by Joe Kirkpatrick
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the new series "Undercover Boss" on CBS. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it. Each week, a CEO of a major corporation pretends to be a middle age man who is out of work, and looking for an entry level work position. At the beginning of each episode, it shows the CEO and his family in their mansion, living the extravagant lifestyle. Over the span of six or seven episodes, CEO's exhibit their lack of knowledge in things as simple as properly mopping a floor, to using profanity while fumbling numerous times trying to screw a single screw into a piece of sheetrock.
During breaks while on the job, the CEO hears from the employees about their various problems, from working while getting cancer treatments to home foreclosure due to their poor pay. A central theme emerges at the end of each episode with the CEO choking up and saying, "I just didn't realize what our employees do for the company." In the latest one I watched, the CEO of a major home restoration company said, "Until I did this, I always thought we took care of our employees - now I realize our employees have been taking care of us."
The current recession in our country has revealed to "the rest of us" the enormous salaries, "golden parachutes", and other elaborate perks given to executives in large corporations. I expect the CEO's and other executives to be handsomely compensated for what they do, but should not be "obscenely" paid. Let's take Seven-Eleven or Roto-Rooter for instance. In both businesses, does their customer have any idea who the CEO of the company is? The customer knows the company by the person they actually deal with. With Seven-Eleven and Roto-Rooter, the person who represents that company to the consumer is probably the lowest paid worker. At Seven-Eleven it would be the clerk behind the counter, and at Roto-Rooter, it would be the technician who gets your raw sewage on him while he cleans out your pipes. Without either of these low paid workers, there would be neither of these companies. A basic principle I have learned is the hardest jobs tend to pay the least. No one should make millions a year while their "backbone" workers are not making enough to meet the basic cost of living.