Martin Friel wants a job, not a philosophy..
It seems to me impossible to find a pub, restaurant, cinema,
bookshop, music shop or any building of leisure that is not wholly or partly
owned by some multi-national company. They are all-prevailing and as you are
all no doubt aware, slowly but inevitably pushing the independent trader out of
business. They justify their voracious consumption of the independent by
claiming that they provide better customer service and that old favourite
brand standards across their empire ensuring that the customer will
receive an identical product no matter where they are shopping. This is all
very nice, cosy and appreciated in theory but is it what we really want?
Dont worry. Im not about to unleash ginger dreadlocks and a musky
aroma and start harping on about globalisation. My concern about this trend is
much more selfish.
I have recently relocated to the arsehole of Britain, (identity
withheld to protect the innocent) and have been looking for part-time work
within the old faithful service industry. My gripe is the fact that these
companies, not content with making a grown man accept paltry wages, insist on
degrading their staff further with training schemes. These come in
a variety of hideous forms. I came across one recently that developed as
Stage 1 - New Faces -
These are people who have just joined the team.
Stage 2 - Rising Star -
These are people who have shown commitment to the
team and The Brand and can take a cup of coffee to a customer
without furnishing them with nice new third degree burns.
Stage 3 - Star -
These are people who have given up all hope of a better life
and are willing to accept the small scraps that are thrown at their feet by the
benevolent company. Otherwise known as trainee assistant supervisor/manager.
They will be training for at least three years, getting nowhere but safe in the
knowledge that one day they too can have their own unit.
Stage 4 - Legend -
This is what they call a manager. The guy who interviewed me
actually told me he was a legend and he wasnt even being funny or ironic.
He really meant it.
I didnt even bother taking that job. I could almost
imagine the staff meeting; Could all new faces and rising stars please
take a seat. The star has some very important news for you. Please pay
attention as the legend will be quizzing you on the information later.
Another I encountered recently was in a bowling alley. This wonderful training
scheme revolved around the staff member gaining pins (yes, bowling pins) and
having them displayed on your badge. These badges would signify your
importance, ability and desire to hand over any remaining vestiges of
self-respect to the company. This job lasted one day.
Now Im all for on-job training and trying to ensure that
certain standards of service are met throughout the company, regardless of
where it is. However, I see no real need for them to be so degrading and
soul-destroying. This, I think, is the attraction of it to these large
companies. If you have a large workforce that is, generally speaking quite
transient and not really liable to give a fuck about some executive they will
never meet, you have a potentially crippling problem with discipline and a high
staff turnover. If you really want to emasculate your workforce and make them
feel degraded and humiliated, what better way than to make them jump through
childish hoops and tag stupid names on to them. This combined with the
piss-poor pay and the ludicrous uniforms people are forced to wear has the
desired effect of producing staff who have no self-respect left and have
essentially been worn down to the position of numb droids. You may think that I
am being melodramatic and maybe I am, but if you could only see what people are
put through and the effect it has on their morale you would understand my
exaggeration. I have seen really good, proud people being reduced to a
caricature to satisfy the whims of some soulless human resource manager. As a
brief aside, if anyone has any idea why any company actually needs an HR
department, what they do all day and if their job is actually needed, please
send your answers on a postcard.
It has, as you know, not always been like this so where did it
start? Im sorry to say it but the blame lies at the feet of the good
ol U.S. of A. You are all familiar Im sure with the stars that
McDonalds employees are forced to wear. They get a star every time they
are willing to show that the cause of McDonalds is more important than
human pride, or more accurately when they have reached a certain level in the
McDonalds chain of command. Now there was a time, a golden era it was,
when they were the only employers to use such a degrading system to reward
their staff. Apparently no-one thought that raising their wages would be more
rewarding and appreciated than handing out stars. Anyway, you will find that
most large companies now indulge in this disgusting form of reward
recognition. I can imagine a summit amongst companies who process people
to extract profits. The McDonalds exec. is a bit flushed after a few
brandies and starts telling the other company representatives of a great staff
control system they have thought up.
Well, we found that the pay and the dumb outfits we make
them wear didnt quite stifle their spirits sufficiently so we asked HR to
come up with something unique. And let me tell you boys, they came up with a
real humdinger! We make them wear stars for good performance and compliance to
our thoughts. You know, like little rosettes for show ponies.
Pizza Hut pipes up - What? You make them wear little
badges to show what good little boys and girls they have been?
And they wear it, no grumbling? I cant believe you
get away with that!, splutters KFC through his Manhattan.
Thats the beauty of it my greasy friend,
replies McDonalds man. It actually makes them more compliant. Grown
men and women being forced to aspire to get all the stars. If they are seen to
be not activley taking part, they are made aware that their lack of team effort
has been noted and their role in the company is being reviewed. They have
nothing left. Its the final humiliation for them. Forced to jump through
hoops for a shiny little badge. Youd be amazed how compliant some of them
Maybe Im not giving these companies enough credit and
their true desire in implementing these training schemes is to furnish people
with new skills and to help them up the slippery slope of management. I
dont think so though. There is no need for these schemes to be
constructed in such childish ways. The uniforms are bad enough. Why does
someone have to be a Rising Star? Why cant they just be Dave
or Sarah or whatever? Why the humiliating tokens and titles? The only reason I
can see is to cow their staff and strip away the last remnants of self respect
that they had clung to.
So please spare a thought for these people the next time you are
in the business premises of a large company. By and large the employees would
much rather be elsewhere, not wearing a radioactive green shirt and cap and
would rather that no-one knew they were on the first rungs of the
companys career development path. They are not surly and unhelpful for
the sake of it. They are actively embarrassed and ashamed that they are being
forced to humiliate themselves daily for the sake of £4.85 an hour. It
seems easy enough to say that they dont have to work there, that they can
get a job elsewhere. But stop and look at one of these unfortunate souls. Look
at the hangdog expression, the awful and degrading uniform they are forced into
and if you look closely enough, you will see evidence of the training schemes I
have mentioned, either on their shirt or in their eyes. Do you really think
that someone would go through this if they had any kind of choice? So please,
let the sloppy service slide; let the surliness go unpunished; let the
indifference they exhibit wash over you and offer a silent prayer to whatever
God you follow thanking them that you are not a Rising Star.
© Winamop. September 2005
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