Think your job is stressful? Guess again.

You don’t know stress until you’re the general manager of a fast food restaurant that continually earns several million dollars each year on revenue, but is desperately understaffed and operates with an unreliable skeleton crew.

Late last summer my wife was finally promoted to the position of general manager after being a restaurant manager (a.k.a. assistant manager) for several years with her current company.  The promotion initially sent her to a store located fifty miles away from home (yes, that’s fifty miles in each direction).

While the drive to and from that store was literally a pain in the ass (the hour-long commute was making her back problem worse), and the store was not only ancient but also in a bad part of a poor town, and homeless people used it as a place to hang out each day, she made it work.  She cleaned the store, managed to find and hire decent workers, and the place improved.  The store always had enough inventory in stock, the speed of service times improved, and business increased.  Of course, that’s the pattern that she had already been setting whenever she was transferred to a new store.

So how does the company reward my wife’s performance after turning around the worst store in the district?

Why, they sent her to another store, of course!

The official story is that a general manager suddenly put in his two-week notice after he found another job, and that’s why she was transferred to the next location.  Although upper management never admitted it, we knew that her first store was mainly a trial run just to see if she could do the job, which she did spectacularly.

So here we are at store #2.  This is a store located about twenty miles away (it’s a straight shot up the interstate and a really easy drive, especially compared to the hellish commute to that first store).  In fact, this is also a store that my wife helped open nearly three years ago.

Located in a small town that’s right next to a much larger town (I don’t want to reveal actual locations — that’s going to be saved for another time), store #2 was basically a homecoming for my wife.  She helped open the store, it was only a few years old, and some of the original workers were still there.

However, this store has greatly fallen to the condition it was in just after it opened.  The previous general manager was a complete jackass who literally ran the store into the ground.  Bad workers were given promotions, the good ones were run out of the store, the place lost its elite status as the region’s training store, and they were continually failing their company inspections.  The store was so bad that the franchise owner threatened to close the doors and pull away their franchise.

Did the district manager (DM) do anything about the now-former general manager (GM)?

Of course not!  The DM was all talk but no action.  As long as the store was open and making money, and the complaints were low, then that’s all that mattered to the DM.  Other DMs in the region are just as bad if not worse.  It’s one giant circle jerk / lemon party for all of those jackasses, especially the new DM for this area.  That’s middle management in this company.

Just before she took over the store, my wife called the previous GM and asked about the store.  His only advice was just one word — hire.  Go out there and hire, hire, hire!  Get as many people as you can into that store.

That’s what brings us here today.

In this company, the salaried workers (restaurant managers and general managers, though the restaurant manager position has now been eliminated through another bold move by upper management) are only supposed to work around 50 hours each week.  Naturally, the fifty hours are not a limit, and the salaried workers are expected to be flexible and to work extra, if needed.

The key thing is that their pay is based on a 50-hour work week.  They do not receive overtime pay for any hours past the 40-hour limit.  Nor is there any extra pay if they have to work more than fifty hours.  But that’s not a problem in an ideal work environment.

This is a company that is operational seven days a week, from roughly five a.m. to ten p.m. for most locations.  During those operational hours, not only do you need to have employees, but you have to have a manager in there as well, whether it’s the GM or a certified shift leader.  When people fail to show up, or there’s an employee shortage for any other reason, then it’s ultimately up to the GM to be there to keep that restaurant open and operational.

Again, in an ideal work environment this isn’t much of a problem.  Usually there’s enough coverage every day and the workers are reliable, so nobody has to work anything extra.

But that’s not the case in this store.

When my wife arrived in this store a couple of months ago, it was a complete mess that was also badly understaffed.  People in the area had been applying to work there, but for reasons that will forever remain a mystery, the previous GM did not do any interviews or extra hiring.  During her first week there, my wife made contact with those applicants and literally set up over forty interviews to take place within a few days.  The Director of Operations (DOO — the guy who was the former DM) couldn’t believe it and had to stop by and see it for himself.  Sure enough, a LOT of people were interviewed during that first week.  Most of them were hired.

It was a rough start, but things started to look promising.  Several of the people had worked there previously, and a few of them had potential to become shift leaders.

But then reality hit.

Out of all of those new hires, only a handful were still around after their first week.  The few that were looking promising to become managers had their issues (a.k.a. attitude problems) as well, and they would flip out over the smallest of problems.

The true nature is that most people either do not want to actually work, or they don’t like working during breakfast.  This store does about 75% of its daily sales during breakfast.  It gets crazy busy there during the morning hours.  Lunch can be somewhat busy at times, and dinner is almost always slow.  This location is all about breakfast, and that’s where the brunt of the attention is focused.

When you have enough workers, then the busy breakfast isn’t much of a problem, especially if the workers actually know what they’re doing.  Many hands make light work.  A busy breakfast also helps pass the time quickly.

Sadly, that’s not what’s happening here.

This is a location that gets so busy at breakfast that it freaks out the newly hired workers.  They swear that they can handle it when questioned during the interview, but when they experience it for real, they simply quit.  Why should they stay in that busy environment and actually work when they can find another job down the street that’s a lot quieter?

Because of that, the turnover rate for new hires is extremely high.  Most of them last a day or two before they suddenly quit, with or without any notice.

Once again, this problem is dumped onto the shoulders of the GM.  That store has to stay open, and it’s up to the GM to be there when there are shortages.

On top of the problem of new hires not wanting to actually work, many of the current workers are proving to be unreliable.  Workers will frequently call out of work (or in some cases just not show up), some days they’ll come in with an attitude problem, and when you try to call them to see if they want to come in and work extra, most of them will not answer their phone.

This even happens with the shift leaders in the store.

Right now this location has the GM (my wife) and three shift leaders.  One of them easily flips out and is continually on the verge of quitting, another is an unreliable and lazy jackass (good luck getting him to answer his phone when he’s not working), and the third is immature and has been faking an injury just to get attention.  She’s now temporarily out of work for the next few days tending to her “injury”.

This company wants the stores to all have either five or six shift leaders to help the GM run the store.  This location has three, and only one of them does an okay job at it.  The other two are worthless and just cause more problems by either doing a shitty job of running the place, or by running their mouth and pissing off their co-workers.  Then again, the first shift leader has that problem as well, and a worker quit this morning because of it.

For the past few weeks, it’s been my wife who has carried the brunt of the store on her shoulders.  A fifty-hour work week is fairy tale.  Lately she’s been averaging 65-70 hours, and that’s not counting the commute or answering calls and texts when she’s not in the store.  If she’s lucky she’ll still get at least one day off each week.  Her other day off is only a half day as she still has to go in there to count the inventory and do the truck order, a process that takes a few hours.  Thankfully she has a strong assistant manager to help her with the tasks.  Oh, never mind.

On top of that, over a year ago my wife injured her back and is stealing dealing with worker’s comp to get treatment.  Since she’s under so much stress and working an insane number of hours each week, any benefit she’s receiving from physical therapy is being erased by the crazy work environment.

Part of me thinks that the store itself is cursed.  Maybe it was originally built on an Indian graveyard.  Or maybe it’s just the town itself and the attitude of its residents.  I do like the town and it seems to be a nice place to live, but it’s nearly impossible finding anybody there who wants to work in fast food.

So why doesn’t she just quit?

My wife is extremely dedicated to her job, and she’s determined to make it work.  She has proven to be an incredibly knowledgeable and strong worker, and she’s put up with way too much bullshit to simply throw in the towel.  Companies love her because of her intelligence and strong work ethic even though it puts other managers (especially middle managers) to shame.

The title of general manager has been something that this company (and others that she worked for) has been dangling in front of her for years.  Now that she not only has it, but she’s been excelling in the position, and she’s not willing to simply quit and walk away from the job.

This place just needs some people who are reliable and can handle simple tasks.  That’s it.

Thankfully, there is some light on the horizon.

Soon her location will have possibly two new shift leaders (reliable people who not only worked at that store before, but they’re returning specifically because of my wife being the GM there).  On top of that, her store has been chosen to be the training store for a new store that will be opening within the next six months.  She’ll have a bunch of new faces working there and helping out, and it’ll be a huge push for making her store the region’s official management training store once again.

For the time being, it’s still a living hell.

She’s got my continual support through all of this.  I’ll drive her to and from work when she needs it (even if it means waking up at 2 a.m.), never questioning or giving her grief because of it.  I’ll also drive her to and from her physical therapy, and be with her there as well.  If there’s a way to help her deal with her job, then I’ll do it.

If you think that your job is rough or stressful, you’ve got nothing compared to being the general manager of a fast food restaurant, especially a restaurant that is high in sales and yet badly understaffed with unreliable workers.