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Learning on the McJob

Buffalo B-school prof Jerry Newman talks about going undercover as a burger slinger to find out more about fast-food workers and managers

Jerry Newman, distinguished professor at University at Buffalo (N.Y.) School of Management, traded in his blackboard for a cardboard hat for 14 months in the name of research. He went undercover to work behind the counter at seven fast-food restaurants, including McDonald's (MCD) and Burger King (BKC). What he discovered is that the world of drive-through windows and fries is full of hard-working, honest people trying to make ends meet.

In his recently released book, My Secret Life on the McJob (McGraw-Hill, 2007), Newman focuses on the tips he gleaned from fast-food managers. But, he says, his book isn't your traditional leadership bible à la someone like Jack Welch. This book, rather, is about what Newman calls "followership," a look at management from the perspective of the workers. If you ever wondered what your staff thinks about you, then this is a must read—if you can stomach the good with the bad.