A manager of a Chicago McDonald’s told employee Carmen Navarrette to put a bullet in her head for being sick. Navarrette is diabetic, and had asked to go home after having a severe diabetic episode. Navarrette, who’s been an employee at that McDonald’s for nine years, went to the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago with the incident.
She also told her story to the Organizing Committee for Chicago Women Caucus, where there were similar stories from other people. That’s prompted a rally on Saturday, where workers were demanding an end to verbal abuse and respect from their managers. Several Chicago aldermen attended the rally as well.
So far, McDonald’s corporate hasn’t commented on the matter. Last year, they began cracking down on staff and managers for poor customer service. One in five customer complaints has to do with not receiving friendly or speedy service, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. As yet, though, there’s little evidence that they’ve been pressing their franchisees to train managers to treat employees better.
Disrespect isn’t unique to this particular McDonald’s.
Another Chicago McDonald’s is under fire for poor employee treatment, age discrimination, unsanitary conditions, and failure to provide proper safety equipment. Centro De Trabajadores Unidos (CTU) Immigrant Worker Project says that several women at the McDonald’s at 92nd and Commercial Avenue, on Chicago’s south side, frequently deal with verbal abuse, along with stress so bad it affects their health outside of work.
In 2013, CTU was pressuring that McDonald’s restaurant to sit down with them and work something out so that workers would receive better treatment. At the time of their posting, the restaurant had not responded to their letters.
McDonald’s might benefit more from treating their workers with some decency.
Perhaps the problem is deeper than just rude workers. It can be very hard to put a smile on your face when not only does your boss treat you like you’re nothing, but customers do also. Business Insider has a list of McDonald’s horror stories from 2012, and most of them have to do with customers. There are a few that have to do with bad working conditions.
Perhaps the problem is, at least in part, our society’s disdain for fast-food workers. You see it all over the place, especially when talking about raising the minimum wage. These jobs are low-skill, requiring minimal training, and for some reason we associate that with a person’s worth as a human being. If they were better people, they’d have better jobs. Since they don’t, there must be something wrong with them that just makes them “beneath” the rest of us. It’s not just customers who think it’s their right to step all over a fast-food worker like they aren’t human. As Navarrette’s story shows, the managers and franchisees do it, too.
The Wall Street Journal article discusses how trying to raise the level of customer service across the board has had limited success. One McDonald’s franchisee said, “I think it’s an ongoing problem, and always will be.”
The question there is, why? The franchisees are addressing the issue by increasing staffing and introducing new order systems to speed things up. Why doesn’t employee treatment factor into this at all?
Employee engagement and well-being brings in a higher profit margin.
Organizations that actively participate in employee well-being and engagement, and invest time and energy in providing good working environments, tend to see greater returns and greater profits than companies who treat their employees like mere cogs in a machine. This isn’t something that only applies to certain industries; it’s true across all industries. It isn’t necessarily about wages, either. Treating employees with respect, and letting them know their value to the organization as a whole, can go a very long way towards how well they perform.
But even if the returns were small, treating your employees with disrespect is just bad management. Anybody who’s so disrespectful that they would tell an employee to put a bullet in their head because they’re sick shouldn’t be a manager to begin with.
This McDonald’s manager really should just be fired for that.
There’s no information available as to how often Navarrette was absent from work due to her diabetes. If it was quite frequent, then frustration on the part of her manager is to be expected. However, that absolutely does not give him the right to tell her she should kill herself. If her health is causing that much of a problem with her attendance or performance on the job, then he needs to schedule a meeting with her to discuss her options (including things like light duty, and possibly disability).
If, however, her diabetes is not causing problems with her attendance and on-the-job performance, then his behavior is even worse because that level of frustration is entirely unwarranted. But regardless, no manager, no matter how frustrated they are, has the right tell anyone to just put a bullet in their heads.
Navarrette has a petition on Moveon.org regarding her situation, and the situation of all McDonald’s workers who’ve had to endure abuse from their managers. If McDonald’s is serious about improving their customer service, technology is only one step. They need to better train their franchisees to ensure store managers are leaders, and not just overseers.