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Posted: June 11, 2013

Mickey D’s, why have you forsaken us?

Take our kids -- please!

David Sneed

Used to be, you’d use salad tongs to put McDonald’s fries in the little baggie. If you can remember that, you’re getting old.

Also used to be that sending a kid to work at Mickey D’s for the summer meant you’d get back a half-man/half-mattress that now had some sense of work ethic. He’d know the basics of customer service, accounting and getting along with others.

I’m not sure it happens like that anymore.  They still sleep all the time—that hasn’t changed—but most kids don’t understand the way ‘work’ works because Big Burger no longer helps to train them for a life of success.

My first job out of the Marine Corps was with McDonald’s Corp. You know what we couldn’t do back then? We couldn’t take a break in the dining room during the lunch rush. We also couldn’t interrupt an order-taker to ask for a drink cup.

No room to sit? Too bad, go outside. In fact, go outside anyway. Diners don’t want to watch you spread out scratching yourself while they eat.

Yes, times have changed. The other day I asked the manager if there was a break room the kids might use so that I could have a seat in the dining room.

“Sorry,” he shrugged.

McManagers aren’t what they used to be. McPloyees either.

You think things haven’t changed in retail? Go to any shopette just before 9 a.m. and see where the workers park. Actually, I’ll just tell you: the front row. That used to be a firing offense.

Have we forgotten why we’re in business? It’s so that customers will come to buy things from us.

Our job (as owners and managers) is to make that transaction easy and pleasant. Yes, we want the employees happy, too; but the top priority is the patron. Employees always park at the back of the lot. Employees never take their break in sight of the customer.

That’s just the way it is. Those are a tiny part of the work ethic principles and business sense we ought to be driving into their undeveloped skulls.

As managers and owners, we have a sort of moral obligation to teach our employees how to be successful; not just here, but at their next gig, too. “In addition to wages, you’ll learn to succeed” should be on every help wanted sign in America.

And we should hold ourselves to that. If we don’t do it, who will?

David Sneed is the owner of Alpine Fence Company,and the author of" Everyone Has A Boss– The Two Hour Guide to Being the Most Valuable Employee at Any Company." As a Marine, father, employee and boss, David has learned how to help others succeed. He teaches the benefits of a strong work ethic to entry and mid-level employees. Contact him at

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Readers Respond

Thanks for this, it is something I've felt for a long time. Businesses used to care that employees were trained for more than just doing the one task. How else can you hire from within if you don't have well rounded people? It's not like it takes much more effort, and then the company is better off for having better people work there. By Eric Endris on 2013 06 13
Elizabeth: Relax, it'll be fine... (-: Maybe: Except for the extra burgers, it sounds like you and the kid are on the way to a successful and happy life. Ronald M (if that is your real name): Managers play a role in teaching how to be an employee, just like how kids get educated at home but still learn at school. Kids need more than one good example to follow, and one bad manager can undo months of at home teaching. Thanks to all for commenting - all the writers at CoBiz enjoy comments. Some of us live for them too. I mean, not me, obviously, because I'm an empty-nester and have ones of other things to do, but some of these other guys sure appreciate knowing they have an impact. By David Sneed on 2013 06 12
It's not up to the freakish clown to teach our kids work ethic. It's up to the parents. I don't think work ethic is really taught by employees. It either IS or is NOT ingrained in kids at a young age: doing chores, babysitting, mowing lawns, etc. Sure, managers at places like Mickey D's need to keep their employees accountable, professional, and productive. But instilling work ethic? I think that's a "super size" order for the Golden Arches. By Ronald M. on 2013 06 11
I have a half girl half mattress who is working her first job a the Golden Arches. Gotta say its been wonderful. She is ticked about taxes, complains about the slackers who have worked there longer but don't work hard, is annoyed that her sister and I do things with out her, and is tired all the time. I'm so proud of her! But seriously the training they are giving her is pretty good, very customer oriented, we often talk about how we were treated at other stores, etc. She doesn't drive yet so no idea about the parking. Oh and I eat a lot more quarter pounders than I used to. By Maybe on 2013 06 11
I remember tongs, and I remember when it was a privilege to get a job in fast food in high school because they DID teach you work ethic. Now I'm afraid no one takes the time, maybe because managers don't even know the term 'work ethic?" By Scott B on 2013 06 11
Great article David and so TRUE! I don't like to generalize but it has been my experience that many young people have a sense of entitlement not seen in previous generations. They think nothing of taking a break while a business is crammed with customers. They are entitled to park close to a business because you have the privilege of having them as your employee! One cashier at a business had the nerve to start waving her arms and telling me to "breathe" because I mentioned to her that there had been 10 customers ahead of me and she felt no need to pick up the pace! I waited 15 minutes to make my purchase! When I spoke to the manager (who was not at the store at the time) he said he was "sorry" and offered me a gift certificate to return. I declined. One unhappy customer never returning to a store is no big deal. But in multiple, over time it will kill your business! By Elizabeth on 2013 06 11
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