Routinization and Human Expectation

All of the videos on Youtube regarding people’s personal experiences working at McDonald’s were negative. Employees complained about the pay, incompetent managers, and other employees who they did not feel were pulling their weight. The most commonly discussed theme, and the one which was most emotionally charged, was about customers. Customers who complained about food quality, speed, fluxuating promotions, or prices and customers who behaved inappropriately by refilling their drinks for hours on end, emptying the ketchup or napkin dispensers, and trashing the toilets. Employees repeatedly asked themselves why customers expect perfection from employees who are paid minimum wage in the fast food industry. The stress factor came up quite a bit as well. Long lines of hectic customers, buzzers, beepers, hot items, slippery floors and the constant supervision of managers all created a stressful environment.

As someone who has worked in the restaurant industry (albeit never in the fast food industry), I can only say that this is something that is hardly exclusive to McDonald’s. Working with hungry people who want their food is ALWAYS stressful (Any mother of a hungry 2 year old will tell you the same thing. Adults are no different.). If you work in a five star restaurant or a Seven Eleven, your ability to completely ignore your opinion, sense of right and wrong, and impulse to punch people in the face, is what will make you good at your job. Oh, and don’t forget to smile.

Furthermore, I was surprised that no one complained about the dehumanizing effect of being governed by obnoxious timers and routinized work. Quite the opposite, in fact, in some of the blogs I’ve read on this topic, employees seemed glad that they didn’t HAVE to think while at work. While this may seem odd to those of us who appreciate the chance to use our brains creatively on a daily basis, you’d be surprised how soothing this can actually be. Factory workers enjoy the fact that they have eight hours a day to daydream, to disconnect themselves from the routines their bodies perform, for example. On a similar note, I find it particularly impressive how Ray Kroc defended the rountinization of McDonald’s work, claiming that bv showing employees that the McDonald’s way IS better than any way they may think up for themselves, he appeals to employee’s rationale. McDonald’s knows better, so do it our way. Kroc acknowledged free thinking and innovation, but is able to suppress it by appealing to our sense of logic. Employees don’t need to think about what they are doing, because it has already been done for them. Is it really so wrong, then, to pay minimum wage? And if so, then where do imperfections occur? How can you marry technological routinization with customer’s varied and human expectations?

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