What does The Apprentice teach young people about business?

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My teenage daughter loves watching The Apprentice, she has done for the last few years and they all talk about it at school. Last year she begged to stay up and watch the final live so her classmates wouldn’t spoil the result for her!

I must admit I enjoyed the show when it first came out but as I got wiser and more experienced, I now find it cringe-worthy. Yesterday when my daughter was watching it, I found myself explaining to her this is NOT how people do business.

As professional adults, we know it’s entertainment and edited to make good TV but what worries me is young people getting the wrong ideas about how business is conducted.

The show triggered an interesting debate between my daughter and I, which to my horror revealed she thinks we run business like The Apprentice!! Here are some worrying trends that young people might think are common business practice from The Apprentice:

1. Casting blame and backstabbing your team is perfectly normal

I’ve worked in some really tough cultures where blame was the first on the agenda in a crisis, but I’ve never seen such childish behaviour as presented in the board room; it’s like a bunch of kids in the head teacher’s office. And it hasn’t moved on in the last ten years!

What kids won’t learn from this programme is that in the real world you can have a good constructive culture. When you hit a crisis you pull together as a team, find the source of the problem and deal with it. When the dust settles you share lessons learnt and move forward, avoiding public humiliation, because pointing fingers doesn’t move you forward.

2. Your boss mocks your performance with lame jokes

I’m sure there are still a few bosses out there like Lord Sugar but it’s 2019 – people have moved on from shouting in boardrooms. The constant negativity and mocking style of feedback verges on bullying in my opinion. In fact, in most workplaces, you’d be straight to HR complaining about how you’re being treated!

We need to help young people understand that this is not modern-day leadership. Good leaders are humble, they are admired, loved and followed. They look after their team and don’t torment them or make jokes at their expense.

3. Project management is about throwing your team under the bus

Every project manager knows the moment they throw a team member under the bus they lose respect not just from their team but from their senior management too. As a project manager you are accountable and you own the delivery. You may find some people difficult to deal with but their performance reflects on you so you have to find a way to make it work.

Kids need to understand that passing on responsibility for a project failure is really bad practice and no respected project leader or successful business would tolerate this.

4. Girls = cat fights

This is such an old stupid cliché that girls can’t work together in one team! The way The Apprentice portrays female teams is that they fight and constantly put each other down. Of course, the contestants are young and may be immature, but the way the programme is constructed exaggerates this. My daughter now believes that girls are a nightmare when they work together which is not my experience in reality.

For the record, professional women don’t fight, we challenge each other, we laugh and we boost each other’s confidence.

5. Job interviews are designed to destroy your self-esteem

If you’ve never been to a serious job interview, watching The Apprentice you would probably think all interviewers are on a mission to make you look stupid, prove you’re lying and take every opportunity to put you down!

Young people should be taught that most interviewers are curious to find out more about you. A good hiring manager will try to put you at ease so you can be yourself and they can get to know you. Even if they found something you said or did really off-putting, they’d never put your head on the block and chop it there and then.

Next time you see a young person watching The Apprentice please remind them that it is just TV, crafted to be entertaining and win ratings. The real business world might be tough but it is a lot kinder, more mature, tolerant and fun.

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