(NOTE: The original post was written January 23, 2007. There are updates by date below the original post.
I must also note that as of March 25, the show has thankfully returned to some of its former glory. But the original post still holds for prior episodes.)
Donald Trump has taken a perfectly good reality show and turned it into a trash heap. Now I know there are many who look down on reality shows in general and certainly The Apprentice has its detractors even among the faithful, but the show was based on a clever idea bolstered by the powerful persona of Trump. A winning formula. True…its ratings were sagging and some tweaking was certainly called for, but this year’s offering borders on offensive.
With all respect, Mr. Trump, young people watch this show and actually view it as Business 101 – and in some ways, it used to be. But this year, it’s a lesson that can be skipped. One comment from a college student I found on an Apprentice website basically said that she loved the show this year because she enjoyed watching the losers suffer. Is that really the classy lesson you want to show?
For those of you who don’t watch, The Apprentice selects people from top-ranked schools and/or those who excel in their field. These people then compete against each other, week after week, with their eyes on the prize of becoming an apprentice in Trump’s company. The viewer gets to see two teams compete against each other in a task such as creating a new product for a well-known company. Some of these tasks have really been fun to watch. A young person – or anyone – could learn a lot by seeing the importance of things like listening, planning, cooperation, delegating, carrying your share of the work, etc.
While each season wasn’t equally great, we were almost always left with a remnant semiotic image of a positive, hard-working business environment. We felt good about what we were seeing and usually, at the very least, admired the determination and principles of those who succeeded. And, like him or hate him in real life, we couldn’t help liking Trump on screen.
So what changed? So far this year, we’ve seen the losing team forced to live outdoors in tents while winners reside in luxury conditions. Many of us would have loved seeing the losing team rally and win to get to the goodies, but when the losing tream lost again, all we got to see is what happens to people when they are treated as losers. Perhaps an example for managers of the importance of positive vs. negative rewards in motivation and performance? Continue reading »