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What I’ve learned about leadership in my first job at McDonald’s

Emir Selimovic
3 min readJan 17, 2023


When I was 16, I had my very first job. I was a cashier at a McDonald’s in my hometown.

I was happy to earn my own money, so I could do more with friends and help my parents because they no longer had to support me financially.

One day, about 2 months into the job, I got frustrated.

We had two shift supervisors at the restaurant that morning, and it was quite empty as it was an early Sunday. Despite the relative stillness of the restaurant, both shift supervisors were busy ensuring that the restaurant was prepared for the upcoming lunch crowd. They double-checked the tables to make sure they were clean and properly set, made sure the kitchen was fully stocked and organized, and inspected the bathrooms to make sure they were presentable.

As they worked, the two shift supervisors kept an eye out for the first customers to arrive, eager to show them the best possible experience.I was standing at the cash desk when suddenly one of my bosses said I should go and clean the tables in the restaurants. Not having a problem with that, I started collecting the empty food boxes in the restaurant.

Out of nowhere, my other boss started yelling at me because my job was to stand behind the cash desk, not to clean the restaurant. “But the other boss said I should clean the tables and collect the empty food boxes!” was my response.

At this moment, I was very frustrated. I did the task my boss wanted me to, but the other boss said it was not right.

Boss A tells me to do X; Boss B tells me to do Y. So I’m left feeling confused, unsure of which course of action to take. I want to make sure I do the right thing, but it seems like no matter what I do, I’m going to be wrong in someone’s eyes.

It’s a difficult position to be in, and I don’t know what the best solution is. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place, and it’s up to me to figure out which way to turn.

Looking back

Reflecting on this situation more than a decade later, I find a key takeaway for leadership in this scenario:

Clear communication, transparency, and empathy are essential elements of successful leadership. Without these qualities, it is difficult for a leader to effectively inspire and motivate others. Communication allows for clear expectations to be set and maintained, transparency fosters trust and understanding, and empathy allows for a leader to better relate to the individuals they are guiding. It is only by embracing these principles that a leader will be able to create an environment conducive to growth and progress.

Today, I always try to remember how frustrating this situation was (which also led to myself leaving the job after another month) and act in a way I wished my bosses would have acted back then.

I am writing articles about starting profitable and scalable businesses, bootstrapping, building high-performing SaaS products with smart business models, and leadership. Follow me for more or have a look at my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts or visit my website.



Emir Selimovic

CEO of Dotbite. Writing about scalable business models, SaaS products and leadership in bootstrapped companies.