Fans Cannot Stand How Fake the CBS Reality Show ‘Undercover Boss’ Has Become

Imagine being able to hear what people really thought about you. That’s the basic premise of the long-running CBS reality show Undercover Boss, where high-ranking executives put on disguises to mingle with entry-level employees and find out exactly what’s going on in their own companies.

The show is meant to be eye-opening for both leaders and workers, showing the two sides of the struggle for success. Plus, it’s always heartwarming when one of the bosses rewards an underpaid, overworked employee with money or a promotion.

Fans love watching the big reveal at the end when the “new employee” reveals that he or she is really the CEO. But even though they’ve been tuning in to Undercover Boss for a decade, haters say these days it’s faker than ever.

Undercover Boss
‘Undercover Boss’ | Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS via Getty Images

Employees might be pretending they don’t know who the ‘Undercover Boss’ is

The show goes to great lengths to hide the identity of the undercover boss, making that person change their appearance and come up with a backstory about being on a fictional reality show to explain the appearance of cameras following them around. But are the workers really fooled?

It’s plausible to believe that employees fell for it in the early days. But now that the show has been on the air for a decade, most everyone knows it exists and would rightly be suspicious of any “new employee” who showed up in a bad wig with a camera crew.

Do employees really know it’s the boss?

Undercover Boss
‘Undercover Boss’ | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Fans say the employees are definitely faking ignorance on the show. Even at larger companies where lower-rung employees have no direct contact with the corporate execs, they at least have access to smartphones and LinkedIn profile photos. It’s easy enough to figure out.

“Just a heads up: If theres a new worker who just started at your job & they’re followed by a camera crew constantly & have a clearly terrible disguise on, you’re on UNDERCOVER BOSS,” one Twitter user quipped.

Undercover Boss
‘Undercover Boss’ | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Featured employees on ‘Undercover Boss’ usually have a sentimental backstory

It’s no coincidence that most participants on Undercover Boss face some kind of hardship and could benefit from the boss coming to their aid, either by instituting new policies or by promoting hidden superstars.

Critics claim this method of reward doesn’t just scream fake — it also highlights some of the negative aspects of capitalism. “Rather than, say, an across-the-board wage increase, or some other systemic improvement of her employees’ lives, [executives like Nestlé Toll House COO Shawnon] Bellah (with the help of CBS) limits her beneficence to these isolated individuals,” one AV Club reporter lamented.

“And the show repeatedly drives home the capitalist ideology it’s selling, in the most primal form.”

Fake or not, most fans still adore ‘Undercover Boss’

Undercover Boss
‘Undercover Boss’ | Dan Littlejohn/CBS via Getty Images

It’s no secret that most reality shows have plenty of fake elements to them, and modern viewers have come to accept that “reality” is a gray area. Fans enjoy watching Undercover Boss because it’s entertaining and uplifting — even if everyone is in on the secret the whole time.

There is a slight chance that show participants truly don’t realize the new employee has the power to change their future. But either way, we don’t mind watching (and crying) along.