Many companies’ human resources departments provide healthy lifestyle advice to their employees; suggestions like quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, and avoiding unhealthy foods are commonplace. But when your company sells fast food, warning your employees away from it, though probably responsible, makes for an undeniable conflict of interest and a bit of a PR kerfuffle.
Last week, CNBC reported that on the McDonald’s McResources Line website, the company had posted an illustration of two meals. The first, which reportedly pictured a double cheeseburger, a soft drink and fries (sound familiar??), was labeled “Unhealthy choice.” The second meal featured a submarine sandwich, salad and a glass of water and was labeled “Healthier choice.”
The accompanying text read:
“Although not impossible it is more of a challenge to eat healthy when going to a fast food place. In general, avoiding items that are deep fried are your best bet.”
So, basically, the unspoken message being sent by McDonald’s to its own employees seemed to be: “If you value your health, don’t eat here — eat at Subway!”
The website also made a blanket statement that fast food is “almost always high” in calories, fat, sugar and salt.
After an onslaught of what a McDonald’s spokesperson called “unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary,” the company decided to shut down the website. The spokesperson explained:
“We have offered the McResource program to help our valued McDonald’s employees with work and life guidance created by independent third party experts. A combination of factors has led us to re-evaluate, and we’ve directed the vendor to take down the website…None of this helps our McDonald’s team members. We’ll continue to provide service to them through an internal telephone help line, which is how the majority of employees access the McResource services.”
In other words, “we’d rather just do this over the phone, where you can’t point and laugh at us.”
While the above statement does a fair job of making it sound as though the company has its employees’ best interest at heart, McDonald’s just can’t seem to make the public (or its employees) actually believe that. First there were the protests earlier this month, during which fast food workers — including McDonald’s employees — rallied in 100 US cities to raise wages and demand rights to unionize. Shortly thereafter, more controversy was stirred up when the company published a budget guide that included no money for heat and a mere $20 a month for health care (just after it advised employees to get out of holiday debt by returning unopened purchases).
Well, we guess that if McDonald’s expects its employees to allot a ridiculously miniscule $20 a month to healthcare, it’s probably a good idea to advise them not to eat fast food. So…at least we can say its message is consistent? Ugh.