insurance claim and found out that a paperwork error had stopped Darrell's claim. Rick fixed the error and arranged for Darrell to receive all his disability payments. That's the kind of good a company can do when it cares about its employees.

But wait, there's more.

Rick also offered to buy Darrell a home gym, hire a nutritionist, and buy him food from a local health food store so he could improve his health. It was a great turn of events for Darrell, but absolutely unsustainable and meaningless for the rest of the company's thousands of employees. What about a wellness initiative that helps all employees get healthier while potentially reducing health insurance premiums over the long-term? How about working with the company's benefit's administrator to audit their process so other people don't get needlessly denied their disability claims?

Here are some of the other fabulous gifts and prizes from the show.

Candace received tuition for her special needs child to attend a private school. She's also getting $5,000 to apply towards her mortgage. Great move, but what about all the other employees with special needs children? What about all the other employees who could use $5,000 to apply towards their mortgage?

Chris is becoming a public speaker to share his struggles with addiction and help others. He has a great personal story, though I wonder how many other Roto Rooter employees have dealt with addiction issues and would like to get paid by the company to share their tale?

Henry is getting a 15 passenger van to help shuttle his son's basketball team to practices. What about all the other Roto Rooter employees who coach their kids' teams?

Dan is getting a garage so he and a few of his co-workers who are car enthusiasts can use it to work on cars. I'm at a loss for words on this one.

C'mon Rick - aren't you supposed to be a big picture guy? Well, we don't know if he is or not because we only see him lavishing Darrell and others with gifts. It's up to the show's editors to decide whether to share the rest of the story.

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