For weeks on The Apprentice, the New York City-based NBC biz-reality show in which young corporate up-and-comers battle for a job as right-hand-man or woman to real estate mogul Donald Trump, the savvy all-female junior-exec team has been beating the pants off their all-male rival team. In apparent desperation at the dwindling ranks of males, the show’s execs mixed the sexes on both teams. That meant that last night’s episode turned out to be an object lesson in: Why Guys Usually Win. The gals get distracted by catfights, backstabbing and all-around female bickering.
The competing teams’ task for the episode was to take $1,000, buy a product, hawk it at a flea market, and see how much money could be made. That’s where the usually lovable girl manager, Kristi Frank, fell apart. She picked a dumb product–Chinese paper umbrellas–and then tried to manage by making nice. “I’m getting consensus from everybody,” she said, inventing a new collective noun. Then Kristi made the mistake of trusting mean-as-sin teammates Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth and Heidi Bressler, making them her next in command. Kristi’s team, Protege Corp., not only couldn’t unload many umbrellas onto jaded New Yorkers, but, somewhere between the pockets of too-nice Kristi and two-faced Omarosa, the team mislaid some $183! The team ended the day with a net loss of $75. By contrast, the rival Versacorp team, which stuck to safe-sale T-shirts, netted a $600 profit. Kristi never lost her niceness. She was still saying “Let’s communicate, OK?” to her teammates moments before Trump delivered the fatal words to her, “You’re fired.”
The episode suggests a fatal weakness that may be endemic in female management style: making everything personal. When Kristi wasn’t around issuing bromides, her female teammates were saying catty things about her behind her back. (The dorm-room catfights are, of course, one of the most entertaining features of “The Apprentice.) By contrast, the guys on both teams pulled together and didn’t bicker. Most significantly, when Trump delivered the losing Protege team his signature tongue-lashing, the guys on the team laid low and wore expressions that said: “It was like this when I got here.” They survived.
The winning Versacorp team didn’t get much of a prize, though: an all-too-brief visit to the office of Yankees manager George Steinbrenner. The loutish Steinbrenner mumbled some business advice–“Ya gotta wanna win!”–and oggled the female Versacorp-ites: “All good-looking girls!” That was it.