How long should you work at McDonald’s

It is the time in my daughters’ lives to go get some work. Well, I figure they should get some work and pay their own way for some of the expensive things that they want to do. Patti figures they should not be rushed into the marketplace where they will spend the rest of their lives. Regardless, one day I told Xandra this story and she asked me to add it to this blog.

McDonalds I Was Loving It

My first job was at McDonald’s. On my 16th birthday I got my learner’s license, just under six weeks later I had my unrestricted driver’s license and the day after that I had a job at McDonald’s. The particular McDonald’s in question was right beside my high school and for the rest of grade 11, all of grade 12 and about a year after that, I worked almost full time hours.

McDonald’s was great. They taught me how to work hard, how to work in a team, and that effort and attitude were rewarded. I had spending money, a car, and something that required me – something that really helped me to find relevance while bouncing around inside this ADHD mind of mine.

I worked hard, and was promoted and trained on everything they could possibly train me to do. I became a trainer, a crew chief, and eventually a swing-shift manager. A swing-shift manager is still technically a crew-member and not an actual manager, but you start wearing the manager clothes and that changes how people relate to you… which is an interesting study on human psychology on its own. I was even part of the team that hosted the media release of McPizza.

Now the real managers at my store liked to party at night and no one wanted the opening morning shift, so I volunteered for that. I started opening in the mornings and doing all the manager stuff, before an actual manager would show up. I earned the trust of the other managers and eventually I was put in charge of all weekday openings and I alone ran my store from opening to 10:00AM (which at the time was the #2 grossing revenue store in Western Canada). This created a problem because I was not an actual manager.

Let me back up a bit and explain something about McDonald’s managers’ social lives. Corporate McDonald’s doesn’t pay their managers all that well, and the benefits are not all that great. But what they do do is drive around a corporate funded McParty Van and pick up managers from different stores and take them out to various evening social establishments (they go clubbing). This creates an odd social dynamic where these managers become friends and create their own socioeconomic peer group. By creating a peer group where everyone earns the same, has the same financial issues, gets the same benefits, there is no motivation to improve on any of those things. There is also a lot of McDonald’s manager inbreeding, which is a whole other kind of odd.

I had two problems while working at the big M. The first was that I was volunteering at my local church, helping to run the youth group and this meant that I had schedule conflicts with giving McDonald’s 24×7 availability (something that is required of managers), and secondly I was observant enough to see that all the managers I knew only ever hung out with other managers, and all the married managers that I knew were always married to other managers, and I thought that was weird.

So when the regional manager came to our store, specifically to meet with me to rectify the opening manager issue, and he offered me a promotion to manager trainee, I said “No”. Then we he came back and said that he would promote me directly to second assistant, I said “No” again. Then when he said he would make me second assistant and let me choose which store I wanted to work at (something that they never did) and I said “No” again… they let me go.

Leaving McD’s was sad, but great at the same time. I had learned a lot, including some interesting tactics for employee retention, but I was also glad to not become part of some cult community.

Answer: Work at McDonald’s or any other ‘first job’ place that has the resources to invest in you and train you and give you new skills, but get out before you have to sign your life away in blood.

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