Choice Hotels CEO Cleans Up His Act on 'Undercover Boss'

Choice Hotels CEO Stephen Joyce 'Undercover Boss' There are CEOs who work their way up from the bottom, and there are those who look as though they've never done a day of manual labor in their lives. Stephen Joyce, the head of Choice Hotels International (CHH) who was featured on last night's Undercover Boss, the second type of leader.

In the opening shot of the show, Joyce comes across as the most abrasive boss yet. He even admits that it will be difficult for him to keep his mouth shut if he sees something that he does not like during his "undercover" assignment. Oddly, the company's web site promises that the program will give an "exhausting, first-hand look at the hotel industry." Joyce has headed Choice Hotels, which franchises 6,000 hotels, since 2008. He was at Marriott (MAR) for 25 years before joining Silver Spring, Md.-based Choice Hotels. One would think that Joyce, who earns $3.5 million a year running Choice, wouldn't need a refresher course in the hotel industry from a reality show.

Joyce's other challenge is that he is woefully out of shape: He probably should have spent less time at the breakfast buffet and more time at the gym before appearing on national television. (Come to think of it, I should probably do the same). The only reason that I even bring this up is that CBS (CBS) made a big deal out of it. The show features shot after shot of Joyce sweating profusely. He's also really, really slow. Tasks such as restocking a cart with cleaning supplies are as difficult for Joyce as running a triathlon.

"I am sweating like crazy, and all I seem to do is get behind," says an exasperated Joyce.

Christina, the hard-working housekeeping supervisor overseeing Joyce, bluntly says that her new colleague "needs to go to housekeeping boot camp."

Sweat drips down his face while he's cleaning the pool, causing him to remark that he "would be willing to pay $100 to jump into the pool." Good thing he doesn't say that while his boss is around.

First Humility, then Humanity


In one of the show's signature moments, Christina reveals to the "undercover" Joyce that she really wants to be promoted to be a general manager, but that she hasn't been able to get any training. Off camera, the CEO goes ballistic, furious that her managers have not told her about "Choice University," a training program. He also feels for Ricardo, a genial maintenance man at a dumpy Econolodge who is working two jobs to put his son through medical school. While "working" under salesman John, the loquacious Joyce becomes tongue-tied and awkward. And he almost blows his cover when introducing himself on a cold call as "Steve." But the story of front-desk worker Brandalyn seems to touch him deeply. Her family abandoned her after she became pregnant at 16.

"If Brandalyn had lived in my neighborhood, my mother would have brought her into our house," he says, with tears welling up in his eyes.

Joyce proves that the hit CBS show hasn't lost its way -- meaning that it relies on the same cliches that it pioneered last season: hard-luck employees with unbelievable tales of personal hardship, and out-of-touch corporate titans who get a lesson in humility. Then, as my DailyFinance colleague Bruce Watson so eloquently put on Friday, the CEO reveals himself "like a gray-suited fairy godmother" and solves his employees' problems. Christina and Bradilyn got a week's vacation and the training they wanted. John got to join the Choice Hotels global sales force. Ricardo got both a golf cart to make his job easier and a scholarship for his son.

This may make for entertaining television, but it's not reality.

It seems like the highlighted workers (if not their managers) are always noble, but in an economy where unemployment has been above 9% for months, just once I would like to see Undercover Boss feature an angry worker.




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Lea Whipple Fairbank

i wish i could contact someone to come to my hotel and did into the unfortunate happenings going on here! i come to work and try to do my best at my job and feel let down everyday at the way things are being ran here. i feel i do my job well and im loved by many for my job perfomance. but, i work night audit and see things going on within management that would never be tolherated in any hotel franchise or not! im afraid if i dont turn my head and look the other way, my job will be in jeaperdy. i cant afford to lose my job. i have started to look into choice university today and i will proceed and succeed with hospitallity management to better my life and the do my best in stoping the theft and missuse of management within the hotel industry and, to do my part to treat all employees the way i wish i was treated. everyone has different life styles and unique sittuations, and the same goes for our guest that count on choice hotels to be treated with respect and should be treated as if they were visiting family on vacation, even if they are a guest at our hotel on business. that is one of the things my guest at my hotel enjoy about my guest srevices. i do just that. then i see the other things that go on behind the desk that brings me down and im told not do some of the special things i feel we are supposed to do and, im taken back as well as dissappointed in not being able to fulfill my full potential as a guest services representitive! thanks for listening.

May 22 2012 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
faithfulgalme

Did anyone see the Hooters manager who "resigned" after the show. He was a lecherous man. He definitely was abrasive and not what any company would want for a representative.

December 08 2010 at 4:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CHRIS

MY WIFE WORKS FOR CHOISE HOTELS NOT A FRACHISE. I WOULD BE EMBARRASED TO BE A CEO OF A COMPANY FOR HALF THE CRAP THAT GOES ON. MR. JOYCE JUST MADE HIMSELF LOOK FOOLISH TO HIS EMPLOYEES. MOST THINK THEY ERE ACTORS AND IT WAS SCRIPTED. FOR WHAT HE MAKES A YEAR AND PAYS HIS EMPLOYEES AND WHAT THEY HAVE TO PUT UP WITH ARE A JOKE

December 07 2010 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to CHRIS's comment
Dfghj F

you look foolish when you spell choice with an s.

July 01 2012 at 6:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dhggifg

ahttp://www.wowougg.comin Daily Dose of Style In order to thank the support of new and old customers, we have launched promotional activities: Buy over 100 items to send beautiful plutonium Buy at least 200 to send beautiful T shirt Buy at least 300 to send exquisite handbags And so on, buy more more sent. http://www.wowougg.com http://www.wowougg.com #%#$^$#&#$&*#$#$&#$h

September 28 2010 at 9:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
stroles488

I believe Mr. Joyce took a step in the right direction as one of many CEOs who genuinely care about their employees. I thought I was grossly underpaid as a supervisor at Choice Hotels Corporate offices about 20 years ago, but I enjoyed working with some great people, and the benefits were outstanding in relative terms. For example, I was laid off with 3 months of severance after 7 years. It was a much better package than 1 month of severance after 11 years with a major international company, last year.

September 27 2010 at 10:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
daviida

Why look for a mad employee? Most employees relieved and thankful that they have a job.We need more of these kind of events like undercover boss to occur. Maybe this country can generate a workforce that is a little more appreciative which will create the loyalty lost when mediocre employees where made supervisors and management did not make sure they received the correct training first. ie. not carrying through on company policie andprograms designed to help the employees

September 27 2010 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply