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The Apprentice – showing its age – APL Health
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The Apprentice – showing its age

As a new series of the Apprentice threatens to partner ‘The X-Factor’ in a takeover of TV sets around the UK, it’s perhaps an opportune time to reflect on some of the messages the programme conveys, and remind us all that (fortunately) the working world really isn’t how the BBC present it.

The UK (and arguably the world) has moved on since the first series of the Apprentice was aired in the UK in 2005. For one, phrases such as ‘you’re fired’ simply don’t get used anymore because (more often than not), legally they can’t be used.

More fundamentally however the general attitude towards entrepreneurialism and staff management has also changed for the better. I remember watching an episode a few years ago where Lord Sugar berated a would-be entrepreneur for not accompanying his suit with a tie. In this day and age there is a much more resolute acceptance that a suit and tie doesn’t in any way guarantee competence, and making a member of staff wear a tie for work is a bit ‘stuffy’.

This attitude has been popularised by some high profile, successful individuals such as Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeremy Corbyn, who famously show resistance to the stereotypical suit and tie – although Jeremy Corbyn’s resistance does appear to have weakened recently.

I believe however that it’s some of the attitudes and personality traits that are celebrated in shows like the Apprentice which should be discouraged. Every year the candidates seem to offer us more and more absurd sound bites to demonstrate this. Genuine examples include:

  • “I’m like a shark, right at the top of the food chain. I take what I want, when I want. I truly am the reflection of perfection.”
  • “I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-trick pony. I’ve got a field of ponies waiting to literally run towards this job.”
  • “My positive approach and very good looks make me stand out from the crowd.”
  • “I call myself the blonde assassin. I let people underestimate me just so I can blow them out of the water.”
  • “When it comes to business, I’m like an animal and I will roar my way to the top.”
  • “My first word wasn’t mummy, it was money.”

This aggressive, competitive, money driven, dog eat dog attitude seems to be perpetuated by the Apprentice as being the desirable character type to have as an employee or business partner. This is reflected by the fact that it’s always those who demonstrate good sales figures who seem to be safe in the process and get disproportionately far through the show.

But ask yourself, do you really want somebody like that in your organisation or running your business? Can you trust them to run and manage a workforce, create a business with excellent customer service, or build a sustainable brand?

Rest assured, if someone told me in an interview that they take what they want, when they want, they would not be successful in their application. If someone demonstrated the reckless self-confidence or disregard for others that we see so frequently on these programs, I know full well that they would cause serious damage to the positive attitude, focus, and kind culture that we have at APL Health, and I suspect I’m not the only business owner to think this.

So perhaps it’s time that Lord Sugar and his colleagues sought out a business partner who exercises creativity, compassion, ingenuity, people skills, good project management and has a knack for seeing the longer-term goal, rather than making a quick buck. You never know, it may help managers and business owners in the UK to reflect upon their style of management and make improvements where possible too.