Jennifer Coffey

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy!

Undercover At Yankee Candle

Undercover at Yankee Candle

This week I took a look at the show Undercover Boss and created an empathy map for the boss and one employee. I choose the episode about Yankee Candle, season 3 episode 8, as Harlan Kent, the CEO, went undercover to explore several different locations within his company. 

The empathy maps help me get a deeper understanding of the thoughts and feelings of each user. Only be seeing the world from their perspective can we design a product that would address their needs.

About the Show

Undercover Boss is a CBS television show where CEOs or Chairs-people go undercover and gather insights about different positions within their company. The undercover boss visits four different locations and talks to employees to get an inside look at what is happening at all levels of the corporation. The show’s primary purpose is to teach the boss that sometimes entry-level workers get forgotten, but they are real people and have real stories. 

Founded in Massachusetts, Yankee Candle started in 1969 when a 16-year-old boy created a Christmas present for his mother.

About the Company

Founded in Massachusetts, Yankee Candle started in 1969 when a 16-year-old boy created a Christmas present for his mother. Years later, the company has 550 stores and has made $730 million. 

Empathy Maps

An empathy map is a tool to gain deeper insight into a user. In this case, I have broken my empathy map into a total of six parts; think/feel, see, hear, say/do, pains, and gains. Here is an example of an empathy map.

There are many different ways to create an empathy map. For more information, check out my other article here.

First, I took a look at the boss, Harlan Kent, to gain more insight into his experience as an undercover boss. 

I found that Harlan is set on pushing Yankee Candle to become a billion-dollar company. He wanted to make sure that customer service and product quality control are the best they can be and to see what can be improved. The whole process taught him that he is deeply appreciative of his family relationships and the opportunity and privilege he has because he is CEO. 

Harlan is CEO at Yankee Candle.

Next, I had to go back and rewatch the episode as Jose, an entry-level factory worker in the only Yankee Candle warehouse. 

I saw that Jose is very hardworking and driven to move up in the company. He is ready to take on more responsibility and lead his own team. Jose has also struggled in his life but is making the best of his situation and puts a lot of time and energy into his passion for boxing. 

Jose works in the only Yankee Candle factory.

My Experience

This is the first time I had to create an empathy map in years, and it was not as smooth as I thought it was going to be. I understood what needed to go in which category, but I kept finding myself swept into the show and forget to write the information down. After several restarts, I found myself looking from Harlan’s point of view first, and then I rewatched the episode from Jose’s point of view. This was easier for me to keep track of each employee’s emotions, sights, and actions. 

I also had twice as many notes for Harlan than Jose because I was jotting everything down from each location that Harlan visited. This led me to understand Harlan’s overall experience and what he learned from each employee. 

Digging Deeper

Harlan and Jose have two very different experiences at Yankee Candle, and both of their positions are vital to making sure the company runs smoothly. It was interesting to see their different perspectives and watch how their different life experiences got them to where they are today. 


Something the show doesn’t discuss is the amount of empathy the boss experiences. This is his opportunity to put himself in the shoes of various essential positions in the company, ones that are quickly passed over as “mindless” jobs, but require time management, product knowledge, and speed to get done in a single shift. 

Now that Harlan has gone through this experience of empathy, it is up to him and his board to implement the necessary measures to make the company better than ever.

Check out my findings here.


Header image from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Start a Blog at

%d bloggers like this: