The latest episode of Undercover Boss features David Rife, one of the owners of White Castle, going undercover in the company's operations to view it from a fresh perspective. As always, there were some fantastic lessons for all of us and a few unbelievable moments. I don't want to spoil anything, so use the link below to watch the show first if you haven't already.
"Do they look like they're happy?"
That's a quote from Geenie, a General Manager at one of White Castle's new stores. She says this to her new employee (David, the Undercover Boss) while complaining about corporate's practice of bringing in too many workers and managers to help with a new store opening. She's referring to her unhappy employees.
This is awesome on many levels. Geenie is the boss, yet she's somehow found a way to blame her employees' unhappiness on "corporate". She makes this complaint to a new employee, perhaps as part of the "soul and spirit crushing" initiative she's included in new employee orientation. Best of all, those cameras aren't hidden. Geenie makes her complaint knowing full well she's being filmed. Awesome.
My take? We don't always like the direction from corporate, but it's not the boss's role to join the employees in being disgruntled. A good boss can complain up, but he or she had better put on a good face for the employees and help them accept whatever direction they must head.
Blame the trainer, not the trainee.
In another segment, David struggles to learn how to feed a box load of buns into a packaging machine. Time after time, he gets the buns misaligned and the machine destroys them. By the end of his shift he had destroyed 4800 buns.
The highlight was when David's trainer, Steve, blamed David. Uh, what about your lousy training, Steve? Steve knew how to correctly feed the buns into the packager, but he couldn't explain it clearly to his trainee. He also lacked the patience and ability to coach David through his errors. On-the-job training is often referred to as "showing them the ropes", but it takes some skill and preparation to avoid rope burn! The worst mistake a trainer can make is blaming a trainee who hasn't received any real instruction.
"We all need to try to be more like Joe."
Undercover Boss always features an inspirational story or two. My favorite in this episode was Joe. He showed David how to work the drive-thru window at a White Castle store. Unlike Steve the bun packager, Joe was patient and calm and showed David how to work the window efficiently. David marveled at Joe's enthusiasm and willingness to connect with his customers. It's great to see the business owner connecting with those employees that really are the heart and soul of the business.