Home > The joys of work > Undercover boss – Stephen Martin

Undercover boss – Stephen Martin

I was flicking through TV channels few days ago and stumbled upon a reality TV show called ‘Undercover boss’.  The format is quite simple: a top manager of a company goes undercover in the guise of a regular employee and interacts with his/her Stephen Martinworkforce to identify any problems within the company. This episode featured Stephen Martin, Chief Executive of a construction firm called The Clugston Group.  I thought he looked slightly out of place as a construction site worker with his expensive glasses and ‘clean’ look but surprisingly, only one employee recognised him. Mr Martin  seemed like a really nice guy. However, by the end of the show, nice as he was, I was convinced that had Mr Martin not been doing this for TV, he would have handed some of them their P45s.  Call me a cynic if you wish but that is what really happens in the real world.  These programmes are just free adverts for the companies that take part in them.

I was somewhat bemused by Mr Martin’s surprise at the comments made by his staff about the general lack of care shown by the company towards its employees. Though Mr Martin had only recently been appointed Chief Executive, these are the kinds of comments made on a daily basis by staff in a lot of companies.  The reality is that people are always going to complain about their employers but in the case of Mr Martin’s staff, it was with good reason.

The show confirmed what I suspected – many senior management don’t know what’s going on in their companies.  Employers tell us that we should feel free to approach them when there’s a problem but in reality, they really don’t want to know. It’s like the whisleblowers’ charter which tells us that we are protected if we reveal, in good faith, malpractice taking place within the company but the experiences of Derek Pasquill and other whistleblowers tell us that whistleblowing can get you fired and destroy your career.  While one in four of us is aware of illegal or unethical practices where we work, 52% of us now know that it’s wiser to keep our mouths shut.

It would be interesting if some top level management go undercover in the real world but given the spate of dismissals based only on comments made by bloggers outside office hours, I don’t think employers are ready to hear the truth or even if they are ready, many don’t to be lumbered with the task of sorting out any problems so it’s easier for them to act like these problems don’t exist.

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