The Apprentice 4: Why Clay Lostby David Bloomberg -- 11/23/2005
Clay was the obvious choice to go home this past week, but obvious choices aren’t always the ones sent packing. Finally, though, it was time to get rid of Clay and his whiny, temperamental attitude. Was that attitude the only reason he was sent packing, or was there more to it? Why did Clay lose?
By now, everybody should know how we answer these questions. We look back at What ‘Apprentice 4’ and ‘Martha Stewart Apprentice’ Applicants Should Have Learned to see how Clay did and where he went wrong – and we’ll also discuss how he managed to stick around as long as he did.
We can begin with Clay’s problems in the very first rule, which tells applicants to show leadership. Clay was not the project manager on his final task, but he was the week prior. In that task, his team won despite his “leadership,” not because of it. Indeed, his team was so disgusted by the way he acted that they refused to vote him an exemption and showed in no uncertain terms that they didn’t even want to work with him ever again.
When he was the official project manager in that task, it was in name only. Alla was the de facto project manager, as she did all the real work. Clay certainly did not show Trump he knew how to lead.
Did he show that he could stay cool under fire, as the second rule says? No, not really. Clay definitely had a temper and would often shoot off his mouth. It wasn’t necessarily in front of Trump, but he couldn’t hide it. He took everything very personally and rather than try to calm things down, he tended to make them worse.
At least Clay followed the third rule, having a backbone. When he had an idea, he definitely stood up for it – unfortunately, he did so with a bit too much vigor and whining. A good example of Clay going too far was when he had the idea for Jide’s song, which Rebecca and Randal didn’t like. Clay complained that he had already written the chorus and refused to let go despite the project manager making a decision. Clay failed to realize that while standing up for your own ideas is good, there comes a point on the job when the boss has said, “This is the way it will be done.” Employees need to recognize when this point has come and accept it. Clay would not.
The fourth rule tells contestants that scheming and plotting generally doesn’t work. While Clay did not do any plotting with other players – because that would require actually getting along with other players – he did scheme on how to do better for himself. For example, in the previous task, he specifically said he wanted to be project manager so he could tell everybody what to do and get them fired if his team lost. That worked so well that, as we’ve discussed, his winning team refused to recognize any leadership qualities in him – so we can only imagine what would have happened if they had lost!
We’ve already been talking about Clay’s attitude issues, but the fifth rule is where we specifically address his inability to get along with others or even to remain professional. By the end of his time on The Apprentice, Clay essentially had no friends left. He alienated everybody on both teams, both by his unprofessional behavior and by just being an ass.
Clay was always quick to criticize, but not nearly so quick to come up with his own ideas. This behavior was perfectly encapsulated in the way he responded to Rebecca’s discussion of how she would introduce Jide. Rather than discuss it in a professional manner and explain why he thought she was going about it the wrong way – and how he would fix it – he decided to pretend to play the violin while she was talking. This showed his immaturity and unprofessionalism at the same time. He followed it up by refusing to give a suggestion as to how he would make it better when she repeatedly prompted him for such.
Clay’s behavior also helped him to violate the sixth rule, which says he should have been focusing on the long-term. Clay managed to stick around for longer than perhaps he should have because his teams kept winning despite his attitude. But his actions still had consequences, and he should have known that they would come out sooner or later. There is no way Trump is going to hire somebody who snidely questions everything the project manager is doing or plays air violin in the middle of a task or purposely undercuts the manager because he doesn’t like the way things are going.
The seventh rule, which notes that applicants must understand the purpose of each challenge, really didn’t come into play here. Yes, the team as a whole lost because they didn’t put together a song that fit the format, but that didn’t specifically lead to Clay’s game demise.
Along the way, Clay seemed to have convinced people that he was one of the most creative contestants there, which would put him in good stead with the eighth rule. Unfortunately, Clay reminded me more of a diva than anything else. Sure, he could be creative, but when his recommendations were not followed, he argued and stomped around like a four-year-old. Creativity must be backed up with business and professional skills – and Clay’s were not.
Which leads us directly to the ninth rule, saying contestants cannot be one-dimensional. Clay was creative – or so everybody said. Great. But he never showed that he could put that supposed creativity to work in a positive way. As recapper Betsy said, “Trump isn’t hiring an artist.” Clay needed to not only be creative, but a leader and an all-around businessman.
The final rule is to use common sense – something Clay seemed to be seriously lacking. As but one example, everybody knew that he disagreed with Rebecca’s planned entrance for Jide. Fine. Get over it. Instead, he made fun of her and then, when the time came, undercut her by giving Jide the cue to come in before she was ready for him. Common sense should have told him that undercutting the boss is not what Donald Trump looks for in an employee.
Clay failed in so many areas, it truly is a wonder he lasted as long as he did. But he managed to stick around through a combination of luck and having other people to blame even more than him. Several times, Clay’s head would have been on the chopping block if his team had lost, but he stuck around because his teams won despite his participation.
Rebecca noted that Clay was a distraction. Alla didn’t want to work with him ever again. Indeed, nobody left on the show really had anything good to say about him. It’s not like they were jealous – they found him annoying and unprofessional. Because of that, even if he had done well on the task, the way he treated his fellow contestants would have ensured that they targeted him.
But he didn’t do well. When given the opportunity to lead, he failed. When given the opportunity to follow, he failed. Clay caused far too many problems and did not contribute anywhere near enough to make up for it. That is why Clay lost.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these other Apprentice 4 Episode 9 articles: