Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Thursday, January 06, 2005
  "We appreciate you...Somewhat...Only Some of You...Maybe None of You..."

Several weeks ago, a rather non-descript piece of paper materialized next to the computerized time clock system. It had two pieces of tape to hold it up. Here was the message:



It was strangely worded. It should have said something about "Happy Holidays", but did not. Since we are a call center, we sort of eat in shifts or whenever you can leave your desk. Mrs. Cog made her incredible dessert called "Dallas Delight", a creation with cool whip, pudding, graham crackers, and frosting. Simple and sinful, may not be haute cuisine, but I am a simple man with simple pleasures.

The pizza came in, hot and steaming. We all got at least three pieces and ate until we could not eat anymore. Food always makes this place a little happier. But the festivities did not just end with the food.

We have about five different departments in the same building, so there are quite a few people here. They had gotten rid of the temporary employees at the first part of the year, but recently they had hired about ten of them back to help in the various departments. There are even some out on the floor with us. They go through the same training and do the same work. We consider them as equal as any other coworker.

After lunch, the secretary from the Human Resources department came around and had us pick these little green tickets out of a hat for door prizes. She did not go to the temporary employees though. Then after she passed out the numbers she came back and returned giving each of us with tickets a door prize. But the temps received no prizes.

Jean, a 30ish girl from somewhere in New England, stood up and asked Larry (the floor manager), "Hey, how come there is nothing for the temporary employees?". Larry turned red, then said, "Don't worry about that, you need to get back to work!"

Jean would not let it drop, she walked up to Larry's desk and questioned him some more. He was visibly nervous, licked his lips, then looked toward the GM's office to make sure he wasn't looking. "Look", he said, "I'll ask the personnel department if they have anything left over. But the GM set all this up and I don't want to get involved!"

Things around here continue to amaze me. What they must have meant as a way to raise employee morale only made them look small and cheap and mean-spirited. Throughout the whole meal, the GM did not come out and make any kind of small speech, or greet us and ask if we were enjoying ourselves. He stayed in his office on the phone. Once he stalked through the cubicles rather quickly without saying a word, just sort of exuding that atmosphere of unfriendliness that follows him everywhere.

The temps were offended to say the least. Hurt is more like it. Being a temp employee is hard. You always feel like an outsider. Now they felt it even more. I always remember the scene in a Christmas Carol where Fezzywig has the Christmas Party. It was a little thing, but he made their jobs bearable by acting human. By joining in the festivities, by shaking their hands and dancing a jig.

No, I don't expect that. Nor do I expect any kind of hug. Just acknowledge that you see the work that we do, and that you appreciate us. I guess that's out of the question...

Thanks for reading,


Great site and great article...however, I have to slightly disagree with the whole temp thing...As you have mentioned the Church of Dysfunction, I am the infamous Dysfunctioned Deacon Peck and sit right beside of Rev. Dubya...I am a temp at our call center, but do not really feel left out...of course, it could just be the fact that our company treats temps as equals.....anyhow, I will be adding a link to your blog onto mine and will attempt to watch this site......
I have been an outsider and though it was one of the best jobs I've had, I always felt like an outsider. I didn't want to feel like an outsider but it was hard not to. I started off on an hourly rate with no fixed term of employment and was laid off five years later working for a salary on a yearly contract but I was never taken on as an employee. That was fine by me, the money was good, the conditions were good and I enjoyed the work. I'd do it again.

Employees received benefits such as, security of employment, company superannuation scheme and a reduntancy clause if it was ever required.

The worst thing? That feeling of being in the group of outsiders. Somehow it did make a difference to the whole operation of the company. The distinction affected the employees as well. Some of them wern't comfortable with the arrangement.

Hey! Back to work ;)
Maybe it's just me being cynical, but whenever our call centre does something like this I can't help feel a sense of insincerity beneath the effort. Most people accept it as a momentary blip in the usual uncaring attitude of the employer but weeks later if asked what made the place a good place to work I bet none of them would mention free food being laid on. I feel sure however that they would mention a boss showing respect or real appreciation for a job well done.If it ever happened that is.
My workplace has temps, I began as one 7 years ago, supposedly for 3 days of the Christmas peak time.... Now I do the planning of finances for them... amazing the change in my attitude. It's hard to switch off the emotive side but it has to happen - the agency the temp is hired through is paid a fee per hour over and above the hourly rate of the temp. It is up to the agency to provide gifts and benefits etc. We do however include them as much as possible because without them our site wouldn't survive. Some have been doing 5-10 days a month for the last 10 years! It's extra pocket money for them till they retire - most having had good payouts when the Govt deregulated a lot of the functions it had.
It may be silly, i may be silly, but the first 4 paragraphs of this post (counting the message as a paragraph itself) make a nice beginning for a short story. The message taped to the clock, the steaming pizza, the modest festivity that feels like a joyful party in the dull office, good old Mrs. Cog presenting her work mates with a highly elaborate dessert...

Maybe i'm going too far, right? Anyway, i like it very much.
Couldn't log in for some reason - but still wanted to post. I worked at one of the Gateway Country stores as a CSR in the service department. I was a temp the entire time there and even though people were okay around me, I never felt like I was part of the group - and they never really took the time to try to "fix" that (even sometimes making fun of me or leaving me out because of it). I know sometimes you cannot expect to join a group day one - but I was there for about 5 months or so, and it never really changed for the better. I understand what you are talking about here.
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Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.

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.

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