A legend in his own burger bar.
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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? Don’t worry. I’m 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 follows:

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 wasn’t even being funny or ironic. He really meant it.

I didn’t 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 I’m 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? I’m sorry to say it but the blame lies at the feet of the good ol’ U.S. of A. You are all familiar I’m sure with the stars that McDonald’s employees are forced to wear. They get a star every time they are willing to show that the cause of McDonald’s is more important than human pride, or more accurately when they have reached a certain level in the McDonald’s 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 McDonald’s 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 didn’t 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 can’t believe you get away with that!”, splutters KFC through his Manhattan.

“That’s the beauty of it my greasy friend”, replies McDonald’s 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. It’s the final humiliation for them. Forced to jump through hoops for a shiny little badge. You’d be amazed how compliant some of them become.”

Maybe I’m 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 don’t 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 can’t 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 company’s 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 don’t 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

Read old page 94s here.


© Winamop 2005