Working at McDonalds

When scrolling through the employee profiles on the German website, I noticed a lot of them praising the good team work and how close and friendly everyone was. According to McDonalds, this atmosphere makes working enjoyable. Funny enough, I never experienced any of it when visiting McDonalds. Either the staff were yelling at each other or gesturing due to language problems. 
The question is: Why does the company portray an obviously stressful, horrid job as a relaxing, family friendly business? 


Who wants to work for the greatest company in the entire world?

When I went on the homepage of McDonald*s Germany, what first caught my sight was that they really try to turn bad things into good things. What is a “flexibles Arbeitszeitmodell”?. To be fair this means nothing else than just that one has to be very flexible. Is this really a good thing when you have to work in shifts which can vary each day? They promote that McDonalds is a really good place to gain many experiences even in other countries of the European Union and that one should be really proud of to be a part of a really great company. But in fact every time I have visted a McDonald’s restaurant so far it didn’t really look like the stuff members were really happy to work for McDonald’s, to be a part of this company or to feel challenged every day. I find it quite interresting how McDonald’s tries to address its future workers. But I’m not really sure whether nice pictures and well sounding texts help to ignore the reality, to ignore the truth in order to attract as many workers as possible.

to work at McDonalds

From the videos I have watched and the experiences I have heard about from friends in the US, working at McDonalds seems like a pretty miserable deal. The pay is not enough to live off, the customers are generally disrespectful, and the environment is depressing. 

The workers in the restaurants are paid minimum wage in the states. And even though they are mostly teenagers, most are teenagers that HAVE to have a job. I know that when I worked in high school, if my only option was to have a job at a fast food restaurant, I just wouldn’t work. But some don’t have the option. My friends from school were either coming from a low-class family or had children while they were in school and had to support a family.

As if the pay wasn’t bad enough, dealing with rude customers and being around miserable co-workers (none of which want to be there) really makes fast food workers hate their job. The customers demand ridiculous things like free food and drinks because they believe they somehow deserve it. And when they don’t get anything they become upset..? Makes no sense. I know from working in a restaurant that this occurs occasionally, but it  seems to be more prominent in McDonalds eateries because they are “fast food” and deemed cheaper (with food and workers), therefore easier to push around. All of the unhappiness in the workplace can really add up to bigger issues too, example: The fact that they hire people with such a violent past is one thing, but in the workers defense they most likely deal with terrible customers often… It was just a matter of time before they snapped from stress. (ok, the metal rod is a bit much, but you get my point)

The McDonalds corporation seems to think that everything is quite lovely at McDonalds restaurants and it is full of opportunities. “We believe the best people in the world work right here. And we believe you could be one of them. You’ve got enthusiasm, responsibility and drive. We’ve got flexible schedules, benefits and jobs that can turn into satisfying careers. It’s a perfect match.” But all I have observed from people working there is they smell permanently of fried food, most are unhappy and they all complain about the low pay. Granted, not all McDonalds are the same. Some are much more well-kept and respectable than others. I just have more knowledge on the run-down, gross restaurants in South Carolina.

McDonald’s as the Epitome of the Perfect Working Atmosphere

McDonald’s Germany presents itself as an innovative, modern, German middle-class (!) company with an international character. Moreover, it shows itself as a company not prejudiced against gender, religion, nationality, and age and with the possibility to climb the social ladder easily. Furthermore, it stresses its flexible working hours as a chance to manage family and job hours, advertises its possibilities in career, training (2131 ‘Azubis’/ persons in training) and academic studies (148 bachelor students), and shows in personal reports the satisfaction and long-term staff member-ship of its workers (eight years and two months on average)

No respect for employees?

What I noticed when watching the videos by people who worked for McDonald’s was that the main complaints were about the customers whom they had to serve. It seems like everybody who goes out to eat at McDonald’s is generally rude, can’t make their mind up on what to eat, doesn’t know how to pronounce things and on top of that – wants their order as quickly as possible (in a fast food restaurant! can you imagine?!).

So, do the consumers lack respect for the workers at McD’s? If so, why do they look down so much on the people that serve them? Is it cause they don’t consider serving people at a fast food restaurant to be a real job? Or have the employees just not watched enough of this:

Going into another direction

On Saturday, I already talked about working for McDonald’s. I think it is a really interesting fact, that working for McDonald’s has a very negative image in Germany even though the quality of apprenticeship with McDonald’s is supposed to be really good.

When someone answer to the question what he or she is doing for a living “I am working for McDonald’s” the first thought would be “What?! Why would anyone who graduated from school do that?”. A lot of people just forget that McDonald’s actually has more job offers than just frying fries and making BicMags.

In Germany you can do a full 3-year apprenticeship with McDonald’s with focus on management or catering (Systemgastronomie?). This education has a good image; it is said to be a really good program. However, it still is McDonald’s – that is why it is not appreciated.

Think about it: What company would be more suitable to show how business management is done than McDonald’s?!  We already talked about this in class – Ray Kroc knew what he was doing, and now McDonald’s is one of most successful and known companies in the world. Again: who would be more suitable to give insight into successful management?!

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?

Working at McDonald’s

For students, who work at McDonald’s, it seems as a good opportunity to earn some money. Other people working at McDonald’s are upset about the paying. They work a lot and do not even get a raise. They still earn the same hourly wage, although they have children, now. Some workers were not complaining about what they have to do at McDonald’s, they even liked it there because of all the nice people working there. They were getting along well with the team. But, what really was annoying for them, were some customers. Homeless people paid with so much loose change, therefore, the waiting line was getting longer and longer, some even fell asleep at McDonald’s. Some customers treated the McDonald’s worker as if they were stupid and were changing their orders, and the workers had to find a way to deal with these situations.  The working conditions for McDonald’s workers are made difficult by customers. Do the customers think that fast food is not such a top quality food, so the service cannot be good, which leads to the fact that everybody working at McDonald’s must be stupid? Since when did people think that? A video of the McDonald’s worker in 1967 shows what a good opportunity it was to work at McDonald’s and how McDonald’s wanted people to see their workers. On the McDonald’s homepage they still present themselves as a good company to work at with many chances, a good training and a great fellowship.   

Visiting McDonald’s and Wasn’t it Good?

Here we are on our fabulous field trip to the one and only McDonald’s in Tubingen.  We came, we saw, we read, and we chowed down on burgers, Happy Meals (with a stylish Barbie make up mirror) fish sandwiches (my choice), fries, and McFlurries. Image

And the of course the fun was mixed with serious study.  Here we are trying to make sense of McDonald’s own promotional literature.


And here is a picture of the trash from our meals — boxes, wrappers, straws, napkins, tray liners, spoons, lids, cups, and condiments packets.  According to one web-site, it takes 800 square miles of forest just to keep McDonald’s supplied with paper for one year.  The Telegraph from the UK reports fast food litter was second to cigarette ends in littering the country’s streets and 29 per cent of that was from McDonald’s restaurants, followed by boxes and cups from unbranded kebab and fast food shops. Clearly we were doing our part.


Finally, here is an essay I wrote on the tensions between the global and the local using the example of Starbucks.