The Apprentice analysed…

Each week we watch as Sir Alan Sugar yells ‘YOU’RE FIRED!’ at one of The Apprentice wannabes.

More deliciously salacious is watching these wannabes trying to make the most of Sir Alan’s tasks. With only one six-figure salary on offer the contestants declare all out war to get their hands on the prize.

Inevitably, this raises questions about the ethics used by some in the reality programme. Four employment solicitors discuss the employment issues raised in this week’s episode.

What happened this week…

Sir Alan revealed his sweet tooth by setting his hapless teams the task of making and selling ice cream. Alpha and Renaissance had to make three new flavours each and launch them into the notoriously competitive London ice cream market.

Alpha, led by Lucinda from the House of Elliot, came up with Tantalising Toffee Apple, Cosmopolitan and Avocado and Chilli (seriously).

Renaissance, led by Claire from Gladiators, managed to stir up Berry Mania (“good for kids”?), Scrumpilicious (cider and elderflower) and Chocolate Orange.

The team which secured the most orders, by value, would win. Roll on desperate and hugely watchable pleading from the teams as they trawled ice cream parlours all over Clapham…

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
Kiran Daurka, Russell Jones & Walker

Another highly amusing episode of The Apprentice last night which got us at RJW discussing employment issues at the water cooler this morning. Some of last night’s gems included:

1. Claire’s subgroup going AWOL at the cider factory – surely drinking whilst on the job is grounds for firing?

2. As a single act of gross misconduct, Michael (the one with the funny dance in episode 1), arriving unannounced in the dark to a remote village hall to interrupt an elderly women’s yoga class to mysteriously offer ice cream is highly questionable.

3. Your employer (or potential employer)arrives at your home, unannounced, when you are in bed and sends you to a farm.

– is this a lawful order?
– is it harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975?
– if he does it again, is the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 engaged?

4. Was a health & safety risk assessment conducted on the archery? Or was Sir Alan disappointed at not being able to fire Claire and thought of a more creative way to get rid of her?

5. The final issue which caused viewers at RJW some outrage was the clearly discriminatory attitude towards “the countryside” aka not London. Perhaps it is time to lobby for the introduction of the Protection of People Living Outside of a Populated City (Particularly London) Discrimination Act which would outlaw phrases such as “country bumpkin” and “back of beyond”.

On a slightly more serious note, we saw team members and Nick (Sir Alan’s sidekick) refer to a “chill in the air” when speaking about Jen. Women in the corporate world are commonly branded as “ice queens”, but male colleagues rarely so. This is an issue to watch out for in future episodes, especially when Jen is made team leader.

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
Ellie Hibberd and Jo Keddie, Dawsons

It’s like being a vac scheme student. The candidates are expected to bond and work together. The arguments earlier in the series between Lucinda and Helene and Lucinda and Jenny show how hard this can be and how damaging it can be for your reputation with your peers and those assessing you.

Teamwork is essential in the workplace and something all employers are aware of. Last night, Lindi showed the dangers of being too confident and having no self-awareness. With her comment, “It’ll be a walk in the park”, she was setting herself up for a fall. Worse, her response to constructive criticism was that she already knew it all. Such an attitude would be a dangerous one to adopt in a capability procedure! Ultimately, her cavalier attitude and her ultra vires deal were here downfall – gross misconduct?

Lucinda, on the other hand, much maligned to date, showed herself to be an excellent team player when leading from the front, recognising that within a team people and their skills need to be treated appropriately. She didn’t win but she saved herself from a sacking.

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
Emma Sanderson, Withers

Last week, a partner here enquired over the lunch table: ‘What happened to the days when everyone used to sit around talking about last night’s TV?’ (He was of course referring to school days.) He was itching to talk about The Wire, but as the lawyers with him had barely heard of it, he was bitterly disappointed. If only he had wanted to discuss The Apprentice.

We lawyers seem to love analysing the show. Aside from the usual screams of ‘I can’t believe Sir Alan didn’t fire […]’ or ‘Lawyers (other than Margaret…) always do badly on this show’, we frequently comment on some of the more controversial management techniques deployed. As an employment lawyer, I confess to finding it irresistible to participate in last year’s debate about the rights and wrongs of Sir Alan quizzing Katie about her childcare responsibilities and work commitment. Last night’s episode was devoid of some of these more salacious legal dilemmas (although the preview of next week’s episode showing a man’s exposed bottom looks like it has more potential…) but it did leave me pondering one question in particular.

How relevant is dress to career progression these days? “Quirky”
Lucinda loves her colourful, flowery dresses. Until given the opportunity to be project leader, she had largely failed to command the respect of her ‘colleagues’, but are these facts related? It does appear she was underestimated and, although her team didn’t win the task, she performed pretty well as manager (two glaring blunders aside:
not defining her sales team’s authority, and disclosing personal comments made in confidence). “Icy” Jennifer, on the other hand, wears sharp suits and has bright red lips and nails. With her audacious claim to be “the best salesperson in Europe”, I am left wondering how she will fare in the project leader role…

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
Hannah Ford, Stevens & Bolton

The Apprentice: Knickerbocker-glorious viewing

This week’s task saw the remaining hopefuls developing ice-cream flavours and selling them to the city trade.

Predictably, the doe-eyed Lucinda Ledgerwood was pitted as Project Leader against rottweiler Claire Young. No sooner had Lucinda declared “I don’t believe you need to be a bitch to succeed in business” than step forth backstabbing “team-mates” Jenny Maguire and Lindi Mngaza who, sharpening their ice-scoops, set out to prove the opposite.

Remarkably, Lucinda’s management skills proved more than a match for the Alpha-bitches. Creative, decisive and assertive, her porcine squeals of enthusiasm could not even be dampened by pensioners likening the flavour of her cosmopolitan ice cream to mashed potato. When her team hit the City and generated sales figures to match the size of Jenny’s ego, the task looked to be in the bag. However, the Alpha bitches got their just desserts when they became unstuck by gifting exclusivity without first obtaining consent.

The firing line had more blood-red lipstick than a burlesque hen do as Lucinda dragged backstabbing Jenny and Lindi to face Sir Alan. Lindi took the rap for the exclusivity faux pas and at last, Lucinda blossomed into a real contender.