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Workplace Culture Meets Reality TV

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Workplace culture has been highlighted on television shows from The Jetsons to The Office. But one reality TV program asks employees to fight each other in a terrible game.

The show comes from the FOX Network and is titled Does Someone Have to Go? We could explain the try to explain the premise, but a preview clip speaks for itself.

Take a look:

It’s hard to know where to begin. A blog post from NPR’s Linda Holmes outlines the issues:

The premise of Does Someone Have To Go? is that we visit a troubled business and the employees are encouraged to “take over,” which here means that they are given the authority to (supposedly) fire someone from within their ranks. This is presented as a very brave move by the owners, as if they are actually surrendering control, rather than refusing one of the fundamental tasks of management — making painful decisions — and pushing it off onto their employees.

This is essentially like claiming that because there’s a food shortage at the zoo, you’ve let the lions “take over,” by which you mean that they can decide which one of them will be killed and eaten by the rest. They can’t leave the zoo, they can’t get more food, they can’t can the zookeeper and replace him with someone who will manage their environment a little better. But if they decide among them that one of the lions needs his neck ripped out, that’s up to them, and nobody will interfere. The lions are “in charge.”

Workplace Culture - Lions Feasting

© Flickr user justin

Holmes is not the only critic to lash out at this program. Writing for TIME Magazine, James Poniewozik notes:

The problem with Does Someone Have to Go? is in its founding ideas and assumptions. I’m just going to quote Fox’s description here: “Almost every office across the country has some level of dysfunction, which often can be attributed to just a few select individuals – those co-workers who might be viewed as anything from lazy to incompetent to quite simply having a toxic personality that poisons the entire workplace.”

In other words, if something’s wrong where you work, the problem isn’t management—God forbid—it’s you, or one of your shiftless coworkers. So go find a scapegoat! To help in that pursuit, the show prods sores by having employees badmouth each other in private interviews—which it then shares publicly—and revealing every participating worker’s salary.

What else can we say? The problems that we encounter at work are severe, but they are mostly about how we choose to build organizations. That’s why shows about workplace culture are so often as painful as they are hilarious. They remind us that much of what we do at work is not healthy.

If we want to be more satisfied, more engaged, and find more meaning at work our reality television shouldn’t be about cutting each other down and finding someone to eliminate. It should be about working together and solving problems to benefit everyone.

Isn’t that the reason work was created in the first place?

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