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McJob (sometimes called joe job) is slang for a low-paying, low-prestige dead-end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement.[1] The term McJob comes from the name of the fast-food restaurant McDonald's, but is used to describe any low-status job – regardless of the employer – where little training is required, staff turnover is high, and workers' activities are tightly regulated by managers.


"McJob" was in use at least as early as 1986, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which defines it as "An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector."[2] Lack of job security is common.

The term was coined by sociologist Amitai Etzioni, and appeared in the Washington Post on August 24, 1986 in the article "McJobs are Bad for Kids".[3][4] The term was popularized by Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, described therein as "a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one."[5]

The term appears in the 1994 novel Interface (by Neal Stephenson and George Jewsbury) to describe in the abstract positions that are briefly held and underpaid. In the 1999 British film Human Traffic, one character's work in a generic burger outlet is referred to as a McJob.

In the face of objections from McDonald's, the term "McJob" was added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2003,.[6] In an open letter to Merriam-Webster, McDonald's CEO, James Cantalupo denounced the definition as a "slap in the face" to all restaurant employees, and stated that "a more appropriate definition of a 'McJob' might be 'teaches responsibility.'" Merriam-Webster responded that "[they stood] by the accuracy and appropriateness of [their] definition."

On 20 March 2007, the BBC reported that the UK arm of McDonald's planned a public petition to have the OED's definition of "McJob" changed.[7][8] Lorraine Homer from McDonald's stated that the company feels the definition is "out of date and inaccurate".[9] McDonald's UK CEO, Peter Beresford, described the term as "demeaning to the hard work and dedication displayed by the 67,000 McDonald's employees throughout the UK".[10] The company would prefer the definition to be rewritten to "reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding ... and offers skills that last a lifetime."[11][12]

These comments run counter to the principle that dictionaries simply record linguistic usage rather than judge it, and that dropping the entry for "McJob" would be a precedent for bowdlerising definitions of other derogatory terms.[11] McDonald's attempted to get all of its workers to sign the petition but many refused on the grounds that the current definition is accurate despite the company's complaint.

During the aforementioned arguments that broke out when Merriam-Webster included "McJob" in its new edition, McDonald's officials implied the company might bring a lawsuit against the dictionary based on this trademark issue, but never did so. McDonald's disputes that its jobs are poor, because the company has been nominated for employee awards that are created by employers.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19] However, this was contradicted in the outcome of the UK McLibel court case, in which the judges ruled that it was fair to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions".[20]

Accuracy of the term[edit]

There are often wide variations in how workers are actually treated depending on the local franchise owner. Some employees start out in entry-level McJobs and later become assistant managers or managers, continuing to work at the same franchise for many years; however this is the exception rather than the norm.[21] McDonald's advertises that its CEO, Jim Skinner, began working at the company as a regular restaurant employee, and that 20 of its top 50 managers began work as regular crew members.[22]

According to Jim Cantalupo, former CEO of McDonald's, the perception of fast-food work being boring and mindless is inaccurate, and over 1,000 of the men and women who now own McDonald's franchises began behind the counter.[21][23] Because McDonald's has over 400,000 employees and high turnover, Cantalupo's contention has been criticized as being invalid, working to highlight the exception rather than the rule.[24]

In 2006, McDonald's undertook an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom to challenge the perceptions of the McJob. The campaign, developed by Barkers Advertising and supported by research conducted by Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London, highlighted the benefits of working for the organization, stating that they were "Not bad for a McJob". So confident were McDonald's of their claims that they ran the campaign on the giant screens of London's Piccadilly Circus.[25]

McJOBS, the trademark[edit]

McJOBS (plural, uppercase) was first registered as a trademark by McDonald's on May 16, 1984, as a name and image for "training handicapped persons as restaurant employees". The trademark lapsed in February 1992, and was declared "Canceled"[26] by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Following the October 1992 publication of Generation X in paperback, McDonald's restored the trademark.[20][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""McJob" - entry in Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary". Retrieved Feb 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Merriam-Webster: 'McJob' is here to stay". The Associated Press. November 11, 2003.
  3. ^ B170
  4. ^ Stephenson, -- W.E. (1986-08-30). "McJobs Are Good for Kids". 
  5. ^ Coupland, Douglas. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. St Martin's Press, 1991. p. 5 ISBN 0-312-05436-X
  6. ^ CNN http://www.cnn.com/2003/SHOWBIZ/books/11/11/offbeat.mcjob.ap/ |url= missing title (help). [dead link]
  7. ^ McDonald's McJob Petition
  8. ^ BBC NEWS | Talk about Newsnight | “Gis a McJob”
  9. ^ BBC (2007-03-20). "McDonald's seeks McJob rewrite". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  10. ^ "CNN International, 24 March 2007". 
  11. ^ a b "Can McDonald's Alter the Dictionary?". Time. 2007-06-05. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  12. ^ Thread, Open (2007-05-24). "A new McDefinition?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  13. ^ Britain's Top Employers 2008 - McDonald's Restaurants Ltd Company Profile
  14. ^ The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers - The Top 100
  15. ^ FT.com / Reports / Best workplaces 2007
  16. ^ http://www.caterersearch.com/onlineteam/bptw/index.html
  17. ^ wheretowork.com - Jobs recruitment employment vacancies careers
  18. ^ Employer of the Year Awards 2006
  19. ^ McDonald's shrugs off 'McJob curse' to win Best Place to Work in Hospitality Award
  20. ^ a b Press Release - McLibel Support Campaign; 25th March 1999
  21. ^ a b My Day on the Breakfast Shift
  22. ^ 09/21/05 - McDonald's Debuts Advertising on the World of Opportunity Under the Golden Arches
  23. ^ "McDonald's anger over McJob entry". BBC News. 2003-11-09. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  24. ^ McJobs are giving Britain a reputation as Europe's offshore banana republic
  25. ^ "Not bad for a McJob?" Management Issues. June 8, 2006
  26. ^ Original trademark status from the USPTO TARR system
  27. ^ Restored trademark status from the USPTO TARR system

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McJob — Please support Wikipedia.
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54 news items

Management Today
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:00:05 -0700

The Oxford English Dictionary still defines 'McJob' as 'an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects'. 'I try not to accept it - it really hits my button,' McDonald says, leaning forward, pressing her point. 'It's insulting to our people, as well ...

Toronto Sun

Toronto Sun
Sun, 13 Jul 2014 14:56:15 -0700

McDonald's A "Now Hiring" sign is seen in front of a McDonald's restaurant in FairOaks, Virginia April 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Larry Downing). Article. Tweet. Change text size for the story; Print this story. Report an error ...
Peace River Record Gazette
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:15:00 -0700

The University of British Columbia study looked at data from almost 250,000 Canadians who participated in a Statistics Canada survey. The study followed youth over a 10-year period beginning when they were 15. It found that those who worked “McJobs” ...

Toronto Sun

Toronto Sun
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 06:52:30 -0700

Getting a summer job, even a McJob, can help a teenager's career prospects, a new University of British Columbia study has found. "Parents may think that their kids could do better than a job at the local fast food joint. But our study shows even ...
The Star-Ledger
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 01:48:45 -0700

As I said, the work on this day was not rocket science, but it was not nothin'; it was not a "McJob." And while I don't know how these mostly young employees feel about their work, I hope they feel pride. They move an average of 70 cars an hour through ...

Winnipeg Sun

Winnipeg Sun
Fri, 18 Jul 2014 08:11:15 -0700

I had a McJob at 15 years old (in fact it was at McDonald's). I always worked a lot of hours, while comfortably completing school. My final year at university, I was working almost 40 hours a week. I continued a career at McDonald's and nine years ago ...
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 10:37:30 -0700

Suggesting teenagers work at a low-skilled, minimum wage job, otherwise colloquially known as a “McJob,” would be a better alternative for parents who usually spend hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars to keep their children occupied during the ...
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 13:02:31 -0700

Canada unexpectedly shed 9,400 jobs in June as the unemployment rate climbed to 7.1 percent, the highest level in six months according to the latest jobs data from Statistics Canada. Most economic projections called for the addition of 20,000 positions ...

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