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WITNESS THE 2017 SOUTH SNOWPOCOLYPSE: How Hard Is It To Be a Manager of People at McDonalds? Hard.

Peeps - I'm rerunning this as I told my 2014 Atlanta Snowpocalypse multiple times over the past couple of days as reported snow and ice is bearing down on the South, where of course, schools made the call to close 48 hours in advance.  While temps where in the 50s...

Dateline: Atlanta, January 2014

How hard is it to be a manager of people at McDonalds?  Hard.  Like riding a bike on the freeway hard.

This week found me for almost 2 days at Exit 11 off I-20 in Georgia, stranded because of the South's Snowpocalypse, which was caused because when you don't own a snowplow, salt or sand, 3 inches of snow and ice in hard freeze temperatures can screw things up.

So I got the last room at a Microtel (no lobby restaurant) and bunkered up.  Next door was a McDonald's, and since the wifi at the hotel didn't work, that was my place of residence any time they were open - which is the story here.

Wednesday morning I saw they were open, so I rolled over there and got some coffee and fired up the laptop.  I proceeded to be more sociologist than remote worker.  Here's what I was observing: Mcdonalds

1. When I got there, it was just the manager and someone working the grill.  Skeleton staff to be sure.

2. Most of the rest of the team had called out and said they couldn't get there.  That is, if they called at all, which was a topic of discussion.

3. As it turns out, Wednesday was payday.  The checks had been shipped to this location (day before for sure) and most of them looked to be live checks.

4. Even thought the roads were enough to keep most people from work, at least 12 employees (I'm guessing that location has 30-35 people on the payroll?) came in to get their checks.

5. When they came in to get their checks, the manager did everything in his power to ask them to stay and help them.  He asked. He begged. He complemented them.  He said he would take what ever time they could give him.

6. Guess how many people out of the twelve I saw said yes?  One.  1!!!

Think about that for a moment.  You need your check and you go through hell on the roads to come get your check, even though the banks are closed - so you really didn't think that through.  Then, when you're asked to help out, you say no.

I know some of these folks had kids at home, etc.  But 1 out of 12?  Shows you how hard it is to be a manager of people at McDonalds.  If I ever saw my kids in their early adult life and they went to pick up a check on a day where they could do nothing else, were asked to pitch in (in a nice way) and said no to the person who manages them, I do believe I would kick their ###.

Kudos to the 40-ish lady that came in with her 20 year old son and said yes.  I watched her interactions with customers for a couple of hours, and she was money - very good at what she did.  If you're reading this, you are all class.

McDonalds just needs more like you.  Hell, after spending some time watching the interactions, I'm guessing America needs a lot more like you.

I know some emails back to me will say, "but Kris, those jobs use people for low wages and they're disposable jobs, etc."

Guess how you get out of that job?  You act like the lady who said yes.



I think a copy of this article should be handed out to every high school kid who takes a job at places like McDonalds..highlighting the last two paragraphs!


Well as luck would have it, I am in the restaurant business and delivering a training class next week. I believe that this situation will make an excellent case study. Thanks for sharing.

Matt Loomis

Well said Kris.... and lol @ "snowpocalypse" :)

Having worked for McD in high school for almost 3 years (circa 1990-1993), when the economy was better than it is now, I can honestly say I do not remember such blatant insubordination from entry-level employees. (including myself) Perhaps that is a sign of our times?

Nevertheless, I would argue the problem you witnessed is two-fold. 1) McD does consider the majority of their positions "disposeable", and consequently pays/promotes them accordingly. It is nearly impossible to motivate a group of encumbents that see no inherent "value" or "opportunity" in their positions.

2) The manager: While clearly demonstrating strong managerial traits like approachability, understanding, comprimise, etc.... clearly lacked one important managerial characteristic: The ability to step up and demand compliance when needed, and discipline when absolutely necessary.

I do not envy the manager's position. Your observation regarding its difficulty is on-point. However, you cannot expect to "always" be your subordinates' friends. While I likely would not have "enjoyed" it, had I been placed in the same emergency circumstances, and witnessed the audacity of several employees calling (or not calling) in, but then coming to pick up thir checks..... my "discipline" mode would have gone into full effect.

No good manager enjoys being the "bad guy"..... but occasionally, we have to separate ourselves from our subordinates, lead by example, and put on that ugly manager "hat" that no one wants to wear.

Good luck Kris..... get home safely!

Mike Willard

Met you a few weeks ago at Profiles International World Conference. You gave a great keynote and your words are right on target here! At the end of the day, that manager became a manager of people because s/he did more than they were asked at various points or every point in their career. The lady who stayed is destined for more and better - she gave more than the job required. She gave great service. It is the only way to get ahead.

Mike Rodriguez

Without giving it much thought, I'd say maturity played a huge role in the 40-ish lady who took one for the team. But, I've also dealt with the forty-something guy whom you can't convince water is wet. I think we need to go back to the basics....COMMITMENT. Let me explain.

I was at the 2014 Goodyear Dealer Conference this past week and was genuinely impressed by the commitment this company makes to "love" their employees who in turn love their customers. Karla, the Millenial, and Don, the Baby Boomer, we're the epitome of the commitment we want to see from our employees and from the folks with whom we do business. Didn't matter that Don had been at the company for 39 years. Or that Karla was only in for two years so far. They both see the value in believing in the Goodyear brand, looking for opportunities to proactively listen to customers and most importantly, putting customers first in all they do.

Could you imagine how much more productivity and value corporations would yield from employees if COMMITMENT were a two-way street?

Matt Truesdail

Hi Kris,

A couple of notes:

1. The folks who came in to be paid are not likely the same folks who called off. They are probably those who had the day off anyways. Still, it is clear that even if 12 people who had the day off can come in to be paid, those who were scheduled to work should have been able to as well.

2. Not wanting to work when you don't have to is a common min wage job problem. People work those jobs because they need the paycheck, but no one values their actual time at $7.25 per hour. If they don't need to come in, they won't. I used to work min wage during/before college, and often times I would be scheduled too many hours while my coworkers continually complained that they were scheduled for too few. However, I would often offer my hours to my coworkers, sometimes even directly after a complaint. Despite being "upset" at not getting enough hours, no one ever took my extra shifts.

I'm sure it can be explained with a lovely wage-labor chart, but I won't get that deep here.


Great article! The manager position is a lot more difficult than people give it credit for.

Side note: It's funny, because I wouldn't be a bit surprised (especially since I have primary sources to verify this in other areas) if most of those 12 are also the ones demanding a wage hike like "Fight for $15".


McDonald's coworker > trainer > shift manager > assistant manager > Nordstrom cosmetics counter manager > apparel manufacturer customer service (office job - yes!) > manager > director > law school > employment attorney / HR instructor.

McDonald's taught me about showing up and giving 100% every time, and later how to read a profit and loss statement, how to create and sustain terrific teams, what great customer service really means and how to deliver it, etc. I'll always be grateful to McDonald's for providing me such a fantastic learning opportunity during my late teens. I've carried lessons learned under the golden arches with me throughout my career!

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Ha. We had 3 inches of snow here last night and they pretty much closed down the city.

I have had almost to the letter the same thing happen to me that you describe but 15 years ago. I opened the Target store where I worked. It was myself and 2 other employees that pretty much ran the entire store for 9 hours while employees came in and picked up their paychecks. I think I was able to convince 2-3 people to stay but only because I had good relationships and wasn't a jerk of a manager.

A good lesson in why you need to be a good leader and also a reminder that people are just jerks sometimes.


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