I'm a little uneasy in posting this, but I think it has a really good point, please comment if you have anything to add, good or bad...
I do my best thinking in the shower. Last week I was soaping up and shampooing and thinking about a thousand things but nothing in particular. I finally started thinking about my job, and the people that work there.
I found myself thinking about a particular person in management that wanders in and out of our lives on occasion. He is one of those people that has influence, but not direct authority over the people on the floor. This man is well-connected. He could have us written up if we crossed him.
He walks through the center from time to time and addresses us only if he feels like it. Mostly he just stares through us or talks down to us if he speaks at all. At first I thought it was just my own sensitivities, but I hear others talk about him the same way.
It seems that I keep forgetting that he has something against me, and that I should not talk to him like an equal. Every time I do, I find myself at the receiving end of the sort of sharp barb or comment about my work that makes me feel an inch tall.
Just like my last post about Larry, this person has not wrote me up, or explained why they say what they say, they just make these comments and let it drop and walk away.
In the hot steam of the shower, I replayed the last episode with them, over and over in my head. But in this particular replay I imagined myself not being silent. I left my desk went to where he was and planted myself 10 inches from his face.
"What exactly do you mean by that?!"
There was a momentary look of shock, but his composure returned quickly,
"I mean that your work is really sub-standard, and you should be lucky we let you work here. It's a shame you can't produce trades like the others do."
"It's a shame you see multiple,poorly executed trades and half-ass customer service as something to aspire to."
"You need to get back on the phones now! I will not be spoken to this way!"
The vision in my head changed from just a discussion to something much more physical. I leapt on top of him, planting my knees on his chest, and started slamming my fists into his face.
Over and over,
I was furious with rage, there was no sense left in me...
Then it all faded...
I found myself back in the shower again. The daydream had been so real that I was panting and my heart was racing. I was filled with adrenaline and it took a while to calm down. It was like coming off of acid.
I'm still not sure how to explain why I responded like this. I'm not a violent person. I was in very few fights as a kid. I care about people's feelings. I don't see violence as an acceptable way to settle 99% of problems in the world.
But here I am, imagining myself beating a manager...
"Dude! It's just a job answering phones to pay the rent! It's not your fucking life! He's not worth it, neither is your soul worth surrendering to this kind of rage!" I feel like I'm trying to talk myself off of a ledge I don't want to jump off of.
I prefer to think that allowing myself to freely imagine this sort of action is the reason. Anyone can become violent if they choose to think only about these things, to allow their imagination to create a reality that should not be. I just cannot allow myself to do this. The more I think about this person, and how they make me feel, the worse I feel.
Hatred will eat your soul if you let it. I won't let it eat me. I handled it the only way I know how. I asked God to forgive me for my hatred. The bible teaches us that allowing the imagination of such sins is the same as physically committing them because you already committed it in your heart. I prayed that God would forgive this person for how they have spoke to me in the past. It's easy to say those words, it's easy to utter spiritual niceties, but putting it into practice is no easy matter.
I'm not scared I'm going to actually hurt this person, or that I'm losing my mind. Everyone has these type of thoughts from time to time. But if I come to the point where I'm obsessed by it, and cant think of anything else-then I'm just going to hit the door and find another job, wal-mart, night watchman, anything to pay the rent. What it does do is make me draw a line in the sand in my head, defining what is acceptable to imagine, and what is off limits.
If this place has taught me anything, it's that all people have the ability to be evil and unkind, and we all have to fight to be human everyday. When I say human, I mean not an animal, not ruled by emotions and pettiness, but trying to attain those higher virtues; ruled by reason not instinct, letting intellect and love govern how we deal with those around us.
I can see the end in sight, to finally leave this place. My own preparations are proceeding according to plan. It still won't come quickly enough for my liking...
Thanks for reading,
One of my coworkers went to Larry to ask about a slight schedule change. Jorge has been here as long as I have, he's very smart, and very devoted to his work. He really cares about his customers.
He has had some problems in the past with attendance. He was sick several times, and came in late a few times, but no more than some of the other people here. He was not wrote up for this. He was given a verbal warning for a trade that went bad, but nothing else. Like the rest of us, he has not had a performance review for some time, at least three years.
So imagine his surprise when this happened...
"Larry, I need to change my schedule a little."
"My wife can't pick up our children at day care on Thursdays, I just need to leave 30 minutes earlier. I can come in 30 minutes earlier in the morning to make up the difference."
"No. We already make so many allowances for you as it is. I'm not changing your schedule, it stays as it is. Get back to work."
Jorge was crushed. The schedule was not that big of a deal, he made other arrangements, but Larry's comments really hurt.
He hasn't written him up about continuing problems, he hasn't reviewed him, he has no quantitative knowledge of what he's done wrong and yet there's some secret knowledge between them of what a bad employee he is.
Larry has said things like this to me. It generally happens when I catch him in a bad mood or talk back to him.
He doesn't want to step up and do the real job of managing, so he just keeps track in his head of what we've done to piss him off. That way if we catch him at the wrong time, he can confront us with our faults that he has never taken the time to explain to us. Telling your employees how they can do better in an adult way is not namby-pamby nurturing, its basic good business practice. How can we ever improve if our faults are some deep dark secret that you seem to think we aren't man or woman enough to face?
Thanks for reading,
No, I don't have a sorted tale to tell you, sorry. I'm sure you can find something else nearby, after all this is the internet.
What I have been thinking about lately is how often people in call centers use sex to get what they want. Now when I say that, I'm not talking about actual acts in a dirty smelly closet, or some kind of call center where you pay $1.95 a minute for someone to talk dirty to you. What I am talking about is how both call center workers, and the people we call use a sexual way of speaking to get what we want.
All day long I talk to hard-boiled corporate customers who are as tough as Ebenezer Scrooge, and would not give me a penny extra without a serious struggle. But when one of the women that works here calls them and lays on the charm, lowers their voice, or lays on some kind of cute accent, they turn all warm and fuzzy.
At first I did not believe it was true that people changed so noticeably when speaking to someone of the opposite sex. Then one day I found myself training a woman, who had a voice that could melt a stick of butter if you put it up to the phone(sweet lady that she was, she was what you would call "striking", but not in a good way). I was listening in as she called customers back to get decisions on different transactions, or to let them know a price change, etc. etc.
She called one of the meanest customers we have to ask for a decision. When he heard her voice, it was like he was doing his best Barry White impersonation. He was charming, and easy to deal with, didn't complain that the price had changed, he was putty in her hands.
This isn't just a female thing. It's possible to make it work both ways. If you listen to the call center buzz, you can tell the change when one of the men is talking to a woman they think is attractive, or a woman customer they want to "influence". They start spending more time on the call, they start speaking like some smooth jazz station DJ and spend more time asking personal questions and drawing out the chit-chat.
I used to find this kind of disgusting, but I've made peace with it. Speaking in a way that makes you attractive to other people is not wrong. As long as you aren't creepy or over the top, it actually makes the work easier. Its the same reason I shave and put cologne on and dress well even though I'm not looking for a woman. Its the same reason my wife wears clothes that emphasize her best features. While I hate to admit it, being as attractive and pleasant as possible is very important to getting along in society.
My classmates from the Liberal Arts University I went to would complain that I'm reinforcing outdated stereotypes and assisting in keeping women in roles as sex objects instead of empowering them as equals. They may be right. Then again, most of the women in my workplace prefer to empower themselves through femininity instead of trying to sound "gender neutral". I would respond to them that its unfortunate, but pragmatism continues to make the rules when you have to make a living.
What's sad is that this power of hyper-femininity seems to be the only way to exert influence for many of the women I work with. Many of them are as smart and as capable as the men that are there, but they never get taken seriously. It seems even when they communicate very strongly to the male customers, and some of the female customers even, they still don't take them seriously.
Thanks for reading,
"I saw it Larry! He completed the transaction, and did not call the customer back even though it states right here they wanted to know when the transaction was complete!"
One of our customer service support people was ratting out one of the newbies again.
Larry looked up at the serious young lady that had brought the "startling news" to him. From across the room I could almost hear him thinking in the back of his mind, "I really don't have time for this petty bullshit." But he had to make sure it did not happen again. So he called the new employee up.
"Roger! Come here!" he barked, letting the annoyance with being bothered make him sound more gruff than usual.
Roger is in his twenties, really pleasant, and trying hard to please everybody.
"Why didn't you call the customer back on this? They called and were very angry that we did not let them know what happened!"
"I didn't mean to...What I mean is I got so busy, and there were a bunch of calls in the queue and I just forgot to do it. I'm sorry."
"We have to take the time to do things right. Enter your busy code into the ACD and finish it and then take the other calls! OK?"
All the time the tattletale stood up there with a look of satisfaction on her face.
She makes me sick.
You don't rat out your fellow employees for a mistake, you cover their asses and point it out to them later, trying to help them. The only people that you rat on are people who don't care if they do a good job or not and refuse to learn from their mistakes.
These are the sort of lessons you learn in grade school. It's amazing how quickly offices revert to childishness. It would be one thing if we got naps, and got to go outside and play red rover, or kickball, but noooo. We've got all the attitude of 1st grade with none of the perks.
Thanks for reading,
Click on the link above to read a CNN article that has the video clip that all this furor is about.
I have nothing personal against Pat Robertson, but calling for the assination of Hugo Chavez is the sort of thing you do when you are smoking crack.
As if the US and Christianity did not have enough to deal with, we've got him making comments like this.
Yeah, Chavez is a nutcase. No doubt about that, but our policies in Central America seem to always be backing the wrong horse. Any capitalist, non-socialist dictator, we're behind him all the way. But just a wiff of socialism, and we are mad dogs on their trails with death squads to boot.
Come on, Pat...
This isn't the 50's you know. If you want to see communist infiltration,
Thanks for reading,
My mind is empty of all call-center related things. Instead it is overcome by the intellectual subtleties of "Serious Sam-The Second Encounter" with my new set of speakers. The cat is scared of the noise, especially since it has a subwoofer now.
Serious Sam is a great game that does not take itself seriously and has all kinds of hidden jokes. Its like Duke Nukem, without the scantily clad women. I like it because its easy enough I don't have to cheat.
I don't play video games all the time. But every once in a while I just let myself go. I had ice cream for dinner, that's right-nothing else, and have done nothing else but stick my nose in the computer since I got home.
Mrs. Cog allows this from time to time, but its not a good idea to make it a habit. I'm not whipped, I just prefer a happy wife...
I'll try to have something intelligent tomorrow-but don't hold your breath or anything.
Thanks for reading,
I was running around in the car tonight listening to public radio and heard a great sound montage on "The Next Big Thing". Click on the link above and find the link to "Secrets" to listen to this section of the show. Here's the description of the program:
"If you tell someone your secret, it’s not a secret anymore. But what if you just write it down on a scrap of paper, and put it in a stranger’s rucksack? Then what does it become? A sound montage created by Next Big Thing Secret Collector Pejk Malinovski."
I've been glued to Google News and listening to NPR the last week to hear anything about the BTK trial. This story has been like passing a deadly, bloody, 30 car pile up on the other side of the freeway. I don't want to look at other people's pain, but I want to understand how someone could do something like this, if at all possible.
Dennis Rader is incredibly evil. There are few words to describe the level of evil that would do it justice. How anyone could listen to this guy describe all that he did and say that all people are basically good is beyond me.
How he mixed good and evil, fantasies that his victims would serve him in the afterlife, its unbelievable.
Good is possible, good truly exists. So does evil. Unless we deny the small everyday evils that tempt us everyday, unless we seek to see ourselves in the stark black and white of truth, anyone could head down the path to be like this guy.
Going to church, being an active member in the community, obeying the law, being married and respectable, none of these things in itself defines anyone as good. The difference is if our hearts are filled with the kind of self-centered darkness that allows the rest of the world to exist for only our pleasure.
Thanks for reading,
Several weeks ago I ranted about how one of my coworkers got a plaque for doing a lousy job, but getting a high number of trades-see "The Superstar".
It shouldn't have bothered me so much, but it did. Well, today I did much better than he did. I had three customers go out of their way to tell me what a great job I did and how they were so thankful I helped them.
The first customer said, "Thanks alot AC, I really mean it. This was the first time I had problems with a trade, and you knew exactly what to do, and were ready to help me. That meant a lot to me."
The second customer said, "This is the fourth time I have called your company. I've really been impressed with how you handle yourself."
The third customer said, "I really wish you would have taken my trade, you make the trades go smooth, and you always get back to me with an update."
In your face plaque-boy!! That's what real customer service is!
Who's your daddy!?!
Who's your daddy now!!??
(at this point the blogger stops typing for three minutes in order to do a slightly suggestive dance of victory which looks like something between "The Time Warp", a little bit of Krumping thrown in, at least as close as a redneck on the back side of 30 can get, combined with just a touch of the Tequila dance from PeeWee's big adventure.)
Ok, I feel better.
Thanks for reading,
I've got an obsession that consumes me.
It's my lawn. Its almost like a Zen experience. Through work and discipline I am able to attain order and clear my head. Part of my life has order. There are straight lines and uniform height of a long expanse of cool green grass. The mower cuts straight and curved lines like the raked gravel in a Buddhist temple. The edges are trimmed, the debris is blown away, the hedges are squared and all is complete.
My job is nuts. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to ultimately do with my life, and I just feel stuck. But the lawn makes me feel like there is order in the world, and that I can change my world around me for the better.
Most of the time...
Like all gardeners I've got my enemies; moles, tree roots, dogs, crabgrass, dandelions, and a broken septic line. The septic line caused us to bring in a bobcat and tear up a big section of lawn. That was the real heartbreaker. I couldn't afford to bring in sod, and no matter how much seed I put down, all that grows there is weeds. I thought this year would be the year I would really whip it into shape, but after that, I knew it would be at least another year.
Today, something happened that changed the way I look at my magnificent obsession. I was mowing on the eastern corner of the lawn when I saw something. A Mole! The little black shiny form raced across the short green grass towards a fresh hole he had dug in my lawn.
I sprang from the mower and chased him down. Cursing and screaming, I stomped up and down on him. When I stopped, there was his little shiny black body, opened up and bloody, staining the lawn. I felt like the lowest form of life on the planet at that time.
I have killed animals before. I've hunted since I was a kid. I've shot groundhogs and rats for farmers. I'm not a vegetarian. I can accept the death of an animal if it's for a good purpose.
This was not a good purpose. It was for grass! Weeds cut short! A sad attempt to make a carpet from dirt! What kind of benefit do I get from a hobby that makes me kill for no reason?
I sat on the ground for a few minutes...
I decided I should stop taking my lawn so seriously for one thing.
I also realized how this applies to my life in general. What good is becoming a successful person if it makes you an asshole? What good is becoming employee of the month, or getting a plaque from Human Resources if I have to become a cruel person? What good is having the most calls and the quickest call times if I can't justify how I treat people?
If my life is never in order, if I never figure out where I belong, I will still do one thing. I won't trade kindness and humanity for success. If they can't be the same thing, I only want the first.
Thanks for reading,
Every company has an established pecking order. The supervisors and other management are always at the top, then there are those employees with a lot of seniority, or who have big responsibilities who make up the middle tier. Then there are those that always seem to be at the bottom, either their job could be replaced very easily, or they just don't fit in and are unable to gain any influence in their working world.
In our call center, these people do what we have labeled "customer service support". Which is a nice way of saying we only let them do those things that won't lose us money if they are done incorrectly. Either it was determined that they weren't suitable for doing trades and other transactions where money changes hands, or they tried once and did such a lousy job, they were demoted to this position as long as we needed warm bodies to answer the phone.
Whenever a new person comes to the center its always interesting to watch the way that the other employees react to them. Most of the people in the middle tier of the pecking order go out of their way to help them, and try to train them well. Those at the top seem to start out being supportive and welcoming, but always make it a point to remind new people in subtle, or not-so-subtle ways that they are the top dog. What really intrigues me the most is how the people at the bottom of the pecking order treat new employees.
Its hard to learn to work here. There are a million details, and a million customers that want things done a million different ways. Whenever we train new people they inevitably make mistakes. You would think that the other customer service support people would be nice to the newbies and try to help them. Wrong!
Some of the agents in the customer service support section give the newbies a harder time than supervisors. They boss them around, gossip about how stupid they are and just treat them like shit.
It reminds me of so much of history, the lower class complains about the abuse of the upper classes. But if the lower classes rise up and over throw their oppressors, in the end they become just as heartless and cruel as the people who oppressed them. I guess that's why I believe that man is basically evil. Even those in the lowest of circumstances will treat others cruelly if they can get away with it, while at the same time complaining about how the boss is such a jerk.
Thanks for reading,
Not much to talk about out the call center this week. The new general manager is keeping a low profile. He has spoke to a few people, but he seems to be trying to figure everything out before getting involved. Circumspectness... What a concept in a management! Either that or he doesn't have a clue and is hiding.
So my non-blogging free time has been taken up re-playing one of the best games ever put on a CD Rom: Half-Life! This time on the Hard level! I'm half-way through, and I haven't even cheated once! I was lingering around a cheat code website last night, so I might fall off the wagon.
While playing the game, I realized something that Gordon Freeman and I have in common, we both have a crowbar. I don't know why, but I keep one in my trunk. This is not because I expect trans-dimensional aliens to come through the walls and can't lay my hands on a 9mm machine gun with a grenade launcher,(damn those gun-grabbing liberals!). No, I found an extra crowbar in the garage, and chucked it in there along with other safety gear.
I also keep sterno, bottled water, a blanket, duct tape,flashlight and a small shovel. Welcome to the Midwest, land of tornadoes, hail and blizzards...
What sort of weird things do you keep in your car?
Thanks for reading,
It took me a while, but I finally found out why my GM left the call center. It wasn't easy. I had to make up reasons to go talk to people in other departments, call in some favors with my friends in HR, sweet talk a couple of the ladies in accounting, and then I finally found out the deep dark reason he left.
He wasn't happy here...
We were all very disappointed. We were hoping that they fired him for incompetence, or lack of profitability or our incredible turnover. We thought there would be some deep dark secret. Instead, he just had enough, found another job and gave notice.
What I would like to think is that he was tired of being the bad guy, and he was tired of how his hands were tied by the corporate headquarters on the East Coast. Maybe he was more human than I gave him credit for, and more sick of how things were going than I was. I'd like to think that.
But I won't...
Even though he may have had a hard job, he still was cold, and treated us like we weren't there. A good manager can make a bad situation tolerable, he was not one of those.
Thanks for reading,
"Anonymous Investments Voice Mail System...Please enter your mailbox number."
"Please enter your security code."
"Welcome back AC, you have 1 new message. Press 1 to listen to your messages."
"Friday, August 5th, 5:30 pm...Larry Reynolds...Floor Supervisor"
"This is to inform you that as of Friday, August 5th, Richard Brown will no longer be the General Manager of Anonymous Investments. Steve Halloway will begin as the new GM on Monday, August 8th. Thank you."
"End of messages...Goodbye."
And just like that, he was gone. The man that had been my archetype of evil, the symbol of all that is awful about this place and the person that all of us wanted to blame for everything was gone. I don't know who the new GM is, I have not heard of him before. Most of us suspect our old GM did not leave on good terms. That sure would explain a curt voicemail on a Friday night, instead of a going away party if he left on good terms. Everything else we get from management has that tagline, "Please ask if you have any questions", but it was very obvious that we were not to ask any questions about this matter. It was all we talked about all day long. We all seemed to revel, hope and dream, that he had been fired, even asked to leave, or "come to an agreement about his continued employment". I know its wrong to celebrate when bad things happen to bad people, but its so satisfying to see some real karmic justice for once.
What's really scary is how Miss Manager predicted this very thing in a comment a few weeks ago:July 15th post entitled,"My Numbers". Click and read the comments.
More dirt as it becomes available...
Thanks for reading,
If you ever find yourself feeling like you are not as good looking, or as classy as the people you see on TV or in magazines, do what I do...
Go shopping at Wal-Mart after 11 pm at night.
Depending on what you look like, you'll either think, "Well, I'm as least as good looking as the people who shop and work here!", or you'll think, "Damn, I'm not real pretty, but I'm certainly better looking than these guys!", or if you started with a good self-esteem, "Worship me, for I am the king of Wal-Mart!"
I always think the latter, but that's because I always believed my Mom when she said how good looking I was...
Thanks for reading,
Check out this excellent op-ed piece in the New York Times by Jim Wallis. He describes what the Democratic Party needs to do if they want to win the White House again. Since the end of the Clinton years the Democrats have appeared to mostly on the defensive with very little real constructive rhetoric or programs. Its seemed mostly to me like their platform has been, "We're Not Those Guys-Thats Why You Should Vote For Us!" This editorial presents some real reasons that those of us in the center might possibly consider voting for a Democrat with a real message. Here's a quote:
First, somebody must lead on the issue of poverty, and right now neither party is doing so. The Democrats assume the poverty issue belongs to them, but with the exception of John Edwards in his 2004 campaign, they haven't mustered the gumption to oppose a government that habitually favors the wealthy over everyone else. Democrats need new policies to offer the 36 million Americans, including 13 million children, who live below the poverty line, as well as the 9.8 million families one recent study identified as "working hard but falling short."It's worth the click to read the rest, especially what he has to say about abortion. Jim Wallis is the editor of Sojourners magazine.
In fact, the Democrats should draw a line in the sand when it comes to wartime tax cuts for the wealthy, rising deficits, and the slashing of programs for low-income families and children. They need proposals that combine to create a "living family income" for wage-earners, as well as a platform of "fair trade," as opposed to just free trade, in the global economy. Such proposals would cause a break with many of the Democrats' powerful corporate sponsors, but they would open the way for a truly progressive economic agenda. Many Americans, including religious voters who see poverty as a compelling issue of conscience, desire such a platform.
Thanks for reading,
Sometimes on Fridays after our briefing meeting before we turn the phones on, the management may try to boost morale by giving out little awards or plaques to certain employees. Since this seems to be in lieu of getting rid of the wage freeze, its only slightly morale boosting, but mostly its just sort of insulting.
This week was a more than just a little insulting...
"Ok people, before we hit the floor we need to acknowledge one of our own for an incredible feat. Danny, come on up to the front." Larry said.
Danny slid out from the table and walked to the front of the conference room. He's about 45, slightly gray around the temples, and is just a little overweight. He's extremely knowledgeable about our business. He has also become the most-hated coworker here. He had that sideways grin on his face I so wanted to remove permanently.
Larry put his arm around Danny and began, "During the last quarter, Danny has made a new record in the number of trades completed. Never in the history of this company has anyone wrote up this many trades! I'd like to present you with this plaque for your hard work and dedication. Thanks again! Let's give him a hand everybody!"
Larry shook Danny's hand enthusiastically and waited for the hearty wave of applause that never materialized. Several of the H.R. and Sales people clapped hard, the rest of us either barely put our hands together or just folded our hands and stared.
Danny either didn't realize we weren't impressed or didn't care. His smirk had transformed into a big giant toothy grin. The GM was also in the room, he didn't share Larry's enthusiasm, but shook Danny's hand and said, "Good job." and then left rather quickly. He seems to be less involved with the workers on the call floor lately, and even more curt than usual.
"Ok everybody, lets turn on the phones and get to work.", Larry said. We had about 5 minutes before the phones had to be on. I stopped by the coffee maker and filled my mug before heading to my cubicle.
While I stirred in the creamer I just got madder and madder about Danny's award. Most of us work together here, we look out for each other and try not to pass calls off to others, or make people wait on hold to let someone else handle their problems. Most of us pitch in and try to help the other agent out because we expect the same from them. "I got your back." is a common saying on the floor.
None of this describes Danny. Not only does he not help out, he makes more work for everyone around him. He fails to fill in all of the fields and just hopes everything will work out. He makes trades go totally wrong. More times than I care to remember, people call and complain about how he treats them, or how he took the trade, but was so late in processing it they lost money.
Its just not right! Why, why,why would you, for the love of all things holy, good and honorable, tell me why its a good idea to reward half-ass shitty work? Did they not teach you in business school that if you make 500 widgets and they are all crap, that is not as profitable as 300 widgets that were perfect and sold without any returns or complaints? Do we want people to buy widgets from us again, or do we just want to get their money once and make them so mad they never call us again?
Ok, I'm done ranting.
Thanks for reading.
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