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I believe that an occupation in which job satisfaction would be particular low is a sales associate/ cashier job at a fast food restaurant, and the restaurant that I will focus on specifically is the corporation of McDonald’s. A study on the resignation of food managers conducted in 2001 gathered that more than 25% of the respondents were expected to leave their corporations quite promptly. In capitalist America it is almost common knowledge that the turnover rate for fast-food industry workers is disturbingly high due to great impactful factors such as low salary that cannot provide enough money for an individual to support themselves, and insignificant benefits that will not aid the individual, for example; health insurance. We, as consumers and as residents of the United States, are desensitized to the industry, what it stands for, and all of this information that I am currently presenting to you, however a factual article that I find to be quite compelling is that 20% of workers who claim that they are “reasonably content” with their job claim that they only plan on staying with the business for a maximum of five years (Ghiselli, La Lopa, Bai 2001). What interests me is the reasoning behind the notoriously ever-growing and changing industry’s high turnover rate, what is causing these disparities in mutual satisfaction between the workers and the corporation leaders, and lastly, how we should go about reforming this issue.
Two reasons why it is important to increase motivation to perform effectively for fast-food industry workers is because they must perform well on behalf of the company, and because they do not have a better option. The workers must perform effectively because if they have a bad attitude or are inefficient, the customers will notice, and then will negatively view the company. A good example of this would be the Chik-Fil-A at the VCU student commons. On saturdays they accept swipes, and the line for Chik-Fil-A trails all around the commons from open to closing time. Every single time I have spent time in this line, my anxiety and stress levels shoot out the roof. People are always loud, pushing, and rude, and the last thing I want is for the employee to take my order showing an evident negative behavior and attitude as if Chik-Fil-A is the last place that they want to be. Once I realized how low-affect and negative the employees appeared, and how long it took to receive the food after having waited in line for so long, the less I felt desired to support such a business that does not care about their employee’s health and well-being, nor their customer’s level of satisfaction. I have not returned to Chik-Fil-A since. Effectiveness and performance of the employees is critical for a striving company. These two aspects of job performance (or lack of performance) act in the fashion of a domino effect. Meaning, that if the employee does not perform up to standards, the company looks bad, and the company will terminate their employment. This consideration pairs with my second reason for why workers must remain motivated, which is because they actually do not have any other choice. Most of the workers of these fast food industries have a low level of education, and it is difficult for them to find jobs elsewhere. Fast-food industries allow their employees to work long hours to earn maximum amounts of money (although it is not very much money) so that they can support themselves as best as they can. If an employee does not perform effectively, they are putting themselves at a high risk for being fired, and that would be looked at negatively by future employers.
Skinner’s Reinforcement theory of motivation states that behavior is a function of stimulus, response, and reward, in that consecutive order. This theory can explain why this occupational group may experience low levels of motivation simply because they are not receiving enough of an incentive. There are two rates of reinforcement in Skinner’s theory; continuous and intermittent. The reward that fast-food industry workers are receiving is a continuous reward. That continuous reward would be their weekly, or bi-weekly paycheck. Assuming that the worker has a predominantly fixed work schedule, they are receiving a paycheck for the exact same amount of money every two weeks. This becomes quite repetitive, and their level of motivation would decrease due to routinization of non-stimulating tasks. Skinner proved that intermittent rewards, meaning that rewards are only given after some correct behavior and not all, and is shown to result in longer-lasting desired behavior and higher levels of performance.
Adam’s Equity Theory explains how people look at the work world by comparing inputs and outputs. In the fast food industry, a worker will compare what they are investing in their work and what they are getting out of the work they put in. Ideally equity would result in an equal input to outcome ratio, however the employee may realize that they are only getting paid minimum wage, and that their amount of earning is not going to increase any time soon because there are minimal promotions in this industry (unless you have been working with the industry for a long time). Once the worker realizes that they are capable of performing less work and receiving that same amount of low pay, their level of motivation will decrease. Another aspect of Adam’s equity theory is the issue of comparison others. The workers may compare themselves to other workers, but since they are all on the same playing field and are not expected to have raise increases or incentives, there is no tension or increase in level of arousal, also resulting in low motivation.
A motivation-enhancement intervention that I think could be used to increase motivation in fast-food restaurants would be to add more enticing incentives to increase job performance and motivation. A few examples of some incentives that can be added are supervisor positions, recognition and reward, and increase in life satisfaction due to the “higher-ups” of the company showing that the employee is not just an object, but a person. Employers have felt that their work goes underappreciated and that they feel too much pressure and are in a poor atmosphere (Burn-Callander 2015). Since the work is quite routinized and turnover rate is so high, workers do not have the feeling that they are earning as much as they are worth (Leidner, pp.204-206). An incentive that would deplete the feeling of disposability would be to provide an award such as “employee of the month.” Stereotypically, employee of the month is solely rewarded with your picture on the wall, however if some sort of bonus or personal recognition for the rewarded employee could be quite beneficial to their level of motivation and well-being. The employee of the month reward is an example of an intermittent reward from Skinner’s theory of reinforcement. If an employee is directly told what they are doing correctly, as opposed to only being criticized, then the employee will have a sense of worth, and in turn have more positive associations with their work place.
What I think is particularly important to understand about the fast food industry is that it is based on consumerist society and that the chained restaurants have spread all across not just the United States, but around the entire world. Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is seen as an icon in Thailand, as KFC was the first fast food place from America to open up in the southeast Asian country. The fast food industry has taken over small businesses, in addition to having been opened on every other block of each major city. Since so many of these restaurants are occupying the marketing world, they need workers, and a lot of them. People who are desperate for jobs will work at these restaurants and will most likely be let off not long after their hiring. It would be a win-win situation if the employer were to treat their employee as an individual of importance rather than just a number or statistic of someone who is going to be let off. The underlying issue of the lack of motivation in this industry is the perception of the workers, what they mean to the industry, and what their job tasks are, is undermined. Afterall, a corporation cannot function properly without its employees.
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