I’ve started watching a new show. It’s called Undercover Boss. CEOs go undercover in their own companies to get a better idea of what is happening on the front line. It’s a great concept. CEOs have to be big picture people with vision. But too often senior management loses perspective. Sometimes the details do matter. Sometimes they need to remember that their employees are people who can give a lot to their companies but need encouragement and the feeling that someone cares about them. So, let me describe some of what happened in the first episode.

This guy from Waste Management went out into the field. One guy fired him for being too slow at picking up trash. Another guy is someone I would like to see every day because he’s the kind of guy who loves life. This guy cleans port-a-potties for a living. As he was taking the CEO out to a job he says, “We’re like hunters. It’s not a job, it’s an adventure.”  

On another job, the CEO went out with a woman who was on a trash pick-up route who had to pee in a can when she had to go. It just goes to show that sometimes there are policies put into place to cut costs or increase efficiency that can leave out the human element. I’ve had crappy jobs but I can’t imagine having to deal with that.  

Now it’s easy to watch a show like this and take the side of the workers. It’s a case of corporate vs. front line. But what happens a lot is that there are usually good solid reasons for implementing policies. I’ve worked in places where employees take advantage when there is no accountability. And I’ve worked in a place where there has been too much oversight. It’s about trust, hiring the right people, training, and most importantly, communication. Communicating with the employees before the policies go into effect and communicating the reasons and details after. And then encouraging feedback.

Communication is key to relationships. With employees, supervisors, and with customers. I was amazed that some of these waste management employees were friends with their customers. It makes you think about all the people we interact with each day. And how many people touch our lives and brighten our days.

But the most important thing to remember is if you have to clean up toilets at any point in your life, just think of it as a “Battlefield of Poo,” and do your job well and with pride.