Undercover boss

A friend of mine recently had an unexpected TV appearance which reminded me of my own similar situation.

Some years ago I was employed as Operations Director for a company…Operations Director can mean many things but in my case I had responsibility for anything in the company that didn’t quite fit into the realm of my colleagues in Finance, Sales, Marketing etc. who had more specific portfolios. Anyway when our company was invited to take part in this TV programme I had to manage the logistics of it being undercover ie explaining away why we had a film crew in the building and also all the practicalities of filming and privacy.

Somewhat surprisingly the first major challenge given to me by the production company was ‘could I find a local company to deliver 20 bacon sandwiches at 7.00am on each morning we were filming?’

When we told our staff that filming was taking place (we just said it was a documentary about training and career opportunities in our industry) we of course gave people the opportunity to specifically opt out. Out of 100 or so staff we only had one formal and very, very definite opt out…and when given the details why this person wanted to remain incognito it made sense. It also actually made me realise that I had a sheltered life compared to this individual who really did not want to their location be known!

For the rest of the staff although there were protests of ‘ooh, don’t let the cameras near me’, the interesting thing was our normally very casually (but always presentable) team suddenly started paying a lot of attention to hair, make up and style…and that was just the guys!

My planned role in all of this though was strictly behind camera. But as fate would have it, one of our directors planned for the famous boardroom scene that you always get when the board express surprise and shock at the ceo’s decision to go undercover, went sick. So I was stand in and then for reasons of continuity was stuck in!

I didn’t quite get the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol promised us all but I did have a few sound bites that haunt me to this day!

That programme was shown about 8 years ago but somewhat bizarrely, I was in Holland some 5 years after the event working in a completely different industry and meeting with one of our customers who in the inimitable Dutch way very casually mentioned..oh by the way, I saw you on TV last night! …and then just carried on chatting … More coffee?

So perhaps Andy Warhol was right!

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