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What is a McJob?

By Garry Crystal
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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McJob is a term used to describe a low paid, no future job. The term is used in a derogatory manner to describe the type of job that is commonly associated with the service industry, a low paid position for which skills are not usually required and the turnover rate of staff is high. A lot of people take a McJob to help support themselves through college, or because the job is not stressful and does not require much brainpower. However, recent reports have claimed that people are now using the McJob as a starting point in a career. The McDonalds corporation has claimed that many people who started off working behind the counter in their stores have become managers or own their own franchises.

The word McJob first gained popularity after Douglas Coupland used it frequently in his 1991 book, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. Coupland used the word to describe the meaninglessness of the job: no future, low paid, low benefits, and without dignity. Every parent's greatest fear was to hear their child say the words, "Do you want fries with that?"

The word McJob is now part of the English language. It has its place in English dictionaries, but according to some, the term is now out of date. A recent independent study showed that working for a company such as McDonalds has a positive impact on young employees. It provides much needed job experience, improves people skills, and can lead to better career opportunities.

However, the word McJob cannot seem to escape its original meaning, no matter how much McDonalds wants it to. Though the Oxford English Dictionary planned to include the word McJob in the 1997 edition, they withdrew it through fear of legal reprisals from the company. As McDonalds often does when faced with bad publicity, they went on the attack and threatened lawsuits.

A recent variation on the word McJob is McOfficeJob. This describes low paid office jobs with no hope of promotion, such as those in call centers. Temporary jobs are often called McJobs simply because of the nature of the work. Employers sometimes keep a number of temporary staff on board because they do not have to pay them for holidays or sick leave. Many benefits that are available to permanent members of staff are not available to temporary staff.

Some psychologists claim that many workers can grow to have a McJob mentality. People who serve in these types of roles for a long enough period of time can become conditioned or brainwashed into loving the stress-free work. Fear of leaving the McJob and gaining a role with responsibility has left a number of people stuck in a McJob for many years. Psychologists have gone as far as to equate the number of stars on the worker's badge, signifying length of time with the company, with the extent of the brainwashing. It may not be too long before health guidelines are established for the temporary McJob worker.

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Discussion Comments

By MuhannadJ — On Apr 09, 2009

Why is a MC Job described as as unstimulating?

and what can a human resources manager do to increase the stimulation and interest of employees working in a McJob in the service sector?

By abakhsh — On Mar 29, 2009

How do you increase, as an HRM manager, the stimulation and interest of employees working in a ‘McJob’ in the service sector?

By abakhsh — On Mar 29, 2009

How can a ‘McJob’ (a generic term for a low paid service sector job and not just a counter assistant job in McDonald’s) be described as ‘unstimulating?'

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