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How Would You Illuminate Clueless, Disconnected CEOs

1 March 2010 Written by: Orietta Ramirez 3 Comments
How Would You Illuminate Clueless, Disconnected CEOs

I have been pleasantly surprised with the episodes of “The Undercover Boss” I’ve watched.  The well-to-do CEO shrugs off the golf clubs, chic expensive cars, cushy lifestyle, expensive suits and jewelry, even if only for a week, to mingle and, alas, work alongside their company’s employees.

Talk about timing given the bad press some other CEOs have been receiving particularly during and post senate hearings.  How can they expect sympathy when they have the audacity to show up in corporate jets, whining about how they cannot afford to not pay bonuses to executives who have been, almost single-handedly, the ruination of millions of Americans and their hard-earned savings and retirement funds, for fear that they will leave?  Guess that is worse than firing thousands who depend on their weekly paychecks just to survive? I think we all can agree many of us would not feel their loss!

Ah, but back to the sympathetic, and recently enlightened CEOs who now not only know the name but the lives of those they employ.  It is not difficult to become emotionally attached to the mother/grandmother, who works at 711 while receiving dialysis, or the single mom who manages a Hooters restaurant with motherly concern, or the CEO who finally gets his pink slip when he cannot keep up with an amazing yet ill employee during a sanitation run.

Nevertheless, let us take a pause here.  Why did it take the mass layoffs, the shutdown of some major American companies, and a country in the most unimaginable financial crisis since the Great Depression, to finally have the CEOs leave their glass houses and venture into the “real” world?  Do I dare say, too little too late?

Yes, I would.  However, at the same time, I want to say “about time”!  There is a sense of justice when you see how emotional these CEOs get when they experience the extreme pressure employees face on a daily basis.  The realization that it is not just to keep their jobs, but to make a living for themselves and their families, are their employees’ constant struggle.  It gives one faith to see that there is still some humanity left in those we have labeled self-important, self-centered and oblivious to the reality of our present financial state.

Is it enough?  One has to hope that the lessons they learn from this brief juncture will carryover into the executive board meetings and forecasted as well projected project plans.  I for one would like to have the other members of the senior management do the same, as part of their “training”.  Yes, they have the burden to manage and run a company of multiple employees but they also need to appreciate the value that each employee brings to the big picture not just the bottom line.  One CEO observed that even supervisors need to step in once in awhile …hmmm.

Interestingly, the CEOs of this show are those whose parents or grandparents came from humble beginnings.  Could be why these CEOs are out in the workforce to get more insight.  One such executive even received an earful from the general public when querying them as to the perception of his company.  Talk about an eye-opening moment.

This show does not focus on the misery but more importantly on the dedication, hard work and optimistic view of its employees.  One such employee reminds himself and, unbeknown to him, his employer how much it means to live the American dream, even at the cost of not seeing his wife and family during the week due to his work schedule.  Yet he smiles and reminds us how important it is to spend quality not quantity time with our loved ones.  Same message the CEO took away.

The intro to the show states that the public believes these CEOs to be out of touch … most definitely.  Now they are taking extreme action … I beg to differ.  To live one week like the average person is not extreme.  As for action, that only depends on lessons learned, and what they will implement to address the needs of the employees, fairly and timely.  Like one CEO states, the core of his company is integrity, honesty, and job security.  Now if we can get those in government and major industries to be part of this process, then maybe, just maybe, we can have something, and more importantly someone, to believe in.  A girl can dreamJ

Let me know what you think about this program and CEOs in general.  Are they all bad?  Are they getting a bad rap?


Orietta Ramirez is a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn, raised in The Bronx, and presently calls home in Dutchess County, New York. Pedagogically, her claim to fame, as she puts it, is that she shares Cardinal Spellman H.S. as her alma mater with the distinguished Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Fordham University with Vince Lombardi and Steve Bellán, first Latin American to play Major League Baseball, and with Geraldo Rivera, another Brooklyn Law School alum. A first generation Chilean-American, she is a dynamic bilingual lawyer, employee relations advocate and project manager, with experience in human capital administration, audit and risk management. While leveraging her legal and compliance background as an HR partner, she incorporates her expertise on projects and in business relationships with a focus on diversity and inclusion as well as talent management. She is an avid reader and includes salsa dancing among her extracurricular activities, and is always open to all that is intriguing and challenging, which offers new opportunities for thought.

You can learn so much about this author by clicking here.

3 Comments »

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  • Carrie Corcoran said:

    I watched Undercover Boss when the CEOs of Hooters, 711 and White Castle where profiled. I do hope that they will really make changes. I have learned from experience that just because a CEO has an MBA from Harvard it does not mean that he knows how to run a company, yet he still has his job. In forming a company you would think that opinions of employees would be of importance but I found just the opposite, don’t rock the boat. Recently I was lucky enough to meet and currently work for an excellent CEO who does care. I’m starting over and working for nothing three days a week and we’ll see how that plays out in my future. This CEO has not taken a paycheck for the last two years. A start up situation may be a bit different than a corporate giant but should it be?

  • Janet Hohenstein said:

    I like the program. I do hope that more and more CEO’S of companies will take the initiative and be a part of the show. More important, I think before anyone gets promoted in a company they need to know the details of the jobs and what the job entails since this makes a person a better manager of people. The bottom line is not the only success of a company. Many factors make a company a sucess such as quality people, good customer service, team work, a superior product etc.

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