Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fire Me Please

Actually, I'm pretty happy where I work, so the title here refers to the new CBS show, Fire Me Please which I saw for the first time last night. I had in fact wanted to crawl into bed early to deal with the terrible cold from which I am currently suffering, but my Business Prof wife insisted that I watch this with her. And it is hilarious....I literally fell off the couch laughing at one point.

Two people start jobs at two different stores/pizza/coffee shops/ etc and the one to get fired closest to 3PM wins $25,000. The trick of course is to lay the groundwork for getting fired by 3 without being so obnoxious as to get fired before the other guy; or to build so slowly that 3PM comes and goes without getting fired.

Watching bosses and coworkers react to the wrong behaviours of the new hire is totally absorbing; and fascinating to see how much it takes to actually get fired on your first day. Bosses and coworkers are willing to give the new person an awful lot of chances, even when it becomes painfully evident that they are not going to "fit in". The four bosses we watched last night were really decent -- I was particularly impressed by the very young boss of a pizza store who not only gave our insane new worker every opportunity to get it right (always talking to her in private rather than in front of the other workers, always with a fairly positive tone, even being polite as he fires her, though obviously very frustrated) he was fanatic about cleanliness and maintaining proper standards for the customer. That's what I like to see! I'd eat there now!

Indeed, the weakest boss was the one in the sporting goods store who didn't want to fire the lunatic even though the rest of his staff had come to hate the new hire. The boss kept telling our contestant that he "still had a good chance at the job", which perhaps shows a certain weakness, since getting rid of the dysfunctional worker is clearly a management responsibility and something he owed his other workers.

Considering that these people were all being filmed with hidden cameras, it is amazing that we didn't see worse behaviour. We've all had terrible bosses, at one time or another, so how come none of them showed up on camera?

But it is a great show! I highly recommend it. Forget reality TV, this is an extended Candid Camera episode, but with quite interesting insights for business and sociology... I love how it is often the little things -- the breaking of tiny tiny unwritten rules -- that convince people you're crazy. (Like, when you get into an elevator, face the wrong way. No law against it, nothing overtly scary, but the elevator will empty out rather than travel another couple of floors with you.)

I'm very tempted to try to figure out how to use this in my next class... I'd love to show my student teachers excerpts, and then ask them what it would take to 'get fired' from the practicum. I think it would help a lot of them relax to see how crazy you have to get before you actually get canned -- and I think it is important for them to see there is more to doing the job then just the job. I'll have to give this some thought....

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