The Man Goes Undercover to Work for the Man

The Buffalo News profiles Jerry Newman, a SUNY business school professor who spent 14 months undercover as a fast-food worker in order to research his new book, My Secret Life on the McJob: Lessons from Behind the Counter Guaranteed to Supersize Any Management Style.

One of the book’s central themes is that fast-food workers—long derided as the Kevin Federline-esque waste products of modern society—often tend to be intelligent, ambitious people who work incredibly hard under dehumanizing conditions.

Newman saves most of his venom for the management of the seven restaurants in which he worked. It’s at the management level that flaws such as dishonesty, cruelty, and inequitably dispensed motivational lap-dances take their toll on the worker-drones who actually make and serve the majority of the food.

His insights on good, indifferent, and bad motivation and retention strategies may have been painstakingly earned at the likes of Wendy’s and Arby’s, but anyone trying to manage rarely gruntled food-service employees—up to and including the executive chefs at exclusive Manhattan hot spots—might profit from looking at the business from the drone’s-eye view once in a while.

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