“We need more steam mix for our Hamburger buns”, a veteran employee calls out to the new hire at a McDonald’s restaurant.

1.  Separating the Steam from the Haze

“We need more steam mix for our Hamburger buns”, a veteran employee calls out to the new hire at a McDonald’s restaurant. “Get another package of mix, please.

For the newly hired McDonald’s employee, this is just another task to learn in the confusing world of fast-food restaurants. For seasoned employees, it is a ritual for newcomers that usually brings hilarity to the otherwise serious work-oriented setting.

Some new employees get the joke immediately, but most scurry to the food storage area in search of the elusive package of steam mix. They check among the stacks of Hamburger buns and in the freezer around the boxes of French fries for any package that says “steam mix” on it. After five or ten minutes, the discouraged recruits return empty-handed and ask for further directions.

Sometimes, if it isn’t too busy, co-workers might say: “It’s the big bag clearly marked “Steam mix”-the one with the picture of a kettle on it. Occasionally, the hazing might go one step further. With a straight face, an employee might reply, “Oh, that’s right”. We’re out of steam mix. Here take this bucket and go next door to Tim Hortons. We often borrow some of their mix.

Eager to please their fellow employees, newcomers jaunt across the parking lot with a McDonald’s bucket in hand and politely ask a Tim Hortons employee for some of their steam mix. A few Tim Hortons staff members have learned to play along with the game by telling the visitor that their steam mix is different than what McDonald’s uses. More often, the new McDonald’s worker is politely reminded that steam comes from boiled water and does not require any other ingredients.

Across the parking lot, co-workers watch the embarrassed (and occasionally angry) newcomers return with the empty MacDonald’s bucket. Somehow, the hazing ritual never loses its appeal, maybe because it provides a welcome break from the work. No one has quit over the experience, although most newcomers are subsequently cautious whenever co-workers ask them to retrieve anything from the storage area.

Discussion Questions

A.  What negative effects, if any, does this hazing activity have on the socialization of new employees? Why? Would this type of hazing have a positive effect on socialization in any way?

B.  What hazing rituals are you aware of in organizational settings? Why do they occur? Should they be discouraged or are they of some value?

C.  Identify any organizational behavior topics that would explain why this hazing activity occurs and what consequences it has for the employee, co-workers, and restaurants.