Undercover Boss: President of Waste Management: Where are They Now?
Larry O’Donnell, the president of Waste Management, dons a disguise for the premiere episode of Undercover Boss to pick up trash and clean toilets.
Company Name: Waste Management
Undercover Boss: Larry O'Donnell
Are They Still There?: No
Waste Management, the largest trash company in the United States, sent their then-president and chief operating officer Larry O’Donnell, to go undercover to work along the company’s rank and file and learn about all of the operations that make this Fortune 200 company tick.
“I thought I had a good understanding, but boy, was I wrong.”
He starts off the episode by stating that he has set efficiency and cost-cutting goals for Waste Management, and in order to truly understand if those goals are realistic, he is going undercover to work at multiple disciplines and functions to get his hands a little dirty. In order to do this, he disguises himself as “Randy Lawrence”, a construction worker who is being followed by a TV crew documenting a person who is trying out entry-level jobs at Waste Management. His costume forces him to lose the well-fitted power suit and shiny shoes in exchange for a worker’s outfit made of tough fabrics and a bit of stubble. He also trades in ritzy hotel rooms for budget hotels.
Job #1 - Recycling Facility - Syracuse, NY
His first stop has him stopping by a recycling facility in Syracuse, NY, which is an important pillar of the Waste Management business. He meets Sandy, his boss for the day, and she instructs him on all the safety precautions taken to keep their employees safe, which includes donning thick gloves with sleeves to protect their hands from needles and other sharp objects. Larry, or Randy, is brought to a conveyer belt to handpick recyclable materials, and immediately causes an emergency stop. However, it is in the lunch room that he discovers one of the most unfair struggles Sandy deals with on a daily basis, which is the fact that the facility manager docks 2 minutes off for each minute she is late! Even from a lunch break.
Job #2 - Landfill - Pompano Beach, FL
Next stop, Larry O’Donnell is shuttled down south to Florida to visit one of his many landfills. He meets Walter, his boss for the day, and is assigned to pick up litter that flies away from the central landfill. He is expected to bring back a full bag of flyaway trash every 10 minutes! In one of the funniest moments of this episode, Larry inquires if there is a “technique” he should know about. Walter replies: “What kind of technique do you want? You’re just picking up paper!”
During a quick lunch break, Larry learns about Walter’s kidney issues and his debilitating expenses. It is here that he gets some insight into Walter’s fighting spirit, and that he will work as long as his mind tells him he is able to.
Larry heads out to the field again, and Walter is seriously unimpressed by Larry’s workrate, and he is fired on the spot! This is Larry’s first time being fired ever.
Job #3 - Landfill - Fairport, NY
Larry O’Donnell, then heads out to familiar territory in Fairport, NY, and meets Jaclyn. Jaclyn wears multiple hats at this facility, and chastises Larry for not wearing sneakers to the site because they are going to do a TON of walking. She power walks between buildings, and Larry learns that she is in charge of payroll, bills and even weighing the dumptrucks.
During a walk between buildings, Larry also learns that Jaclyn is underpaid, and is also a quadruple cancer survivor. She then invites Larry over for dinner at her home to meet her whole family, and learns that she has put up her home for sale due to financial struggles.
Larry is so moved by this story, that he risks blowing his cover in order to immediately provide her some help.
Job #4 - Carnival - Houston, TX
Larry then heads off to Houston, TX, to work at a fair, and is immediately assigned to clean up porta potties! He is buddied up with Fred, who is uncharacteristically upbeat for a guy who needs to clean up other people’s messes all day! He does this by adding funny commentary and making a game of this otherwise disgusting job dealing with a “battlefield of poop.”
Job #5 - Trash Hauling - Rochester, NY
Larry then heads back to New York and meets Janice, who he will be riding along with for the day in a trash collection truck. He learns that on a typical day, Janice will retrieve trash from nearly 300 homes. During the ride, Janice shares that she is under constant pressure to work faster and harder, which is manifested through micromanagement. In one of the most shocking moments of the episode, he learns that Janice goes to the restroom in a can!
Larry takes the blame for this one, as he recalls that he is the one calling for more productivity from his drivers.
While there are many struggles during her route, the silver lining are the personal relationships she has fostered along the way. One of her customers shares a heartfelt note that deeply touches Larry as it reminds him of his disabled daughter.
The Big Reveal
Larry O’Donnell returns to the corporate office, and immediately calls for a meeting with his senior leadership to address all of the issues he uncovered while on the road.
Larry brings in each of the people he has worked with during his undercover stint, and this is how each of those meetings went.
Fred from the Carnival
Larry is so moved by Fred’s upbeat attitude that he invites him to come and speak to the senior leadership of the company.
Janice from the Trash Route
Larry immediately takes the blame for the issues that Janice faces while out on her trash pick up route, and commits to addressing the problems of the frontline workers with a task force.
Walter from the Landfill
Larry praises Walter’s positive attitude, and rewards him with paid time off so he can address his health issues.
Sandy from the Recycling Facility
Larry recalls how Sandy had to rush back from her lunch to punch back in for work, and commits to addressing this issue directly with her supervisor Kevin. He actually calls in Kevin for a surprise meeting and confronts the issue head on.
Jaclyn from the Landfill
Larry wants to make sure to retain the hardworking Jaclyn, who wears so many hats at one of his many facilities. In order to do that, he decides to move her off hourly pay and onto a salary plan, and also promotes her to a supervisor role. On top of all that, he has made her eligible for bonuses, which will help her pay off her home.
Where is Larry O’Donnell, president of Waste Management, now?
After his time at Waste Management, he went on to found his own company called Rockwater Energy Solutions, which serves as a water management and chemical technologies solutions provider. Per his personal LinkedIn profile, he is currently the president and founder of Servant Ministries Foundation, providing leadership training, mentoring, discipleship and coaching through books, speaking engagements and consulting. He also received a masters in Biblical and Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary per his personal website.
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