I was watching one of my favourite programmes on TV- The Undercover Boss- and I started thinking of how it will play out if all bosses decided to go undercover and work on the ‘shop floor’ with the employees.

A lot of companies are so particular about customer insights and research, Focus Group, Personal interviews, Field Trials, Phone Surveys, etc. As important as it is to know the customer perception of our brands, we should not in the process neglect the key drivers of the business – THE EMPLOYEE. We equally need to know their perception about the company….

What is an Undercover Boss- According to CBS TV Network- ‘’Undercover Boss is a reality TV Show where high level executives leave the comfort of their offices and secretly take low-level jobs within their companies to find out how things really work and what their employees truly think of them’’

Another idea similar to this is the Mystery Shopping- a tool used by companies to gather specific information about products and services with the help of mystery shoppers who purchase a product, ask questions, register complaints and then give detailed reports to the management based on their experiences.

Mystery shopping is slightly different from the undercover boss because in the later, the Boss will be fully involved and will actually join the employees in performing their daily work.

Let’s look at the Undercover Boss from two perspectives- The Employee and The Boss.

 THE EMPLOYEE

If your Boss decided to go undercover and work with you, what kind of vibe will he get from you? Positive? Negative?

Let’s give kudos to some employees that despite the fact of being unappreciated, they still go ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty in performing daily tasks. While some Employees take out their frustrations on the customers and everything relating to the company.

In as much as I don’t support employees being treated unfairly, it will be a criminal act for any employee to deliberately sabotage the employer for whatever reason!

If you feel unmotivated, stressed or marginalized, it is advisable to ‘leave the kitchen if you cannot withstand the heat’. In simple terms, resign honourably and search for opportunities elsewhere instead of allowing frustrations to turn you into a monster.

THE BOSS

When I say the Boss, I’m referring to —Business Owners, Principal Partners, MD/CEOs, COOs and so on. In simple terms—the Decision Maker in any organization or company.

I know we have more strategic roles to play and shouldn’t be bothered with menial jobs but can we for once walk in the same shoe as our employees?

Get involved in the day-to-day activities and we will be shocked at how some of our policies and processes, technology, tools/equipment are impeding business growth, affecting revenues, increasing costs of doing business and making life difficult for the Employees.

My idea of an undercover boss is working with Factory Workers, Shop Floor Employee, Back-Office Staff, Front Desk Officers, going on field trip or customer visit with Sales Rep and Marketers.

The purpose is not to ‘witch-hunt’ anyone caught not performing up to par based on pre-set standards but to have first-hand experience of on-the-job challenges.

In the Business School, I was taught that every business is a going concern!

As Bosses, we need to build sustainable businesses, build institutions that will outlive us. This is not achievable if we lose touch with the everyday operation of the business or if we fail to carry the Employees along.

One of the secrets of most businesses that are thriving today lies in the way they relate with their employees and how they make them feel valuable and critical to the success of the company.

According to World Economic Forum report on ‘Best Places to Work in 2017’, the main focus of the companies in the top 5% includes; Professional Development, Good Working Culture, Flexible Policies and Employee Benefits among others.

Some responsibilities cannot be outsourced or delegated to Managers or Supervisors or 3rd Party Agencies, let’s come down from our high horses, connect with our people and have a feel of what it takes to work in ‘less strategic roles’ in our companies.

If we cannot be an Undercover Boss or a Mystery Shopper then let’s just be a concerned boss and leader ready to listen and empathize with others.

The people working with us are not just our employees, they are our first Customers, Clients, Fans, Cheer Leaders, Trade Partners, Representatives, Brand Ambassadors and so should be treated likewise.

Every company is as strong as its weakest link!

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