Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I think The Apprentice promotes bad behaviour

Leye - Every other Wednesday

By source

I’ll get straight to the point. I think that the TV show, The Apprentice, promotes bad behaviour. I think it is not enough that it respects the 9pm watershed in the UK, I think that each episode should be preceded by a warning such as:

‘The programme you are about to watch includes scenes of deception, backstabbing, vicious character assassination, blatant lying, connivance, extreme selfishness and self-interest, bullying, abuse, intimidation, and all manners of malfeasance from the beginning and throughout.’

This might not even be enough. Perhaps the warning should also include a caveat: 

‘The process you are about to watch in no way depicts what is deemed acceptable behaviour for candidates applying for a role in any organisation.’

If you are one of the few people who do not watch bad tele, unlike me, then an explanation of The Apprentice is necessary.

From Wikipedia:

The Apprentice is a reality television program that judges the business skills of a group of contestants.

The Apprentice was created by British-born American television producer Mark Burnett. Billed as "The Ultimate Job Interview," the show features fourteen to eighteen business people who compete over the course of a season, with usually one contestant eliminated per episode. Contestants are split into two teams, with one member from each volunteering as a project manager on each new task. The teams complete business-related tasks such as selling products, raising money for charity, or creating an advertising campaign, with one team selected as the winner based on objective measures and subjective opinions of the host and his advisers who monitor the teams' performance on tasks.
The losing team attends a boardroom meeting with the show's host and their advisers to break down why they lost and determine who contributed the least to the team. 

Episodes ended with the host eliminating one contestant from the competition, with the words ‘You're fired!’

The first host of the show was Donald Trump, and oh boy did he relish pointing at the belittled contestant and telling them ‘You’re fried!’ One wonders if his time on the show has anything to do with the president he is today. He does seem to fire a lot of his staff at the White house. And his obsession with ratings – It’s like he thinks the presidency is just one big show. Like he thinks he’s still hosting The Apprentice. Only that he’s not. This is much more serious. Much, much, much more serious. But I digress.

The UK version of the show is hosted by respected multimillionaire businessman, Sir Alan Sugar, and very much like the original series, each episode of The Apprentice UK sees a bunch of contestants competing to become Lord Sugar’s next business partner. And here is where it gets nasty. Really, really nasty.

Camera crew follow the contestants as they interact in their joint abode, as they carry out each episodes task, and individually as they talk to the camera, expressing their opinions on the other contestants.

The show promotes competition. Nothing wrong with that. But in my view, it promotes unhealthy competition. And bad conduct. Take for example each task. A project manager is selected for each team, and from what I’ve seen, the team leader is punished if they choose a collaborative approach. They are instead expected to solely come up with a an idea and a plan, force this plan upon their team by being ‘authoritative’ or ‘firm,’ and then they are expected to delegate,  delegate, delegate. 

They are punished for being weak if they seek the opinion of their team mates, use Non Violent Communication, seek harmony and promote collaboration. Indeed, they are expected to force their team to do their will. It's not about working together; it's about telling other people what to do and making damn sure they do it. 

What we usually witness each episode, is the team mates competing against one another, the team lead being a tyrant, and each team member sabotaging one another – especially when they are alone with the camera.

Too often the project leader uses their solo time with the camera to berate their team’s uselessness at the task and how, if the team fails, it’s the fault of someone or everyone other than them.

Same with the team members. Once they’re alone with the camera they quickly start to make their case for not getting eliminated should the task fail. They eagerly point out how ineffectual the project leader is, how stupid the plan is, how they had no hand in the brain-dead idea, and they never fail to list the shortcomings of their team members – the same shortcoming they will bring up should they be facing the axe in the boardroom.

At the end of the task, before the winning team is announced, both teams are invited to the boardroom where Lord Sugar, with his co-hosts on either side of him on the other side of the table, asks each team about their tasks. Even before the winner is announced, the team members start sabotaging each other, telling on one another, making up stuff, interrupting and talking over each other, exchanging insults, raising their voices, making accusations, misrepresenting the truth and generally being nasty. And they’re on the same team!

It gets even nastier when a team losses. They all go for each other. They lie, they insult, they go for the jugular. Each one of them, fighting to be saved, throws everyone else under the bus.

And at the end of this shameful show of blatant self-serving terrible behaviour, what happens? One person (usually) is kicked off and the others are rewarded for their nastiness by having another chance to become Lord Sugar’s next business partner. Really? Does Lord Sugar really want to work with such vile, conniving, two face people? Does anyone want to work with such people?

I would like to know how former contestants have fared at job interviews following their time on the show.

To be fair, The Apprentice is not the only show the depicts bad behaviour, but The Apprentice is a job recruitment game show and for this reason I think it is fair to be critical of the behaviour seemingly encouraged of the contestants. Perhaps the show should come with the warning: ‘Do not behave like this in a real job interview.’


  1. "Reality TV" is about DRAMA, not reality. People working together, harmonizing, achieving things through reasonable behavior is not viewed by most folks as dramatic. It's probably fair to say that the majority of the viewership for these kinds of shows are people who are jealous of others' successes and love to see others "get there just deserts." This is the same reason the Carping Kardashians have been 'successful.'

    I'd rather watch a show about people working together against great challenges to succeed through cooperation. Give me Apollo 13. Now THAT'S drama done right.

    1. Sir, you ARE on to something. If there’s no such show, why don’t we make one?

  2. I'm with Everett. "Reality TV" is as far away from reality as one can imagine. Consider the first offering - Big Brother. Take a group of people, lock them up together in a house for a month or whatever, add all the things Leye has described, and have them live on national TV all the time. This is reality?
    The amazing thing is that people seem to prefer watching these things to fiction written by first class writers and acted by first class actors. And the purpose of fiction is to hold a mirror up to reality. Is there a moral here somewhere?

    1. Left to me, reality TV would be banned as unhealthy.

  3. Leye, first of all thank you for this detailed description, without which I would have no idea what The Apprentice is all about. The only reality TV I have ever watched was cooking shows that my grandchildren favored when they were younger.
    That said, I am putting on my international-consultant-and-author-of-five-books-on-leadership hat. The job behaviors you described as fostered by the show--though they may make for amusing TV--are EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of those that lead to high productivity, creative problem solving, and corporate success. And therefore to highly profitable organizations. I used to get paid large amounts of money to help my clients with team building and open communication which enhanced their success. There are TONS of data to show that groups using the techniques I taught far outpace the individual "expert" in coming up with the best solution to a problem.

    It's quite troubling to think that generations of potential employees might be absorbing these counterproductive behaviors thinking they will get them ahead. If everyone starts behaving that way, their employer companies will fail. And no one will have to say, "You're fired," to rob them of their jobs.

  4. I am please to say I've never watched a single episode of "The Apprentice." I'm sad to say 230 million or so of US are living it every day.

  5. I think Michael and I would have been fired for even contemplating that people working together can be successful.