Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Aim For the Top

In its press release, McDonald’s said it would use the nationwide recruitment drive to invite applicants to “learn that a McJob is one with career growth and endless possibilities.”

“That’s my story,” Jan Fields, McDonald’s USA president, told CNBC. “I started 33 years ago working french fries. I’m now president of McDonald’s U.S. My story really isn’t that unique.”
McDonald’s wants to redefine the McJob 
“Isn’t that unique?” Why not? I mean, realistically speaking, how many president positions does McDonald’s U.S. have? While I don’t doubt that Ms. Fields is a success story, hers is unlikely to be a common one.

This is the issue in any hierarchiacal structure. When each step of the pyramid is smaller than the one before it, there just isn’t enough room for everyone to climb up the levels. And, as a result, there are people who won’t be able to make it above the first rung in a timely fashion, or perhaps ever.

But this gets in the way of the story that we like to tell ourselves - namely that with enough hard work, and perhaps a little luck, one can get to any level that one aspires to. After all, that's the way that a meritocracy works, right? But, as always, there’s a catch. And the basic effect of that catch is that one can really only rise to the highest level that doesn't already have a suitable candidate in it. It’s difficult to make the argument that there is only one person in the United States who's qualified for the job. But only one person is allowed to be Chief Executive at a time - regardless of the fact that with the number of things that we seem to want the President to devote personal attention to, it seems like there's enough work for about a dozen of them.

Sometimes, we need to tell ourselves stories that don’t jive with the reality that we see around us. There are a myriad of reasons for that, and I couldn’t manage list them all here if I tried. But sometimes, all we end up doing is painting a false picture that we’re going to use as a guide by which to judge the world (and the people who inhabit it) by. And there, I’m not sure that we’re doing ourselves any favors.

1 comment:

Keifus said...


(And sometimes with some fairly incestuous opinions on who's "suitable". For example, rumor has it that Ms. Fields owes a lot of her success in the fast food industry to her mom...)