For my ethnographic study I chose to examine the life at Moe’s restaurant located one block from my home and where I used to work. The main focus of my study is to compare the norms of the employees when the manager is there and when he is gone. As defined in Sociology: A Brief Introduction, by John J Macionis, a norm is “an established standard of behavior maintained by a society”. How does the employees’ behavior change when the manager is there watching them compared to when she leaves someone else in charge while she is gone.
Although the norms of the employees are the main focus of this paper, so are hierarchy and gender roles also play huge roles at Moe’s. Moe’s is a growing restaurant that provides everyday food to the countless University of Memphis students that live nearby. Its sells many different entrees, drinks, and takeout. Once you enter Moe’s, there is always an employee that has to scream out “Welcome to Moe’s” every time a customer enters. As you look at the menu there is a assembly line for orders. The bar has all of the ingredients to make the many burritos they serve and who chose want you would like on your burrito.
In the next line there is a machine in which customer can chose their beverage. The dining area is an open space with glass windows, which bring in the sunlight. The room has a table near the register for employees on break and there is a television near this table. This is the main area where my observations were made. My study for this paper took about three days during the lunch hour period. During these days I watched how the workers behaved when there was a supervisor, and on the final day when I caught my old boss on clock. The first thing I noticed were the different assignments and tasks employees were xpected to carry out.
There are many jobs, including two cooks, two entrees servers, three dishwashers, one cashier, and a total of the student managers and one head supervisor. The jobs are distributed differently among the men and women; the women tend to have more of the tasks of serving and running the register. This usually involves preparing and folding the burritos that have to be folded a certain way. The women are usually tasked with those jobs, whereas the men were tasked with more physical labor, such as cleaning dishes are loading the food carts off of the delivery truck.
Men are also the food runners since this task requires heavy lifting at times. The floor jobs were also usually given to the men, which involved a lot of sweeping, mopping, and lifting chairs. Gender roles seem to play a huge role in to what job and employee is given. Moe’s can also be considered a form of bureaucracy as its almost meets the standards of the definition. There is a division in labor, authority, and written rules and regulations. “As is most bureaucracy there is a form of hierarchy, meaning that each position is under the supervision of another positions”(Macionis 2015).
There were three levels of hierarchy at Moe’s, the highest being the head supervisor, the second the student manager, and lastly employees who are to be closely watched by the student and head managers. For the first two days there were only two levels of hierarchy when I was there, the student manager and the rest of the employees being the head manager was not on clock. There are many rules when one is clock such as no cellphone, music, or sitting on the job when customers are there.
When there weren’t many customers or even when there were, employees would lean on tables behind the assembly line and move only when a customer would come in. Almost everyone had either their phones or iPods out, despite the strict rule to not have them out in the open. They would take longer breaks than usual watching T. V or talking amongst themselves a little louder than they should. In conclusion, I found that if there is no around to enforce those certain social norms, then they would change. Since the head supervisor was not around to make sure the employees followed the guidelines the standards would change with the student managers.
Examples like these take place almost anywhere, from students acting up when the teacher steps out, or not wearing a seat belt with no police around. Each employee had a certain social norm to live by when the head supervisor was there but abandoned those when he was gone. The absence of one of the levels of hierarchy made a huge difference in the social norms at Moe’s. This ethnographic study helped me understand the roles of these social norms. As well as, how much a bureaucratic system helps make many different business, institutions and life run so much easier.