Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Thursday, March 31, 2005
  Hatred-Part III


"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."-Romans 12:9
When I think how I can deal with the hatred in my heart that my job brings me face to face with, I feel like the Christian ideal of walking in love is extremely hard to attain. How can I love people that are evil? How can I love management that does not care about me? Who sees me as some bothersome flesh-covered answering machine?

Well, one way I can walk in love with someone like that is to realize that walking in love does not mean I have to like them. We always think of love as trying to produce some sort of sticky emotional state that makes us see the one we love as worthy of love, but its not that way. Actually, its quite the opposite.
Here's a quote from C.S. Lewis that really helped me:
“Try to understand exactly what loving your neighbour as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well how exactly do I love myself? Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not always enjoy my own society. So apparently “Love your neighbour” does not mean “feel fond of him” or “find him attractive”. I ought to have seen that before, because, of course, you cannot feel fond of a person by trying. Do I think well of myself, think myself a nice chap? Well, I am afraid I sometimes do…but that is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does not apparently mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief. For a good many people imagine that forgiving your enemies means making out that they are really not such bad fellows after all, when it is quite plain they are. Go a step further. In my most clearsighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or as they would say, hate the sin, not the sinner.” – C.S. Lewis, March 21st: Loving and Liking, Readings for the Year
This is a relief to know I don't have to go against all logic to live what I believe. This is where C.S. Lewis is so incredible in his writings. He makes these complex ideas logical, and not some sloppy mumbo-jumbo. The people that run my call center are not nice people. I don't have to make myself be their best buddy. I don't have to pretend. What I do have to do is attempt to see them the way Christ did when he died on the cross. They are weak and evil, and not deserving of any love of grace, just like I was, and still am.

Thats the first step to moving beyond hatred, seeing them through God's eyes...

Thanks for reading,

AC
 
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
  Not Even Close...


I checked out a trade that my supervisor handled today. Keep in mind, this is the man of a 1000 memos, yells if he hears you even come close to an error.

It was horrible. Only half of the fields were filled out, the notes and customer instructions were non-existent. Just an incredible piece of half-assedness. We're talking the Mona Lisa of mediocrity.

But, he was in a hurry...

So its ok...

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Sunday, March 27, 2005
  Hatred-Part II

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."-II Corinthians 12:9
"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 3:26-27

How do you control the feelings of hatred that working in an unfair situation seems to bring naturally? What do you do to keep from becoming that bitter person that will explode in violence? I think all of us have fantasized about cold cocking our bosses from time to time. But most us are able to leave it at just that, a passing thought and not an obsession.

The one positive result from struggling with hatred is that I come face to face with my own weaknesses. I've spent so many years going to church and playing that image game, of always trying to be a "good witness" to others around me. But at this point in my life, I'm more interested in being real to people around me. Acting like you have it all together does nothing for anyone.

I can't deny my hatred, or it will eat me up inside. To act as if when their condescending memos and yelling and screaming at us never bothers me gives them the ultimate victory. Swallowing my rage, and hurt feelings is never the right thing to do.

The bible never has said you will not be angry. It just said to not let it control you. Don't let the anger become an obsession that leads to evil actions. Whatever the ultimate answers are to controlling my hatred, I know the first step is acknowledging I need the help of a greater force than exists in my conscious mind at this point in time.

Thanks for reading,

AC

Click Here for Part III
 
Saturday, March 26, 2005
  Hatred-Part I

"A new command I give you: Love one another." John 13:34

"Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life."-Eric Hoffer


Probabaly, the emotion that I have the most trouble dealing with working at the call center is hatred. There are times I hate my customers, I hate my co workers, but especially, I struggle with hating the management that has created this place of suffering, and hating myself for not finding a way out yet.

Hatred is not my constant companion, its not even my friend. Its more like that nerd in high school that wants to be your best friend even though you dump him upside down in the trash can every time he bothers you.

But he wont go away. It seems like every study hall, every class, every meal in the cafeteria, those ugly glasses, Dungeons and Dragons T-shirt, and greasy hair keep appearing in my field of vision trying to become part of my life. My cool friends, kindness, self-respect, and maturity tell me if I let him hang out with us they're hitting the bricks.

More to come...

Thanks for reading,
AC

Click Here for Part II
 
Friday, March 25, 2005
  "The Office"


I finally got a chance to watch The Office on NBC. Very funny show. I was laughing out loud. For once, I found a worse boss than the one I have now. It's Tuesdays at 9:30 Eastern.

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
  Call Centre Confidential


Several months after I started my blog I found Call Centre Confidential. I was very disappointed in this discovery. Not only was I not the first call center blogger(not by a long shot), but he was much wittier than me. I have actually laughed out loud reading his work.

Recently, Wrapstar resigned from his job at the call center and will be going on to other work. I just wanted to thank him for all the great writing and wish him the best.

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Monday, March 21, 2005
  The Sales Meeting...


I'm not normally an eavesdropper...

Walking down the hallway, I could hear several voices in the conference room next to the copier. Like any good citizen of cubicleville, I had a piece of paper in my hand to disguise the fact that I was just stretching my legs to get away from the phone.

The sales department was having a meeting with some other assorted management types. I could hear one of my least favorite salesman talking about a new customer that they had just convinced to let us handle their investments.

"I wish we could count on the agents on the floor to not screw this one up. I'm really concerned we can't afford to lose another customer."

I decided I was going to make 20 copies of my decoy paper to listen to this.

He continued, "It's hard to believe it, but there are some of us here who care if we stay in business or not. There just seems to be so many people on the floor that just don't care whether we have a place to work at or not, whether we lose trades or not. There are other companies out there that are going to provide investment services, and they are more hungry and more willing to go the extra mile than the staff we have here now."

After Mr. Obvious made his incredibly insightful statement of reality as he perceives it, the others tried to add their own take on our incompetence, so they could look smart too. I'd had enough. Fifteen copies of a carry-out pizza menu would be enough.

Later that day I pondered what they had said. It's not fair that they can blame us like that. I know many people in here don't care about our customers. He's right that there are people that don't give a shit. But many of us do, and we try to do our best.

For some time since the wage freeze and the cut-backs, we've heard we've got to work hard to keep our customers, and that if we want to keep our job we all have to take care of our customers. Policies have been added, we get emails pointing out when we fail to follow policy.

I just want to know how long they think that threatening our survival is going to motivate us. It's like we're a pack of sled dogs who have ran the Iditarod with no food. We've crossed the finish line and are exhausted. Then they start whipping us telling us there is a pack of wolves after us. You can't whip exhausted animals. At some point they either curl up and won't move, or turn and attack you. Those of us who don't care, its because we're tired of being whipped without the promise of more Alpo, or any kind rest or reinforcement. Status Quo can't be maintained, something has to change besides just whipping us if this company is ever going to be successful.

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Sunday, March 20, 2005
  Stuff


Hi everybody!

Hey, I updated the blogroll with some new stuff. Take a look for some things you may not have read before.

See ya,

AC

 
Saturday, March 19, 2005
  The Working Stiff...


Check out one of the best new Cubicle-Hell Blogs I have read in a long time,

"The Working Stiff"

Worth the click...

AC

 
Friday, March 18, 2005
  10,000 Hits


I just realized it looking at my sitemeter.

I recently hit over 10,000 hits since I started this blog!

Thanks everybody!

AC

 
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
  Surveillance Blues

Opening Scene from 1984 the movie (c)

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."
-Karl Marx,The Communist Manifesto
Most of us can agree that communism has not proved itself out as a prosperous way of governing (the jury is still out on Laissez-Faire Capitalism). Marx was wrong about many things, but as a sociologist he still had some very valid points. He is the author of the school of thought called "Social Conflict Theory". It states that society will never be inherently orderly. We will not all take our individual places in society as part of some well-oiled machine because we will always be in conflict. The ruling classes will always struggle to gain control or any kind of advantage over the lower classes, and the lower classes will always try to gain what the upper classes have. I don't think this is the only way to understand society, but it is true in many cases.

Sometimes that control is brutal, like a slave owner's whip, or riot police with ASP batons and machine guns, but most of the time its subtle. In the arena of employees and management, most of the time efforts to control are subtle. We rarely fear physical pain or torture from our bosses. Most of the time the worst that can happen is losing your job.

In all of the different jobs I have worked at during my life, the call center has been the strangest in regards to feeling controlled. I'm actually fortunate in that my call center is more lenient in how they judge my work. Because the nature of our business is more technical, we are allowed more time to handle calls and more freedom.

2 Minutes of Hate meeting from 1984-I feel like this at my call center training meetings...


My center still has all of the standard call center methods of control. Our cubicles are set up in a way that we still have no privacy and you always have that feeling that someone is watching you behind your back. Our phones can be monitored, what sites we visit on the web can be brought up in real time while we are online. Our time leaving the floor is noted, but they are pretty reasonable about it(we can pee whenever we want). The number of transactions we complete are kept track of daily. My least favorite system is called the CRM-Call Routing Monitor.

This little gem is connected to the phone system and keeps track of when we are off and on the phone, how long we take on each call, and when we turn our phones off. Everyone in management has access to this system. There are special terminals on each manager's desk for watching it. Sometimes Larry or the GM will just sit and stare at the screen, so we can see them. Other times we will hear them yell, "You've been on that call a long time!", or "Why aren't you accepting incoming calls?". I expect that from Larry, and most of the time he is not unreasonable. But what's truly scary is when someone else that is not my direct supervisor calls me on the phone and asks why I've been on the phone for so long.

I sometimes think Larry would love to manage his employees like O'Brien does in 1984. You know, cameras everywhere and the threat of torture and becoming an unperson. Sure, it's not friendly, but it sure is efficient. And isn't that what the bottom line is all about in business?


I know that management has to have some sort of method for monitoring what their employees are doing. Business needs to struggle against employees that don't want to work as hard as they should, they can't make money without looking at the performance of the their employees.

What's wrong with depending only on this type of utterly invasive surveillance is that its the low road; its a cop-out. Managing only through surveillance is saying that there is no other answer to the conflict between labor and management besides ruling through fear. Using only this type of control destroys any hope of a healthy relationship between the worker and management. When management spends the time necessary to reward those that are doing good and truly discipline those that aren't, we could see less of a need for this "Us" versus "Them" mentality. This isn't a pipe dream or new-age humanistic bullshit. I've worked at other jobs with surveillance, but I knew where I stood, and I was rewarded or disciplined in substantial ways on a regular basis. Fear and uncertainty through surveillance is the lazy way to manage. It will only result in bitterness and suspicion on both sides.

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
  Various Stuff


Here's a couple of call center related links you may like:

The Fire Bear: I really enjoyed his post on using the Jedi Mind trick on stupid callers.

Tech Support Comedy:Name pretty much says it all...

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Monday, March 14, 2005
  Favorite Quote


The best movie ever about working in an office is "Office Space". I don't think I'm going out on a limb here either. I was watching it for like the fourth time a couple of days ago, and I wrote down my favorite quote:

We don't have a lot of time on this earth. We weren't meant to spend it this way. Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles, staring at computer screens, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on and on about mission statements


Thanks for reading,

AC
 
Friday, March 11, 2005
  Call Center Workers of the World-Unite!


I've been contacted by one of the editors of CIO Magazine about helping them with an article about what really occurs in call centers.

They are interested in writing about what is happening in the "front lines" of call centers. So far all they have been coming up with is people that are just repeating management's company line. They want to hear the good and the bad about what call centers are all about. If you are interested in possibly being interviewed, or just have something you want to say, send me an email at anonymous.cog at gmail.com and I will forward it on to the editor writing the article. Include contact info other than email address if you wish, they were looking for some people to interview over the phone if it was possible.

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Sunday, March 06, 2005
  Why are you in charge?


There is a truth that becomes more true to me everyday. It started dawning on me little by little as I was a teen, and I become more and more convinced of it every day. It's this, people are put positions of authority for many reasons, but not because they are intelligent or know what they are doing. Many times, exactly the opposite is true.

Now there are many different factors that determine which people are made supervisors, probably more than I can name. But I think one of the most common reasons is that they have an atmosphere of confidence around them. They act like they know what they are doing. This is fine, and makes perfect sense to the rest of the world. I have been in several positions of authority, and I soon learned that you can't lead if you are always whining that you don't know what to do, or never have a plan. I learned that there are time that you need to act like you know what you are doing even when you don't. You need to inspire confidence in those that are working for you.

But where this goes wrong is when a supervisor starts believing that he really does know what he is doing. These kind of supervisors believe their own publicity, they believe in their image and not in what's inside of them. They stop seeking the truth about their organization and themselves, and just blindly thrash about like a bull in a china shop and then wonder why they have so much turnover.

I'm not writing to just bad-mouth management, I'm writing to ask why there are so few good ones. To be a good manager is a great accomplishment. It is a set of skills that applies psychology,sociology,algebra, and all types of knowledge, but most importanly, plain 'ole common sense. I have had good managers, and I kick myself for having left those jobs. A good manager makes even the shittiest job a joy. I remember coming to work in the morning happy to be there, I remember laughing and joking with my manager, and going out to lunch with them. I remember feeling genuinely sorry when I let him down.

If you are a manager, ask yourself "Why am I here?". Did you get there because of someone you knew? Did you impress them with your height, good hair and Armani suit? Or are you one of those rare managers who isn't just trying to impress everyone into doing what you say, but is instead taking the time to build relationships with your people?

It's not too late to be the better of the two. You can be open and caring without seeming weak. You can learn from them without losing their respect, in fact you may gain their respect. They might work harder for you, if they had confidence that you had their best interests at heart and did not just see them as flesh-covered wrenches or in my case, simply answering machines that can type.

Thanks for reading,

AC

 
Thursday, March 03, 2005
  I'm so confused...

There are some days that I cannot figure out this place, no matter how hard I try to wrap my understanding around it.

This was one of them.

I've got to the point where I understand my immediate supervisor Larry, I understand my co-workers, and I understand most of my customers, the normal ones at least. I understand market forces and how any investment can go bad even though the stock had looked good all morning.

The people I don't understand are the people above my direct supervisor. The general manager, the human resources people, the people in the bowels of the cavernous billing department, and finally the people that own this place.

I had a day that just felt really odd. It almost seemed to be like everyone had this sense of anger under the surface. What I mean is this, everyone I dealt with outside of my co-workers was short or made what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to ignore my existence. No eye contact, no "good morning", no eye contact made, even when initiated, just head down keep moving. The several times they did recognize me, it wasn't good. It felt like Winston's world of 1984. There were all sorts of people I had never seen coming through the office, including a guy in a suit that shouted at all of us when call volume backed up. I know it sounds crazy and paranoid. If I wasn't anonymous I wouldn't admit it. But something was wrong with my little universe, but I could not put my finger on it.

That said, I know I struggle with feelings that aren't always logical, and can't always be proved. I know that it's best to ignore these feelings, because I can't really do anything about them.

What makes this job so maddening is that we never know where we stand for sure. No reviews to help you gauge your work. No atta-boys, no raises, but no one gets fired or disciplined either. In the five years I have been here, I have seen or heard of maybe 3 people being wrote up. Even the times I was brought in the office and yelled at for wasting money or big mistakes, I was not wrote up or made to sign a formal warning.

I know work does not have to be like this. I'm positive of that. I have worked with people who let me know in no uncertain terms where I stood. I've had raises and rewards. I was even the freakin' employee of the month once! I had my ass chewed and had to sign papers that made me feel two inches tall. They explained what was expected of me and let me know when I did not measure up. I've been fired before, and it was a relief, because at least things were clear.

I just wish I understood it all...

Thanks for reading,

AC

 





Exploring the mind numbing insanity and childish corporate culture of an unknown call center employee.
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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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Email:anonymous.cog at gmail.com
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"One must know oneself, if this does not serve to discover truth, it at least serves as a rule of life, and there is nothing better." -Blaise Pascal
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"Wake Up"
By Rage Against The Machine
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