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The Definition Dustup over 'McJob'

The Definition Dustup over 'McJob'

By Tom Musbach, Yahoo! HotJobs

What's in a word? In the case of "McJob," dueling interpretations sparked a public spat between a fast-food giant and arbiters of the English language.

The McDonald's Corporation has been trying for years to get English dictionaries to change the definition of "McJob," saying it demeans many of the company's employees.

The Oxford English Dictionary, widely considered the standard-bearer of dictionaries, is the latest target. The OED defines "McJob" as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector."

They Aren't Lovin' It

In March 2007, a representative for McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, called the definition "completely wrong."

"It's a complete disservice and incredibly demeaning to a terrific work force and a company that's been a jobs and opportunity machine for 50 years," said company spokesman Walt Riker, as quoted by the Associated Press.

So far the company has not succeeded in getting the definition changed. Some human resource professionals agree that the definition is inaccurate and stereotypes fast-food workers.

Valuable Work Experience

"A job that requires responsible food handling, customer service skills, inventory management, and cash safekeeping has significant value," says Debra Davenport, a master professional mentor, licensed career counselor and employment agent.

"If I saw this type of experience on a resume and it looked as if the candidate had learned and contributed over a decent period of time, I would be impressed with his or her humility and work ethic," says Alexandra Levit, a career consultant and author of They Don't Teach Corporate in College. "After all, these jobs are not easy, and everyone has to start somewhere."

"If all they have done is worked at McDonalds in the same position with no obvious promotion track, that's a different story because everyone needs to continue growing and learning in their work," says Julie Jansen, a career coach and author of You Want Me to Work With Who?

A Matter of Perception

Founded in 1940, McDonald's employs thousands of people worldwide. The company's training facility, known as Hamburger University, is "one of the best employee training and development facilities in the world," Levit says.

She and other career experts believe the "McJob" flap could be used for the company's benefit.

"I think McDonald's should take a different look at their publicity efforts and put a positive spin on the 'McJob' concept by turning it into a recruiting and marketing campaign," says Jansen.

Professor Takes a McJob

Jerry Newman, a professor at the University of Buffalo School of Management, recently went undercover as an employee at several fast-food restaurants, including McDonald's, and reported back in My Secret Life on the McJob. The book focuses on management tips and skills he learned from the experience.

In an interview with BusinessWeek, the professor said that McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner did not like the use of "McJob" in the book's title. Newman, however, doesn't think the term is negative.

"I'm defending the word 'McJob' because the people who do the McJob are doing a darn good McJob," he said.

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