I live in one of the many states that have "At-Will Employment" laws. This means that I can lose my job at any time for any reason. Of course, I may sue for such things as discrimination of some kind, but the burden of proof is on me.
Here are some quotes from an essay by Ronald B. Standler about "At-Will Employment" laws
History of At-Will Employment Law in the USA
"The doctrine of employment-at-will emerged in the nineteenth century in the United States in a climate of unbridled, laissez-faire expansionism, social Darwinism, and rugged individualism. It is often referred to as Wood's Rule, named after Horace C. Wood, who articulated the doctrine in an 1877 treatise Master and Servant. No doubt the title of the treatise says all that need be said regarding Wood's view of employment relations and, unfortunately, the view shared by most of his legal contemporaries. [three footnotes omitted]
William L. Mauk, Wrongful Discharge: The Erosion of 100 Years of Employer Privilege, 21 Idaho L. Rev. 201, 202 (1985)."
"All may dismiss their employees at will, be they many or few, for good cause, for no cause[,] or even for cause morally wrong, without being thereby guilty of legal wrong."
"An at-will employee in the USA can be terminated at any time, and for any reason – or no reason at all – and the courts will generally not intervene to protect the ex-employee from allegedly unfair treatment by the employer."
"While most people in the USA do not seem to care about practices in other countries, several law review articles have noted that the USA is alone among the industrialized nations of the world in providing no protection against wrongful termination of employment."
The other type of employee is the "Just Cause" employee. This means that :
"Just cause employees can be dismissed from employment only for a good reason, such as poor job performance by the employee."
The burden then falls on the employer to prove why he wants to dismiss the worker.In many states that are "At-Will", you do have some recourse when you are fired from a job to get unemployment if you can prove that you did not lose your job as a result of something you did.
While buisness people and management will say that "At-Will" employment is best for workers and employers, that is obviously biased. I believe that this type of employment law only serves to further dehumanize people as cogs in the corporate machine.
If you live in a state that has "At-Will" employment, I encourage you to contact your legislators to change this. It may seem like a small step, but in a campaign year, they seem to listen a little more....
No optimistic platitudes today. No hope for the future. Just a big knot somewhere in my chest. Here's how I got to this state....
In the middle of last week all of the call center personnel were called one by on to the office of the general manager of the call center. This is not my supervisor that I speak of from to time to time. This is his boss, who is responsible for the entire call center from mailroom to the janitors. He is tall and blonde with a hard look in his eyes that does not communicate caring, just a no non-sense seriousness. Yet amazingly, he has no power to adjust wages-thats what he tells us anyway.
We were called to meet with him and the head of sales to discuss customer complaints. Customers are becoming very angry with our overall lack of real customer service. They want to know when the market changes, they want to know when their investments have taken a real dive, they want to know when they have credit problems. In other words they want what they are paying us for. One of our institutional customers gave notice that something needs to change or they will look elsewhere for help with their investments. All of a sudden management is scared and is starting to think about customer service in earnest.
I had a good meeting with the boss. Received no kudos, but no ass chewing either. I have not had a review or any kind of praise for 5 years. After he finished explaining what they needed from the employees to keep the company going, I looked him in the eyes and said "Is there anything else I need to know about what is going on around here?" , to which he quickly replied "no". I excused myself after that.
Today he walked out through the cubicles pausing at different desks. He said nothing, just walking slowly, stopping and staring hardly. We hate it when he does this. He stopped at my desk and told me that I "had better step it up", then turned and walked away again.
What does this guy want? I wouldn't care if he yelled at me, or told me what a lousy stinking slacker I am, but to be so entirely vague, just kills me. If he wrote me up and told me he was going to fire me if I did not improve, that would be like a miracle. But I don't get any of that. No idea where to change, no good news or bad news, just mixed signals, and hardness.
Here's an incredible idea, maybe you could lead with honesty, courage, and clarity. Instead we are subjected to mind games, beating around the bush, and a real fear of confrontation. I used to think he a plain dealing businessman that could be trusted. Now I just think the opposite.
I've got a plan to get out of here, I can't say much more than that. If I can stick it out, I will be able to make a real career change.
Thanks for reading, it does help.
I was recently contacted by a reporter from the Florida Times-Union looking for help with an article about working in call centers. She is looking for call center employees who work in the Northern Florida and Southern Georgia area to share their experiences with her. The reporters name is Sarah Skidmore, and her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. She explained that she is studying the uncertain nature of working in call centers, and some of the economic effects to workers. It sounds like it could be a good article.
A big "Thank You" to the folks at "Blog of the Day" for mentioning Call Center Purgatory today!
Check out today's "Get Fuzzy" cartoon. It's about waiting on hold for a call center.
"I've been on hold for 45 minutes! Don't you think that's ridiculous! 45 minutes! How can that be? How could I be on hold for 45 minutes! Why was I on hold for 45 minutes?", barked the livid customer into my ear. If I did not know any better I could have sworn there was a white froth coming out of the earpiece.
I really try not to become an old fart. I'm not piercing my tongue, or getting a tattoo or anything like that. No, I know my place in the universe. I will never be as incredibly hip as I believed myself to be at 17. But I'm trying not to get stuck in one period of time. I realize my music collection is heavily stuck in the 80's, especially in the new wave artists like the Police and the Talking Heads. But I have made a real effort to listen to new music. I really like Moby, and 3 Doors Down, Seal, Bare Naked Ladies and The Presidents of The United States of America when they were still together, and other various stuff. I like rap, techno and trance (much to my wife's annoyance).
I was watching MTV several days ago and actually saw a music video (they aren't as common as they used to be). I saw "Bring Me to Life", by Evanescence and was entranced. I recently bought the album and really like it. The best way I could describe the sound is the the haunting vocals of Enya plus straight ahead hot guitar. Amy Lee has a set of pipes on her that will not quit.
If you think that there is anything lacking in the music, the lyrics really make up for it. I did not know the spiritual connection until I read the liner notes. Some of their songs are as inspired as something you may have read in the Psalms.
When the day begins I insert the earpiece into my head,
like some serial bus into my soul.
I sit immobile in my dirty fabric covered chair,
pieces of grey and black tape cover the arms.
As I log into my phone and click all the icons to begin,
I feel an oppressive sleepiness roll over my consciousness,
Like some cereberal congestion reducing the flow of thought.
It's time for 9 hours of coma with voices in my ears.
It feels Like inhaling nitrous oxide after a double espresso,
I never truly sleep, I never truly relax, just exist
in a dull state of non-specific pain and jittery nerves.
There are nightmares of oppression, and confusion.
Never finding those dreams of sex, waffles, and crispy bacon.
Never reaching the nirvana of a Wafflehouse,
where the waitresses dress trashy and call me "Honey".
My monitors is my field of labor for the day,
a luminous blue glow that never leaves my eyes,
The only birds in my field are the pop-up ads on explorer,
Orbitz like the yellow finch, and Amex like the bluejay.
In one of my earlier posts entitled "Class Warfare in the Call Center", I introduced you to a gentleman who works for our customer relations department. Well, I had another encounter with this person again recently.
Since the last time this person cruelly put me in my place, I have practiced what I call "practical invisibility". That means that I do not look at them or speak to them unless I have to, or if it would be rude not to speak. I still say good morning if I pass them in the hall or at the coffee maker, etc. This does not mean I am giving them the cold shoulder, it means that I know that nothing good will come of being chummy with them, and so I should not relate to them outside of required business interaction. The difference between that and the cold shoulder is I am not consumed with anger. I don't cry my eyes out wondering when they will be my friend again, or how we can make it alright again. I'm just resigned to the fact it would not be profitable to be their friend again. Anyway, enough psycho-babble-self-justification, the bottom line is, "they not nice-we no play together anymore".
Back to the story. I was in a certain part of the office to get help with a certain matter(I'm being vague, that's part of the anonymous thing) and as I walked into the area I heard this gentlemen talking to another co-worker. "I will not be spoken to in that manner!", the customer relations worker said, referring to one of my coworkers on the call center floor. "The next time that person gives me any kind of attitude at all, he WILL be wrote up by the supervisor on duty, you can count on that!" Then the customer relations fellow stamped out the door. I didn't get the full beginning, but from what I can tell, this person was spoken to roughly by one of my coworkers-maybe even said the sort of things I should have said earlier.
I wish I had known who told this guy off and what they said, there are just some days I am not in the loop. What amazes me about this person is that though they have a higher position than us, they have no real authority. They make some decisions regarding our customers, and are important to the company. But they actually have to go through our supervisor if they have any issues with our work. They have 2 employees that work under them, and that is it. This person worked on the floor at one time, and now does not. They have influence in the company, but we could care less about their games, and so could our supervisor.
What is it about some people that determines how they will be spoken to? I know we don't deserve to be abused, but aren't there instances when people will speak short to us. People being people, someone is going to get pissy with each one of us from time to time. What makes me angry is that people with a perceived social status have this idea that they must be spoken to with a certain decorum and respect due to them at all times and during all situations. Wouldn't it make you the bigger person, the person deserving of respect if you did not return evil for evil, if you just turned and walked away? When did this person receive that social information telling him what sort of speech he can accept and what he cant. He has some other issues going on I cant tell you about, but the long and the short is we do not know where this person got this attitude from. We normally have been told who is in command above and below us, but this person is just seen as another worker like to rest of us. I'll try to find out who put the bee in this guy's bonnet.
Religion and politics are an interesting thing. The Republicans claim to be representing the moral values of Christianity. While the Democratic leadership may not use the word "Christian", they would agree that they try to represent the biblical values of mercy, love, and taking care of those less fortunate.
I don't think either of them are right. I think that most politicians use religion to further their own ends. But what would a fully Christian society look like? I was reading C.S. Lewis a couple of nights ago, and stumbled on this passage from "Mere Christianity",
"The New Testament, without going into details gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if a man does no work, he ought not to eat. Everyone is to work with his own hands, and what is more, everyone's work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no 'swank' or 'side', no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call leftist. On the other hand, it is always insisting on obedience-obedience(and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents and(I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is the one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls 'busybodies'.
If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, 'advanced', but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old-fashioned-perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from the total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: everyone is attracted by bits if it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity"
Question to my regular visitors: Does anyone know what has happened to the Blog entitled "Anxiously Yours"? The link is dead. If anyone knows what happened to this blog let me know, it was one of my favorite regular reads.
Check out the posts going on at Percenterprises. Jason has recently quit smoking, and the posts are very entertaining. I especially enjoyed the one where he writes a Dear John letter to his old brand of cigarettes, Parliament Lights.
This is one of the blogs that I don't always agree with what he has to say, but I just have to enjoy the utter precision of his smack-talk. It's like watching a surgeon in a knife-fight. There's blood going every which way, and I am unable to look away...
On Friday we found out that Martha Stewart is getting five months in prison, five months house arrest, and a $30,000 fine.
I wasn't sure how I felt about the sentence. As you may have read in previous posts, I really don't care for people whose riches have made them arrogant, and made them feel they are above others. So I started surfing one of my favorite sources for news,Google News for her reactions, to see how it affected her.
The following quotes are from a piece on CNN entitled:
Martha: I cheated no one
"I didn't cheat the little people. ... We're all little people. I didn't cheat anybody out of anything."
"There are many, many good people who have gone to prison ... Look at Nelson Mandela."
Appearing before television cameras outside the courthouse, Martha called it a "shameful day." "What was a small personal matter became, over the last two years, an almost-fatal circus of unprecedented proportion,"
I don't pretend to really care about insider trading. Nor would I throw the first stone at Martha, because I have broken the law before too. That said, I think the "little people" quote identifies how she feels about the public at large. The fact that she had to restate it shows she knew she made a misstep.
The second quote shows that she still considers herself a good person even though she broke the law. To mention herself and Nelson Mandela in the same position as good people going to jail was kind of odd. It would be wrong to say she compared herself to him explicitly, but implicitly or subconsciously, I think she considers herself suffering like he did. See if you think so-here's some biographical links:
Nelson Mandela-Freedom Fighter and Nobel Peace Laureate
Martha Stewart:Entrepreneur, TV Host and Former Stockbroker and Millionaire
I don't see it....He probably knows how to field strip an FN Assault Rifle and she knows how to make lovely place settings. I don't think they could be much more different if the were from different planets.
I realize she is still appealing the case, and the other statements have to be seen through that light, but her self-righteousness is still becoming very wearing on me. I think on a whole, she still thinks that she is above judgment. I hope some time spent in very close proximity with little people changes her in a good way. What would be nice is if when the appeals are up, and she is done defending herself she could throw us all a little tiny bone composed of 2 words.......
My boss is starting to really scare me. He's not been the same, "hard-ass-screaming-until-he's-red-in-the-face-at-all-your-moronic-actions" guy I have come to respect and fear. I mentioned this to one of the guys that has been longer than me. He paused for a second and said "You're right! He hasn't been yelling lately, in fact he's been very mellow." I asked him why he thought the boss had sweetened up, he said "We're so low on staff he doesn't want to piss anybody off."
I recently got an opportunity to teach a small bible study group at church while one of the ministers was on vacation. It went very well and I had a good time preparing a message. I really enjoy speaking, and it is one of the things I feel fairly confident doing.
I spoke about how it is God's nature to bless people, its what he likes to do, and it is an extension of who he is. I tried to encourage them about believing more in him as a person so that the promises of God are easier to trust in.
After the lesson was over I spent some time talking to the people that came. People want to ask questions, or share something they felt that added to the message, or in some instances explain why you were wrong and needed to see things their way (doesn't happen much, but anyone who ever teaches the bible will have it happen now and then).
There was a lady that stayed at the back of the group, but I saw her edging closer as the people thinned out. She was not very remarkable looking, average height, average brunette hair, and kept her head down to keep from making eye contact with many people.
When the rest of the people left I finally shook her hand and asked her if there was anything I could do for her, since it was obvious that she was lingering for some reason. She apologized for making so much eye contact while I was speaking, and said it made people nervous from time to time. I said it was ok, and I didn't notice. She asked several questions about different things, how I got the opportunity to speak, and some other things I won't go into.
Then she finally got to what she wanted to talk to me about, she has been struggling with guilt, and not knowing whether God loves her, or if she would go to Heaven or not. She explained how she has been wandering in a land of guilt, confusion, and dread. My heart really went out to her. I've been there, had a passport to that same dark country of guilt and depression. I've even visited it from time to time. But somewhere in my travels I finally truly met Christ, and understood his sacrifice for all that it was.
But it wasn't some one time prayer, or one time bible study that did the trick. It was a process, it was a journey, there was very little instantaneous about it. I just "woke up" one day realizing I had not felt that same oppressive guilt for some time, and it was replaced by peace and hope.
I wished I could reach through her head and pull out the junk that was keeping her from seeing the truth, but there was I very little I could do. There was no magic faith pill. I did all I could do. I listened to what she had to say, and prayed with her. I explained I had felt the same way, and that she was not alone. I even explained how I went to a counselor for a while and it really made a difference. She shook my hand and then turned a left the room.
I lose hope sometimes, and can feel lost in what I'm doing on this earth, but my eternity is always secure. I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
But I had forgotten what it felt like to feel that completely and utterly lost and without hope. At least I know my purgatory will end, but there people in this world who have no idea if they will ever find hope in this world, or the world to come....
I am fairly sure that everyone in the world has thought about ending their life through suicide. I remember when I was a teenager I thought about it more than I care to remember. Then in my 20's, my grandfather, who I was very close to became sick, and started struggling to just exist in a painful physical state with very little dignity.
Finally, he put a bullet in their brain and ended it all.
My grandmother never recovered after that and didn't last many years longer. She was bitter and depressed because of the suicide. She may have died of something else, but the suicide was the trigger.
I didn't blame my grandfather, life had become very painful, and he had lost a sense of control and dignity. In some small way I understood why he did it. But when compared to the pain it caused the rest of the family, it still wasn't justified.
I don't believe that suicide is the unforgivable sin that sends you straight to hell. Especially if it is a related to a diminished mental state. Some theologies seem to allow people to die from physical sickness, but do not give as much value to mental sickness, anguish or pain.
There have been times when I become discouraged and look at all that is set before me to do, I feel overwhelmed and hear that temptation in the dark recesses of my psyche. I've got physical problems that aren't improving, and if I don't see some improvement, there is a chance I could wind up in a diminished state like my relative.
But I've got some strong anchors that keep from taking my own life. The number one anchor is my wife. When I think back on how my grandmother suffered, and what it did to her, I can't imagine doing that to my own wife. But there are other people besides her. Besides my own family, and my friends there is the world of other people that I have worked with in my church and in other volunteer work.
I know I'm no Mother Theresa or Saint Francis by a long shot. But no one is an island either. There have been people that I have counseled and encouraged not to give up, what's going to happen to them if I give up? We have more influence than we realize, if we throw it all away, the world will only grow worse.
Even though it may be the quickest answer to so much pain, I still believe suicide is still the selfish way out that kills one life and damages countless others.
Most people in the center get training duty from time to time. That's where some wide-eyed temp-agency candidate sits with you for a while and you train them in the mysterious ways of the call center.
The human resources guru does have the forethought to keep the newbies out of the jaws of the hardened old guys. They will either flat out refuse to train or tell the new hires more than they ever wanted to know.
I'm divided on training. I like to train people. I'm a freakin' nurturer, ask anyone. I also labor under the incredible delusion that maybe the people that I train will end up making this place better. I mean, if all of the people that start working here start caring and doing a good job, maybe this could become a nice place to work. Hasn't happened yet, in fact the opposite has happened a couple of time. I prefer not to remember I trained those people...
Of course there is always this little voice in the pit of my stomach wanting to scream at the top of my lungs:
"Get out! Run, Damn you! Run!
Don't you know where you are?
You are in the call center of the living dead!
Run! Get out while your soul is intact!"
Then I settle down, and remember no one told me either. So, I try to make sure they get an indirect hint of what's going on, and hope they make it. Most of the time they know it sucks, but need a job like the rest of us....
Here's a link to a photo essay about a call center in Canada located in a medium security prison. Excellent work that captures a lot of different feelings.
Calls From the Other Side
We all take turn working weekends. But holiday weekends are the worst. There is very little we can do on a weekend. Much of this is because much of the work that we do is either based on the market, or has to do with the banking world. The other problem is that the outside contractors that we use to help us from time to time are not open, or have limited resources on the weekend.
Therefore, it seems like the day before a holiday, and the day after we are very,very busy. Not only that, we spend a good portion of the day explaining to the customer why we can't help them, and how nothing can be done. I like to think I'm a fairly compassionate, soft-hearted, puppy-dog kind of guy, but I get a real sadistic kick out of bursting these people's bubbles.
Why you may ask? Because I come across people everyday that believe that their money or status means that rules don't apply to them and the world never closes whenever they want service.This is the closest I get to being able to tell some of these people that the world is not fair, and they aren't special.
If you thought it sounded like I was almost giggling when I told you I was extremely sorry, but nothing could be done, you were probabally right......
Everybody is talking about Michael Moore's new movie. I haven't seen it and don't know if I intend to. It's been hyped all over the blogosphere. Most of the posts seem to be rants and not necessarily well thought out either way.
That is, except for this one:The Amazing Adventures of PenguinBoy
Very well researched writing and worth reading no matter if you like Moore's work or not. While I personally am not crazy about his newer work, but I think "Michael and Me" was a masterpiece.
Check out Witterjig. Good writing and general amusing stuff.
In the previous parts of this essay, we examined how the world is able to do evil to people. In this last part we will examine how darkness is conquered by light.
"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." -Ephesians 5:11
I always keep an eye peeled on the help wanted ads. I send out resumes and go on interviews from time to time also. As much as I hate my job, at least I can look carefully for my next job and not settle again.
I remember the time I got a really crappy job because I had not learned how to read the help wanted ads. Here is the ad I applied for:
"Looking for dynamic individuals for distribution, sales, and customer support for our line of industrial strength air cleaning equipment. Please call to set up an interview."It was selling vacum cleaners door to door.....
It was out of some crappy warehouse in a bad part of town, and it was a really bad experience. My wife laughed at me when I finally admitted what I was doing. But I was out of work and they were paying me for training so I stayed with it for two weeks. Would not repeat that part of my life for a lot of money.
You see, like all social arenas of life, the employment arena has its own specialized vocabulary and sub-language that communicates larger ideas and concepts through short combinations of words or phrases. Let me see if I can help others from falling into the same trap I did. Here is a lexicon of common phrases used in help wanted ads and their meanings in the real world:
"Multi-Task": Of course, the regular definition of this means to be able to do more than one thing at a time. But what it really means is that "We don't have the capital to hire enough people to do all the work well, so we hire fewer people that can scurry around like rats and do it half-ass"
"Team-Player": Please check your soul, will and ability to form independent opinions at the door. You belong to us now, resistance is futile....
"Fast-Paced":Closely related to "Multi-Task", this means not only are there not enough people to do the work, but it means that "We make policy decisions as we go and rarely think ahead, be prepared to be in a continual state of panic because we are unable to plan."
"Aggressive": You are going to work with assholes, a stun-gun, pepper-spray, and a bayonet may not be bad additions to your attache case...
"Hands-On":You only thought you would be managing people, instead you will be doing half the work yourself. Buy some odor-eaters and Dr. Scholl's insoles.
"Challenging": Refer to "Aggressive".
"Opportunities for Growth": This can mean several things. Either something is based on commission, or they want you to open your own franchise. Either way, keep away...
"Flexible Hours":Of course, this means that the hours change at the whim and need of management. You flex for them...
"People Oriented":Looking for someone who thrives on being abused continually by the ignorant public for things they are unable to change, but must be the scapegoat for."
"Dynamic":Ever-changing, this company has the potential for quick growth, or to go under in the next week, when this week's checks all bounce, including your paycheck.
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine