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He was taken aback by what she said, but vowed to help.

“Have you ever done cleaning like this, ever?” Mercedes jokingly asked Joel, the man she assumed was a new employee at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. She was showing him the ropes, helping to get him started on his first day on the job. Little did she know, he was actually her boss

Why One Boss Went Undercover at Work

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Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Joel Manby is the president and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment, which owns the Adventure Aquarium where Mercedes Franklin works. Manby agreed to go undercover one day. He welcomed the opportunity as a way to get to know his employees a little better. Manby had never met Franklin in person. To increase his chances of passing as a new employee, he grew out his facial hair and simply introduced himself as “John.” 

The ruse worked. Franklin thought she and the “new employee” were being filmed as part of a documentary on how entry level workers get started in the entertainment industry. 

And Franklin was definitely at ease. She took charge, helping “John” learn the ropes. “Make sure you don’t put so much water,” she teased him as he tried unsuccessfully to clean a window. She noted that Manby was “quiet and introverted,” so she used humor to try to bring him out of his shell.

“As soon as you’re cleaning it, somebody comes along and touches it!” Manby complained. Franklin just laughed: “No excuses!”

“I didn’t know what to expect from him,” Franklin said about the man. “After we started cleaning the tanks, he started to open up. He was very nice and sincere.”

And when “John” started opening up, Mercedes started opening up, too.

The Secret One Employee Revealed to Her Undercover Boss

Franklin works in the accounting and finance department at Adventure Aquarium. She’d only been there a little less than two years but was already taking care of events, hosting, and the touch shark tank, in addition to her accounting duties.  Like she said, “I do pretty much a little bit of everything here.”

Manby asked her what she did before she got this job. That’s when things turned serious. But Franklin didn’t shy away from the awkward conversation.

“Two years ago, before I got this job, right before I got it, me and my son were homeless.” Her son was one year old. With nowhere else to go, they slept on the floor of her son’s daycare at night.

Nobody would hire her. As she said, “it was just really hard times.”

But Franklin knew she had to take control of the situation. The only thing that kept her going was her son. “He never knew we were homeless or going through hard times. Kids don’t know that stuff. They just are kids.”

Franklin and her son were homeless for nine months. They were still homeless when she got the job at Adventure Aquarium. It was a lifesaver, and she gives the job all she’s got. “I’m accepting every opportunity this place has to offer…I think the more you know, the better. The pay comes later.”

“It’s really humbling to see what she’s been through,” said her boss. He was floored by the fact that Franklin kept a positive attitude through her harrowing ordeal — and maintains that attitude along with a strong work ethic today. As he admitted later, Franklin has so many reasons to have a negative attitude — but she doesn’t.

“You want to help…[but] you can’t always help everybody,” her boss admitted. But Manby could help his employee — and he did.

Manby revealed who he was. Franklin was shocked, but then she realized that the new employee did bear a striking resemblance to the man on company newsletters. “You can’t believe how much facial hair changes a person’s appearance!” Franklin exclaimed.

How One Man Proved the Importance of Being a Good Boss

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Photo by energepic.com

Manby then took Franklin into his office, sat her down, and told her how impressed he was with her strength, courage and — most of all — her positive attitude. “You’re an incredible worker,” he said. He then told her he was giving her an immediate raise. 

Franklin started crying in disbelief. “I don’t believe this is happening,” she said through her tears.

But he wasn’t done. Franklin had recently overcome homelessness. She and her son were in an apartment. Manby said they would come to her apartment and help her make list of everything she needed. “You tell us what you need, and we’re going to take care of that,” he said. Franklin couldn’t believe her ears.

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“If you’re with us for a long time,” Manby continued, “who knows — maybe we can even see you get into your own home.”

“I want to see you achieve your dreams,” he told the young woman.

Franklin was nearly speechless with joy, but she did say, “I feel like I’m on top of the world. This is amazing.”

It truly is amazing when those at the top recognize the strength, courage and efforts of those still making their way up in the world. With a growth mindset like hers, Mercedes Franklin is destined to keep climbing that ladder.

KEEP READING:

Hardworking Employee Captivates His Undercover Boss – What Happens Next Changes His Son’s Life