A worker must be given the proper job training if he or she is expected to succeed. But when that doesn't happen, and a worker flounders, who's to blame? The perennial workplace dilemma was on display on the most recent episode of "Undercover Boss," which featured Anthony Wedo, the CEO of Buffets, Inc., the largest buffet provider in the country. Buffets, Inc., serves 100 million guests a year at brands including Ryan's Buffet, HomeTown Buffet and Country Buffet.
Poorly trained, poorly behaved
During the episode, Wedo posed as "Mike Davis," a construction worker competing for funding to launch a new business on a separate second chances reality show. And on his first site visit he stopped in at a Ryan's Buffet in Lake Charles, LA, and was assigned to work with the restaurant's manager, Ernest. But his attention was soon commanded by Skye, a dishwasher who represented a two-fold failure -- dirty dishes were stacked as far as the eye could see and Skye had a terrible attitude to boot. Indeed, in training "Mike," Skye said the work "sucks," suggested fellow employees can be treated like "slaves," and, finally, "Mike" shouldn't gripe about not receiving more than one minute of training, as can be seen in the clip above. After all, it was the very same introduction Skye had received to the job, he said.
For Wedo, the encounter was, not surprisingly, quite frustrating. After growing up in modest circumstances with a father who worked as much as three jobs at a time, he too had put in time working as a busboy among other restaurant jobs. But he was able to climb the ranks in the hospitality sector to become an executive at companies including Boston Market and gained recognition for helping turn around companies, he said. Since taking over Buffets, Inc., he's at it again. Sales at the company have been growing in the last 12 months after a six-year span in which it filed for bankruptcy twice.
Crucial to his turnaround strategy at Buffets, Inc., Wedo told the camera, was confronting the culture of "despair." So witnessing Skye at work was like a slap in the face; Wedo even told the camera the whole situation was driving him "crazy." As a result, Wedo decided to take bold action. He approached site supervisor Ernest and asked to speak to him outside. He proceeded to out himself as company CEO and told his manager, "it's a mess back here." Why aren't we training people? What's stopping you from doing the right thing, he asked Ernest.
The managerial response
It wasn't the first time a boss grew so frustrated on the show he moved to out himself on the hit CBS series, now in the middle of its fifth season. Back in season three, for instance, Diamond Resorts CEO Stephen Cloobeck was so angry that one of his workers failed to apply a company policy of never saying "no" when dealing with a customer on the telephone that he told her who he really was. But he then told her the blame lay at the feet of her manager and that her position was safe.
Another highly memorable incident from the series came later in season three when Rick Silva, the CEO of the fast food burger chain, Checkers and Rally's, visited a site whose performance was utterly incompetent -- the speaker at the drive-through station was broken, there's been a lack of training, and the manager is seen barking orders. Silva shut down the site on the spot.
Which path was Wedo to take? "I don't want to do this anymore, I am done," he told the camera shortly after pulling Wedo aside. But he chose to defer any decision until the show's reveal. His restraint foreshadowed the moderate approach he took with Skye. He did make clear his disappointment, telling Skye, "You don't embody any of the culture that I want in our restaurants, frankly." But in deciding his response, Wedo took aim at the culture of the workplace, and not at the worker himself. He said the restaurant and its training processes needed to be overhauled and Skye could be given a second chance to prove himself.
Moderation, however, was not Wedo's approach with all the workers he met on the episode. And with good reason, too. Wedo, much like many of the bosses who appear on the show, came across workers on his site visits who were soldiering on in the face of serious adversity. There was, for instance, Michelle, who works as a cashier for HomeTown Buffet in Fresno, Calif. Michelle understands that good cheer is vital for such a frontline position and proceeded to urge Mike he needed to handle problems at the register "with a smile."
The energetic approach was all the more impressive when considering that Michelle was forced to leave high school early to help care for her mother as a result of her cancer. And to top it off Michelle said she had no safety net to rely on. In the reveal, Wedo told her he was going to give her a total of $30,000 in rewards, half of which would be reserved for her education. Michelle had told "Mike" she would one day like to work as a criminal profiler.