'Undercover Boss' Features First Female CEO

Kimberly Schaefer CEO Great Wolf Resorts Undercover BossOn Sunday, Oct. 3, CBS's Undercover Boss will break new ground: for the first time, the program will feature a female boss. Kimberly Schaefer, president and CEO of Great Wolf Resorts (WOLF) will explore the other end of the corporate ladder, posing as a waitress, pool attendant and line cook, among other jobs.

North America's largest chain of indoor water parks, Great Wolf operates 12 resorts in the U.S. and Canada. For Schaefer, who lives in Wisconsin, this should translate into a fair bit of travel and a wide range of experiences as she works at parks around the country.

CEO of Great Wolf since January 2009, Schaefer has been with the company since 1997, when she was hired as a senior vice president for operations at the Great Lakes companies, a predecessor to Great Wolf. In 2004, she was promoted to chief brand officer and, in 2005, became chief operating officer.

As a female CEO, Schaefer presents a fresh logistical challenge for Undercover Boss. For the most part, the show's featured executives have been fairly easy to disguise: If the CEO has a beard or mustache, he shaves it off. Or, if he's clean-shaven, he grows a scraggly-looking beard that makes him look a bit disreputable. Sometimes, the CEO changes eyewear or combs his hair differently, but the show's efforts at camouflage are reminiscent of old Superman comics, in which the removal of a pair of glasses somehow transforms Clark Kent into a superhero no one recognizes as Clark Kent.

All in all, the effectiveness of the disguises on Undercover Boss demonstrate little more than the big gap between bosses and rank-and-file workers. Generally speaking, executives don't understand their workers, and workers don't know who their CEOs are.

Schaefer's makeover seems less extensive than the average change. A contact lens wearer, she'll be substituting a pair of plastic-framed glasses. As for the rest, she'll sport a new haircut, with lighter-colored highlights, bangs, and a slight trim.

Beyond the new costuming challenges, the show seems to be treading familiar ground. Discussing her experiences on CNN Money, Schaefer uttered the now-familiar sentiment -- "before going undercover, I felt that I knew the jobs and would be really good at doing them" -- followed by the inevitable finish: "They were a lot harder than I thought."

To her credit, though, Schaefer seems to have learned more than most undercover bosses. Highlighting the hard work of some of her employees, Schaeffer delineated her plans to "engage our line employees in committees to improve the way we provide personalized service. Management needs to get workers more involved in what we're trying to do because the employees are the ones who know how to do it."

Guilt Over the Impact on Kids

Overall, Undercover Boss still seems to be relying on many of the standard tropes of last season. Just like many earlier CEOs, Schaefer discovers that her employees have personal lives and challenges that she can relate to. In this case, the drama directly relates to children: Schaefer suffers some guilt about the impact that her executive lifestyle has on her kids, while some of her employees have childcare issues of their own.

One of the key conceits of Undercover Boss is that the bosses and their employees live in the same world, and that their problems are comparable. But although Schaefer's $1.7 million compensation package puts her on the lower end of the CEO pay scale, she still makes more than 120 times the minimum wage, raising the question of just how close boss and worker really can be.

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I really enjoy watching the CEO of the Great Wolf Lodge that is a facility that I always wanted to work at in Williamsburg Virginia I work for the hospitality and its very hard and I think she did an excellent job and then I really look at the TV show because now I believe that they do go out to their operations to see how is running by their employees I work for Marriott and they don't do anything like that

January 02 2016 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cruise the net

On undercover boss, Kim was simply amazing. She expressed her true human emotions despite her privilaged position. She deserves what she makes. Not all of us can be good CEOs. I could tell she had the command and respect of her executive staff working under her. Go Kim!

March 26 2011 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what a waste of time this episode was... after watching episodes where there were real issues and incredible employees handling them, this one was a tremendous let-down... the lifeguard had a good work ethic and attitude, as did the others, but it was just another day on the job for all of them, and the CEO trying to make them out as heros for doing things like working extra shifts to support thier family was complete crap.. we all do that! I hope some of her shareholers watched the episode and fire her for being such a dope.

October 04 2010 at 10:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode and have enjoyed watching the series. Customer service will make or break any company and the customer doesn't give a twit what the responsibility of a CEO is or frankly the size of his or her paycheck. But should their customers not be satisfied, I guarantee you the CEO's job would be threatened. How wonderful to see the truly important people of these respective companies be appreciated.

October 03 2010 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gilbert salaz

how can a ceo go undercover and have your intentions advertised all over the internet and other media?? this seems to me to be a ploy to alert all the forthcoming subsidiaries so they can put their best face forward for the public.I dont consider this a fair and balanced undercover inspection.Its all for show.

October 03 2010 at 11:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Running a corporation as a CEO is not as simple as it appears. Most workers consider CEOs overpaid; in the USA I would agree that this is the case in many industries. This show hardly promotes either worker or CEO as being able to understand the other. The CEO is usually engaged in maintaining the corporation whilst his managers control and organise the work force. The CEOs duties are usually above the abilities of many workers and obviously, a CEO would find the tasks of his charges different in more ways than one. A professional at any level is just that, each contributes to the welfare of the corporation in relevant ways. Ideally, a worker selected from the one of levels the CEO performs in during this program should do the CEOs job for a week. That would balance the show's content and illustrate how each is sutied to his own task.

October 03 2010 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hello Rick

Great show but don't you think that by now people would be suspicious of any new trainee with a camera crew following them around? Unless they filmed all of these last year and have kept them in the can and release them one at a time I don't think employees would be that gullable. I know I would certainly be suspicious of someone doing this. It's a great concept and at 65 years old I have said many times that the "up the ladder management does not have a clue of what goes on day to day and they need to get down on the floor and find out what the problems are. This is why the Japanese are so good at process improvement. Rick Callahan Clermont Florida

October 03 2010 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually the show is entertaining, but it ends there. There's no comparison between a worker and a CEO. The CEO sits on his Buns, in A/C, surrounded by luxury 5 days a week, doing not much of anything, except trying to figure out how to screw the little guy. A week in the workers shoes is just a show. He'll go back to his luxury job in a week. Full well knowing his working week was little more than a charade. You think he really cares? LOL, fat chance. If he does, do something for all the workers, not just the chosen few, for the TV show

October 03 2010 at 1:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

what's resuilt?

October 02 2010 at 5:01 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

After Kimberly Shaefer has completed her stunt as waitress etc. I would like to know what significent changes she made as a resuilt of her experiences.

October 02 2010 at 11:47 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply