McDonald’s Just Made a Huge Announcement About Its Stores In Ukraine. It’s a Lesson in Emotional Intelligence


It’s been almost six months since McDonald’s paused its operations in Ukraine as a result of the country’s war with Russia. But a few days ago, the fast food chain shared a fascinating announcement about both what the company has done to support its people, and its new plans moving forward.

“As we look forward, supporting our people in Ukraine continues to be our number one priority,” wrote Paul Pomroy, McDonald’s Corporate Senior Vice President of International Operated Markets in a statement on the company’s website.

Pomroy went on to share two very interesting points:

1. Over the past months, McDonald’s has continued to pay the salaries of more than 10,000 employees within Ukraine.

2. The company is now planning to reopen some restaurants in Kyiv and western Ukraine.

These types of decisions aren’t easy. But they are a great example of how organizations can build goodwill, take care of its people, and benefit society as a whole. Beyond that, McDonald’s decision teaches lessons in emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions to reach a goal or provide benefits to others.

Let’s break down what went into McDonald’s’ decision, and what you and your business can learn from it all.

(If you find value in the lessons presented here, you might be interested in my emotional intelligence course — which includes 20 rules that help you develop emotional intelligence in yourself or in your organization. Check out the course here.)

Use emotional intelligence to make better decisions

When people think of great employers, it’s doubtful McDonald’s is the first company that comes to mind.

Surprisingly, though, the company receives higher ratings than competitors Burger King and Wendy’s in all three major categories on employer rating site Glassdoor:

  • Overall rating (3.5 stars)
  • “Approve of CEO” (71%)
  • “Recommend to a friend” (59%)

It’s actions like those mentioned in McDonald’s’ recent announcement that help greatly in establishing emotional goodwill with employees. Just think of how Ukrainian employees felt to know that they would continue to receive a paycheck, even though their company was temporarily shutting down operations in the country. And think of how that action would affect global employees’ perception of McDonald’s as an employer.

But why did McDonald’s decide to begin resuming operations now, with the war in Ukraine continuing?

“We’ve spoken extensively to our employees who have expressed a strong desire to return to work and see our restaurants in Ukraine reopen, where it is safe and responsible to do so,” writes Pomroy. “In recent months, the belief that this would support a small but important sense of normalcy has grown stronger. And Ukrainian officials have advised that businesses resuming operations will support the local economy and the Ukrainian people.”

These statements are insightful. You might think that the last thing people living in a war-torn country would want is go back to work, especially if they’re already getting paid.

However, the benefits of work for physical and psychological well-being are well documented. And since individuals and cultures differ, the best way to find out how employees actually feel…

Still, reopening stores is no easy decision. The last thing McDonald’s wants to do is to call everyone back to work, only to close again within the next few months (or even earlier).

To help the company make a wise decision, then, Pomroy says company leaders used five fundamental questions to guide their thinking, namely:

1. Are we legally allowed to operate in the country?

2. Do we have the freedom to operate the business and meet the needs of our customers and crew unimpeded?

3. Is our presence in the market brand-enhancing to our global operations?

4. Does it make good business sense?

5. Does it align with our values?

These questions are a good blend of both rational and emotional reasoning. This is pivotal when striving to make good decisions, and it highlights another key takeaway for all business owners:

Focus on the purely logical and rational, and your employees will see you as robotic and unfeeling. On the other hand, become overly sentimental or make decisions based purely on emotion, and you’ll likely set up your business to fail. That won’t benefit you, or employees.

The world continues to be an uncertain place. But companies who wish to do their part in providing a sense of stability can take lessons from McDonald’s recent announcement:

  • Provide employees financial support as much as possible, even if it means a short-term loss.
  • Don’t assume what employees want. Ask them.
  • To make better decisions, balance rational and emotional thinking.

Doing so may not lead to business as usual, but it can help keep you in business. And that’s something that will benefit the company, employees, and customers alike.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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