memo to ceos: don’t wait for ‘undercover boss’ to talk to your employees.

I might be the only one (although I doubt it) and perhaps I’m a bit more cynical than most, but I’m not so sure Undercover Boss is the best PR move for CEOs of large corporations. Of course, it’s already being lauded by some folks in the PR realm as a great platform, as reported by the New York Post.

Pardon me for sounding a bit like a paranoid Marxist here, but there’s a part of me that finds this particular brand of schadenfreude slightly condescending.

For the first time, I watched an episode of the hit reality show this evening and admit it was well crafted, if not completely predictable and formulaic. And I certainly believe it’s vital for a CEO to have direct interaction with the line workers at all levels of operation.

But not like this.

It comes off as exploitive and disingenuous.

If I were advising a CEO, rather than pitch him/her to Undercover Boss producers, my advice is to walk the shop floor when the cameras aren’t rolling. If you want to be respected by your associates and you want to know what’s happening in your company, just do it. Don’t go undercover. Talk to the employees, listen to their stories and follow up on what you learn.

You should be doing it now and you should be doing it frequently and randomly. Your employees should know your name and your face and have an open line of communication to you.

Don’t wait for a reality TV producer.

You want to see who’s doing it right? Check out Zappos.com. Tony Hsieh is a CEO who gets it.

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