Undercover Boss: Understanding the Mood

Twitter Updates


San Francisco PechaKucha Night
San Francisco IxDA


Upon watching the teaser, I was apprehensive about watching Friday’s episode of Undercover Boss, as it hit a bit too close to home.

So I watched the beginning, found Mr. Abony to be interesting, humble, and clearly one of the good guys, then turned the dial to something else for a while.

(If you look in next year’s dictionary, I fully expect to see a picture of Lorne climbing a ladder next to the definitions of humble, brave, and a few other words associated with great leaders. It takes guts to expose your deepest, but silly-to-the-outside-world fears on national television.)

In the end, however, I tuned back into the program to catch the ending, where Lorne reunites with his father, whom he had not seen in something over fifteen years.

From the age of five, I too grew up without a father. I last saw him more than 30 years ago, and for many years held deep-seated anger at his behavior and abandonment, even as I remember hating the court-ordered visitations, and even being just a few minutes away from grabbing my sister and running away on BART back home. (As a ~10 year-old, I had just a vague sense that while it was the right thing to do, the courts would likely cause the family more grief than completing the visit.)

As the years passed, the anger subsided into indifference, but one still tinged with never wanting to see him again. But over the past couple of years, as I have discovered the circumstances I was raised in, and thus what most likely drove his behavior and him away, I have come to a very interesting place in my life. A place where I might even want to reunite, and forgive him.

Life is funny, sometimes. The trigger of realizing why he disappeared is deeply personal, and not something to share here, but suffice it to say I have happened to have experienced similar circumstances. However, it has made me a stronger, more insightful, and more empathic man as a result. I long ago vowed to be a better man than Dad, and now that I know why and how, I could not fathom ever running away from the same issue. Having gone through such abandonment, I would not inflict that pain on others.

It’s simply not who I am. And as anyone who has worked with me before knows, I never take the simple approach to solving problems.

There are, of course, people who should not reunite with their fathers. However, for Lorne and I, it just might be the right path forward.


I could not have shared this story a year ago; perhaps not even three months ago. But this is a very important thing to share about nurturing leadership. We are the product of how we were raised, and as established or aspiring leaders, we have a duty to share reality with those we are leading. We must show that we are human, and can rise above adversity. Sharing our foibles and failures is one of the best ways to motivate others to overcome theirs.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

Leave a Reply