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The Morals of Intervening Leadership


It isn’t uncommon to go to work and have your mind somewhere else; some people commute up to two hours to get to their workplace, and a lot can change a person’s mood in that time. Just as overarching problems can influence your outlook on your day. The question is, should one day be indicative of anything, morally speaking. After all, if you cannot empathise with the struggle of having a bad day and having to go to work, I am convinced you are kidding yourself.


I remember being told by a friend, Lucy, that her daughter had been penalised on record at work for poor performance, when she had told her supervisors that she was seriously unwell and had asked to go home. This notch on her record meant that her averages were skewed because the supervisor had only seen a moment, and when Lucy’s daughter explained how unwell she had been, again, her supervisor appeared empathetic, but informed her that this data would still have to go up on the system, and it would take a few days of increasingly better recorded data to recover from the damage to her record if she wanted to be accredited as the best employee in the department, which until then, she had very much been in contention for.


She didn’t win the award and Lucy wondered how much of that had come from there being better performing employees, or employees getting better luck, and how much of this loss could be attributed to one bad day.


This lead me to thinking back to an iconic episode of Undercover Boss: Season Four, Episode Nine, where Sara Bidorf, the chief brand officer was sent undercover to improve the company’s image, quash any problems and report back, and on her mission, she encountered an employee who rubbed her the wrong way.


Ronnie was the hourly shift supervisors, and made numerous remarks about his disinterest in good customer service: regarding himself as “the Kim Kardashian of Boston Market”. However, his remarks went above and beyond a disgruntled frazzled employee ranting about a difficult customer to their colleagues in the stock room. Instead, he commented, whilst on the floor that “children and old people are literally the worst I’ve ever seen in my entire life because none of them know what they want and they literally can’t talk so you just have to deal with it.”


His commentary on the customer service role he had was becoming increasingly inappropriate for someone in a position of leadership in Boston Market, and Sara became the first boss in the show’s history thus far to break cover to an employee they were working with. And, as she did so, and critiqued Ronnie for his behaviour and his remarks, he seemed shocked, informing Sara that “Boston Market me and like real Ronnie, who is usually left outside of Boston Market are two very different people.”


This had me wondering whether he was trying to play up a character for the TV show that Bidorf was supposedly being on; an aloof and blasé customer hating millennial which would strike a cord with this restaurant competition show’s audience. But, had misreading the situation cost him his job.


When his employment was terminated, he confided in the cameras, telling the world that, “[he] didn’t think it was that terrible it’s not wrong of [him] to hate people, [he’s] not trying to justify like how mean [he] was to a customer like behind their back, like they don’t know. [he’s] saying it so it’s not really a big deal, but now, like the giant lady of Boston Market knows what’s going on and that’s just not fair.”


The idea of fairness had me recall another episode. What if Angel, the famous star employee of Modell’s sporting goods, was having a bad day when she met the boss on the shop floor, maybe she was, maybe her performance was not as good as it could have been, and he would have been non-the-wiser due to her gratitude for the role in itself, as someone who was homeless.


Of course the point of Undercover Boss is to be rid of titles that would lead to people pleasing and obsequiousness from employees, by being an average joe, you get more honesty from your staff, but, could that format really have lost Ronnie his job? Is honesty in the name of purpose worth that? It’s interesting to ponder, especially, now that we are living in an era of empathetic leadership.


Would Ronnie have been allowed to explain himself? Should he have been allowed to explain himself? Is the show’s premise fair, or is it this unfairness what makes for compelling success stories for employees who never saw this coming?



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.


He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com

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