The Apprentice – It’s So Wrong

Secret Sales Director discusses The ApprenticeIt’s 2017 ~ and all the talk is about work life balance

It’s about how you can achieve in your career, without killing yourself in the process.  It’s about being a better mother/father/wife/husband/ partner, and still enjoying the fruits of your efforts at work.  Isn’t it?

Well apparently not, if you watch The Apprentice (UK version).

Apparently there, it is still 1984.

I get it that this is meant to be an entertainment show – but let’s just look at what happens in a normal episode.  Everyone gets woken by a phone call at 5am, and has to be out of the house (looking suitably business-like) 20 minutes later.  They then undertake a 14 hour day with no breaks, battle with their colleagues, undermine their team mates, and ultimately blame one another for their failings.

They openly boast about how brilliant they are.  They make unfounded claims about their success.  Sleep is for wimps, and so is parenthood.  There are parents who have come on the programme, proudly announcing they have left their kids (with who knows who?) for the duration of the series, as if this is something to aspire to, because they are “hungry” to “achieve”.

According to The Apprentice, this is how the future business brains and multi millionaires operate – like sharks in a tank.  Because this is what you do, if you want to be seen as a “success”.

For me, this is completely wrong. Let’s look at why.

The Boardroom

Lord Sugar’s Boardroom is, in my opinion at least, a representation of the Dark Ages.

The teams gather to be instructed by Lord (should that be Emperor?) Sugar and his aides.  Aides are meant to be there to assist, advise, and .. well .. aid.  But in the other universe that is The Apprentice, they watch from the sides, taking notes and sniffing a lot but giving no help or wisdom whatsoever.  I recoil every time they turn their noses up at just about everything the candidates do. They are sniping, horrible, insipid people who inspire and aid no one but themselves.

At the Boardroom debrief, everyone gathers to hear the pearls of wisdom gathered by the aides, but never by Lord Sugar himself.  He just sifts through them after the event, then tells the candidates in painful, minute detail everything they did wrong.  There is no leadership, just mudslinging, and the candidates may as well have just been scraped from the bottom of someone else’s rather expensive shoe.  What follows generally descends into all of the candidates squabbling, backbiting, shouting each other down and scrapping in a heap, before it’s down to the fittest (or at least the ones who shout the loudest) to survive to the next round and do it all again.

This isn’t how business should work. 

Setting you up to fail

In my opinion, it is Lord Sugar and his team who should be fired.   They set the candidates an unclear brief, then batter them because, in a field in where they probably had no experience whatsoever, they were actually not very good.  They were placed under immense pressure, divided against themselves, and given no leadership, guidance or oversight.

In other words, time and time again, the candidates on The Apprentice are set up to fail.  And yet they go through what’s laughingly called “The Process” round after round, year after year, making the same mistakes over and over again.

In what normal business “Process” does this really happen any more?

The whole set up of The Apprentice is the absolute antithesis of what’s being talked about on Leadership training courses, and in the real life business world of 2017.  In the world of The Apprentice, no-one reads articles by Richard Branson on Thrive Global.  No-one has heard of the game-changing work of Stephen R. Covey.  Instead, big egos get bigger, arrogance is praised, it’s kill or be killed and you throw everything and everyone in your life under the bus in order to win.  Kids, partners, mates, colleagues .. everyone is fair game, as long as you win.

This leads me to wonder: in spite of all the talk, discussion and hand-wringing, has not much actually changed below the surface?  Perhaps, in spite of all the training and rhetoric, big business really doesn’t care if it burns you out by the time you are 30, you are on your 4th marriage, have an acute alcohol problem and need counselling for stress induced by a job with ridiculous expectations against a very different reality.

Or actually, is The Apprentice just seriously out of kilter with the REAL world of business in 2017?