To end the 2014 on an incredibly dehumanizing note, CBS aired an episode of Undercover Boss that stirred up protests from all walks of life. Undercover Boss is usually a wonderful program that allows CEOs to see what is happening on the ground in their companies and reward hard workers accordingly. However, this particular episode profiled Doug Guller, the CEO of Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill, who fired a bartender after she decided not to dehumanize herself by wearing a T-shirt instead of a bikini top on television and “rewarded” another employee for her loyalty by promising to pay for her breast enlargement surgery. (See videos below.)
The episode was so bad that Cosmopolitan released as scathing review saying, “what’s also crazy is that CBS aired all this as if it were good fun and zany reality TV, not horribly misogynistic workplace discrimination.” Writers like Rebecca Rose observed that Guller “has always been totally tone deaf about the sexism he enthusiastically promotes and frankly seems to enjoy having offending people with his business practices.”
Several minutes into the episode, I was under the impression that Guller was going to realize how dehumanizing the business model was, given the struggles with declining revenues and employee retention, but instead Guller newly committed to finding ways to find young women on social media to hire so that they can serve food wearing bikini tops “Daisy Duke” shorts. Of course, there is the demand side of the curve that is also largely to blame. There continues to be men in Richardson, TX who have no problem seeing other men’s daughters and sisters parade around being dehumanized.
The bikini episode makes the case for why the marketplace cannot truly fulfill its calling without moral virtue. The world of work should promote human dignity for employees and customers alike. In fact, the promotion of human dignity should be a mutual desire for businesses and customers alike. Sadly, restaurants like Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill exist because there are business owners who lack moral virtue are more than willing to meet the demands of employees and customers who lack the same.