My apologies to “The Sound of Music”, but BBC’s Apprentice Melissa Cohen, represents a real conundrum to modern day businesses and communities.
In the film, very un-nun-like “Maria” played by screen legend Julie Andrews, represents a big problem for the nuns. The singing nun is forced to leave the nunnery but eventually finds love and happiness in the arms of Captain Von Trapp.
Similarly, Melissa get’s fired in Episode 4 of The Apprentice. Her screen performance by all accounts was abysmal! Indeed I’ve not heard one vote in support.
But what do we do with someone like Melissa? In the UK you can’t just “fire” people so easily. Sure there are performance measures and disciplinary procedures, but these are fraught with difficulty and legal risk, not to mention the time they take up.
How did Melissa get selected (recruited) in the first place? Let’s assume she wasn’t selected purely to exasperate Lord Sugar and the rest of us.
Nor (let’s hope) was she selected for her entertainment value.
There must have been something, maybe even a lot going for her. Perhaps she had one or two strong “Apprentice”- like qualities, such as, for example, dogged determination and an entrepreneurial track record?
In the past, contestants have managed to overcome some of their more annoying traits, and survive to latter shows. That Melissa didn’t may not be entirely her fault.
I appreciate that the show’s format is probably set in stone, but in the real world, most raw recruits would benefit from some tutoring as they go.
Imagine how useful it would be to have Karren Brady and Nick Hewer actually intervening from time to time as the tasks progress. Most of us weren’t born with the skills we possess, we acquired them.
Sometimes we just needed the example to follow or a gentle push in the right direction.
The problem of Melissa, just like the “problem of Maria” is actually that talent and potential can easily be lost. They are lost underneath the weight of our systems; the “way we do things round here”.
Not only that, Melissa doesn’t just go away, or even particularly “get” why she was fired. In the real world that’s a law suit.
The world is filling up with bewildered if not angry Melissas. Not our problem? Perhaps.
But isn’t this a knowledge economy? Isn’t reputation so easily lost? How will we protect that?
Rather, could we not have handled “Melissa” better?
If we are seeing a pattern in bad leavers, maybe we are the problem?
See also: Next episodes: Alex Epstein: was it unfair dismissal?