Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Secret Life on the McJob

If there is one book you need to read for this Christmas holidays, make it My Secret Life on the McJob. I just couldn't put it down after coming across it up from my local library. My first position out of university was for a big box retail bookstore, and it was tough. (It brings back haunting memories that resonates today). Retail is tough. And professor Jerry Newman of University at Buffalo's State University of New York explains this in pristine detail as he worked undercover in the lowest rung minimum wage labour world of fast food restaurants to reveal insightful, and at times, disturbing practices in retail culture.

In my opinion, My Secret Life on the McJob is a paradigmatic shift in the field work analysis of organizations. Too often Library and Information Science educators are narrowly confined to questionnaires and quantitative analyses and equally narrowly churning out generic, boring, and unusable data about user statistics. Instead of viewing from the top-down, Newman does the exact opposite. Jerry Newman turns a stunted methodology of interviewing and statistical analysis on its head by actually doing a personal sacrifice (physical risk included) through experiencing the problems and flaws of organization behaviour and working as a covert fast food worker. What does he discover? The inefficiencies of retail, fast food, and traditional hierarchical management techniques passed down by the Ford Assembly Line era are not working in our globalized, mobile workforce era.

What Newman forces us to review about our workplace is that people are important. It's about the people. Good ideas come from the front lines. This applies not only to the retail world, but businesses of any kind, and especially libraries.

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