On the list of "Most Ridiculous Things I've Ever Been Asked to Write", this takes the cake. In management class, we watched an episode of "Undercover Boss" and had to write about the lessons White Castle can learn from their CEO's excursion.Words fail me. But I still had to crank out 1300 of them. This was the result.
Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy? Reality TV and Corporate Governance
Ye gods. The first two words of this paper took me five days to write. Because I cannot for all of my best efforts glean just what is being asked of me here. A reality TV show, sanitized and disinfected by Corporate America so that everything looks nice and pretty and on-message while demoralized workers get treatment that would make Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel say “seriously?” Might as well start with that. Right. On with it.
The White Castle episode of Undercover Boss is exactly what you'd expect from studying people scratching out a living working a soul-destroying, unskilled, “remind me again why I never went to college?” job that pays next to nothing, provides so little of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that I'd be shocked to discover that they're even moving past the first level of the pyramid (some, nay, most of those people pull down less money than I do from student grants and loans and I'm a poor college student!) So at its very core, White Castle is paying less than a living wage to people working in conditions that would make the OSHA inspectors cringe. The warning that the bagging machine operator offered to Dave about getting his arms (or hands, or whatever limbs, I know it was something) ripped off---well, Upton Sinclair's turning in his grave, isn't he?
And let's discuss the appalling sanitation while we're at it. People are touching buns after touching raw meat during the preparation process---it's a wonder White Castle hasn't encountered a Jack in the Box incident (the latter being responsible for the introduction of “E. coli” into the popular lexicon after the foodborne illness deaths of several children in Seattle in January of 1993) with their burgers. Either that, or the ungodly amount of onions on a slider serve the same sanitation purpose that they did when onion juice was used as a disinfectant for battle wounds in World War One.
But I digress again. The biggest problem, as I see it, with White Castle's management is that their Fearless Leader Dave Rife actually thinks he's going to learn something meaningful by his little token “how the other half lives” PR stunt. Instead of commissioning a blue-ribbon panel to investigate the problems with employee morale and the breakdown in the management chain, he thinks that by going on TV and thumping his chest about what a populist he is, he'll somehow...well, I watched the episode three times and couldn't make head or tail of just what he was out to accomplish.
A more sinister explanation might just be that people really are that arrogant and that managers believe that management is somehow this process that can improve the workings of business. I've spent three months having my stereotypes reinforced that pointy-haired Dilbert bosses aren't born; they're made. Made in business schools by classes that try and instill in idealistic little whelps the idea that corporate management is anything other than a fine way to...OK, fine. I might as well dress up like a peasant and say “come see the violence inherent in the system, help, help, I'm being repressed” if I'm going to take that angle.
So what does White Castle do right? Besides be a delightful fall guy for the old “working in fast food is a really crappy job” trope? Well, they turn out a metric ton of burgers in a short period of time by making them tiny and cramming them onto a griddle whilst simultaneously hiring people who can hold more information in their head than I can hold in a notebook and paying them minimum wage for the privilege. But that's a systematic advantage, not a triumph of anyone's management. Unless you believe that the slavemasters on the ancient Roman galleys were great managers because they really motivated those slaves to pump the oars faster.
I really don't know the question you want answered here (and I'm either flushing my grade down the loo or hanging a lampshade on the essential absurdity of the question being asked about White Castle---I've told myself “don't just Google the answer, answer the question with the materials provided and nothing more” and I'm holding myself to that.) Does an advertiser-approved, corporate propaganda, “look at this CEO, he's so humble!” faux-reality show illustrate anything besides what CBS and the White Castle corporation want us to have illustrated? Of course not! This is America! So what's left? An exercise in contrast, a confused student, and a “six page maximum” (right. Six pages. Four thousand words. Good luck with that.) paper about...what, exactly?
But I've got this angle about what a waste of time this is, I've put over eight hundred words into it, why stop now? I'm on a roll! Kind of like a hamburger (ooh look, a pun!), but I'd rather you not serve me with so many flippin' onions. Those things sting my eyes when you shove me face down into them. My point is that there is absolutely nothing of value to be gleaned from all this any more than you could tell what the management is like in a sewer from watching Mike Rowe have a rat jump in his lap on Dirty Jobs. Or, for that matter, how Jamie Hyneman runs M5 Industries if all you had to go on was an exploding cement truck and Tory Belleci falling off a bicycle on MythBusters.
Like I said. It took me five days (the entirety of Thanksgiving break, since I'm writing this at 8:20 in the morning on the day the paper's due) to come up with the first two words---ye gods. Either I'm even dumber than I thought (and I tend to think I'm the dumbest student in the room) or I am indeed being asked to shovel the south end of a northbound bull to a degree that exceeds my suspension of disbelief.
I did find one thing interesting about the whole Undercover Boss show---it would seem that mine is the majority viewpoint, at least on the Internet. I searched on YouTube to find clips from the episode to refresh my memory (it's amazing how readily mindless prolefeed like “reality TV” slips through the cracks of my brain like the ephemeral, non-corporeal fluff that it is) and the comments were vitriolic at best. There's a real CEO backlash in America. CBS might want to take note. They could get some real satisfaction out of something like “CEO Dunk Tank” with the tank filled with sulfuric acid, at least if the YouTube comments on these videos are anything to go by. Maybe White Castle can learn something from that---people really seem to hate Dave Rife and think he's an egomaniac and a narcissist who has no business pretending he's so caring and wonderful for going and screwing up the works among the many poor, unfortunate souls who work for him. At least it's funny when Mike Rowe does it because he's got a sense of humor about it and shows genuine respect for the “hard-working men and women who earn an honest living doing the kinds of jobs that make civilized life possible for the rest of us.” (to steal a line from the Dirty Jobs intro.)
But I've rambled on quite enough, haven't I? The point of the matter here is that I could prattle on for another four pages. I could talk until I'm blue in the face about the plight of the worker and the high-minded circus act that is CBS blatantly exploiting hard-working people for a big freak show for us all to watch (and buy the sponsor's products). But I'm going to do something I wish American television executives would do more of. I'm going to shut my damn fool mouth. Because sometimes the very best form of management, and one Dave Rife would do well to heed, would be to go back to his expensive toys and trophy wife and padded executive chair and let his damn peasants do their jobs. That's what White Castle needs---genuine humility, not the made-for-TV kind.