CBS has a breakout hit with the new reality show "Secret Boss," in which corporate CEOs go incognito and hobnob with their rank-and-file employees.
I think they could have an even bigger success with "Secret Underling," in which a low-level worker (call him Joe Sixpack) disguises himself and infiltrates the executive suite.
Joe would learn of the good-natured camaraderie of the "suits" from the very first greeting of "Is that a congressman in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"
He would learn to empathize with the elite. ("The public calls our prices outrageous, but the peons don't realize our tremendous research and development costs. We have to RESEARCH ways to drive our mom-and-pop competitors out of business and DEVELOP ways to slip a monopoly past the feds.")
Our clock-punching star would get to hear first-hand the pressures facing his superiors. ("There is such a tremendous weight on my shoulders. Oh, wait, that's my company-paid Geisha girl. A little lower down, honey.")
Joe would hear upper management driven to the breaking point. ("All the consumers want to do is complain. Well, let them eat cake -- as long as they're willing to sign this waiver exempting us from lawsuits if the aforementioned cake contains asbestos, lead, rodent parts, missing Mafia snitches...")
He would get to see that sometimes even dignified bosses can panic. ("Quick! Forbes magazine is sending over a reporter! I can't remember this week's story! Is it 'networking,' 'leading by example,' or 'exhibiting a keen vision' that earns me my $2,000 an hour?")
Our hero would learn not to believe the stereotypes of work-obsessed execs who need a TV-movie angel to teach them life's true priorities. ("I schedule a few hours every weekend to play backyard baseball with my son. But getting the city to pay for the stadium was a son of a gun!")
Yes, the Powers That Be have really strong family ties. ("The old ball and chain is dragging me to a charity gala Thursday night. Excuse me, I mean, the TROPHY ball and chain is dragging me to a charity gala Thursday night.")
Joe would learn about the diversity in the top echelon. ("We believe in minorities. Abercrombie over here thinks we need more African-Americans and women. He is definitely a minority!")
Mr. Sixpack would hear homespun philosophy ("Hey, you can't make an omelet without devastating a few tropical rain forests") and learn of the reverence of his "peers" as they pray before a power breakfast. ("Greed is great, greed is good. The sanctity of our bonuses is well understood.")
Through the benefit of the hidden camera, American would observe that execs don't get to leave their problems at the office. ("And the IRS declared that ice sculptures in the company sauna weren't a legitimate business expense. Then I woke up from that horrible, horrible dream.")
Of course the whole ruse could fall apart if there is a medical emergency. Joe would give himself away by instinctively rushing to administer CPR. He wouldn't realize that the correct boardroom response is to stand back and let the patient have his say. ("*Gasp* Have your people call my people. *Unngghh!* Heaven looks very pretty. I wonder if we can have it moved to China???")
Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.