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What Do You Do When the Boss Isn’t Looking?

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Recently I started watching a show called “Undercover Boss.”  If you’re not familiar with it, company CEOs decide to do some surprise field visits incognito, posing as candidates for a job on a reality show.

If you’ve seen the show, you know it follows a pattern.  The formerly disengaged CEO gets a chance to go “into the trenches” with service employees.  They stumble and bumble their way through manual labor tasks and through interviews with their mentors, find out some personal things about them.  At the end of the show, the three or four mentors the CEO had turn up to corporate headquarters and the big secret is revealed.

In most cases, the CEO will recognize them for their good performance, but also will reference some kind of personal challenge and then provides them some kind of financial support or gift.   It’s a big feel-good moment and everyone is happy.

Now I know it’s a TV show and that it’s probably largely staged, but the big question is: If you were featured on “Undercover Boss,” would you be rewarded or reprimanded?

Maybe a better way to ask the question is: Do you do your best work when the boss isn’t looking?

I get asked all the time about how to build in job security in uncertain times.  The only way to do it is to constantly add value and do your best work.  If you’re looking for some ways to do this, ask yourself the following:

  • What am I doing right now that builds or bottom line or solves our problems?
  • If I was on trial for being employed here, is there enough evidence to convict me?
  • When was the last time I went over and above my job description to help a customer or colleague?
  • If I’m the only one who can complete a specific task, have I trained somebody else to do it proactively so they can take my place if I take a day off?
  • What am I doing to promote my company to friends and potential customers?
  • Am I a good representative of my company on my Facebook or Twitter?
  • Does my boss know who I am by my good points or my bad points?

Ultimately, our job security is in our own hands.  We can’t do anything to prevent a bad economy or industry changes, but we certainly can make the best use of our job and our time at work.

Take some time this week to ask yourself:  “Am I doing my best work when the boss isn’t looking?”


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  • Rakesh

    Good article…most of the people overlook the actual work and do something personals for instance, blogging, facebook, mails, tweeting, etc.

  • http://www.nursingexaminer.com Katherine Bengan

    When the boss is not looking, I may login to Facebook or LinkedIn to check my profile status, but other then that, I primarily work

  • http://knowace.com Thomas Garrod

    The answer, as usual, is “It depends.”

    Most people, myself included, do better when what they do matters. Of course, it has to make a difference to the client, the customer, the peer, the process, or the product. If my boss is a top-down enforcer, who can only tell, never asks for help, and threatens to get compliance, they I do better without the oversite.

    If the boss is a team-builder who is open, fair, and interested. if the boss includes everyone in strategic discussions and listens to problems and ideas. If the boss asks for help. If the boss is open, trusting, and trustworthy; if the boss is available when needed, but not in the way when not, if the boss really understands what goes on and acknowledges the real good we do as well as where we need to improve, then I’d like that boss to be around.

    I’ve worked for many large organizations and I’ve yet to see a staff that needs motivating that wasn’t actively demotivated by organizational culture, managerial incompetence, and unfair and unequal treatment.

    Rewards are generally given to the undeserving, the favored, and the incompetent. This is so true that I do not like to be rewarded myself because it is usually for the least important contribution while real contribution was unnoticed or unappreciated.

    Most organizations believe there are good people and bad people. They say their greatest asset is their people, and if true, they must be bankrupt, since this asset is so very poorly managed. The obvious truth is that all people have the capacity to be good or bad. with managers who build trust and hold people accountable, with systems, process, and culture that supports getting the best from people while helping be their best as people, every employee is a good employee. There are no bad employees, only bad managers, poor organizational development, and no accountability.

  • James Harrison

    I probably did more work when the boss wasn’t around because he was the sort that would come in, stand over your shoulder and possibly lean you out of the way of what you were working on. I even had him ask how I knew to put a mechanical seal together because I didn’t have an installation dwg. I have only been doing this type of work for 25+ years. I was responsible for making emergency sketches and field drawings of seal we didn’t have on file and performing seal failure analyses on all types of seals. I shall be tactful and just say he was a micromanager plus insecure enough to tell you only he knew how to do any of the jobs correctly.

  • http://Monster Ronda

    It amazes me that people don’t perform their duties like someone was always watching. That’s the way I was taught at home and at work on my first job. Why wouldn’t you? You are expected to do your best at all times so, why do you need a person physically and/or figurativly looking over your shoulder?

  • http://monster christina

    I do better if the boss is not looking. When I know they are listening to my calls or standing over my shoulder thats when I tend to mess up more. I have bad anxiety and bosses tend to male me nervous and uneasy. My supervisor stands where I can see her and makes it known in which is much better and if she thinks I need help then she tells me to aux my phone or writes it down so I can see it.