Call Center Purgatory <$BlogRSDURL$>
Call Center Purgatory
Monday, January 09, 2006
  "Spreading the Gospel and Getting the Sack"

This is part VI in a series I started a while ago called "Self-Examination". It's kind of a biography of bad jobs, and my own blunders. It will make more sense if you start from the beginning.

Click here to read part I

After leaving the retail job I had grown to love, I started looking for something different. Through some various contacts I had developed through church, I found out about a Christian publishing house that needed a shipping clerk.

I applied and was hired quickly. It seemed like the perfect job. I was sending out Christian literature all over the country, being part of what seemed like a great family of people and doing something to make the world a better place.

My boss was an older man who was a pastor on the weekends and had been a missionary to China in his earlier days. The president of the company was an elder in another church. I think there were less than thirty people in the whole company, and everybody knew everybody. We got Chinese carry-out every Friday, and also had chapel once a week. I thought I had finally found my home, somewhere I could retire from.

The first inkling that everything was not as it seemed was when I discovered that I came from a very different mind set than my coworkers. They all went to one specific denomination, and I went to a different one. My specific doctrinal beliefs about some subjects were very different than theirs. It should not have been important, we still believed the same about those subjects that mattered the most. I wasn't trying to convert anybody to my way of thinking. But I found my boss would want to talk to me more and more and try to "explain" things. I soon discovered what I thought was common ground in religion and politics was a deep chasm. We were completely opposed on so many things. He would bait me some times, I think he wanted me to agree he was right because he was an older missionary, but I was still young and brash enough that I told him I didn't agree.

I remember that we would all take turns giving the devotional in the chapel meeting. Everyone would generally read something from a devotional book and then add their thoughts to it. When it came my turn, I read about seven verses from the bible and spoke for about five minutes about what the verse meant to me. I went out of my way to pick a non-controversial subject, I was speaking about the unconditional love of God. While I was doing it I could sense I was making some sort of blunder. They had this look on their faces and tense body language that seemed to be communicating that they thought I was some sort of liberal heretic.

Sometime after this, I started experiencing problems with my boss and management. Now, to their credit, I was not the perfect employee. I made some real mistakes, and I was not shipping things out as fast as I should have. I want to make that clear. First it started with little comments here and there, the women who handled the billing and the salespeople, then my supervisor would make other comments. The bad thing is, I reacted all wrong. I started getting so nervous that I made more mistakes. Finally, my supervisor gave me a written warning, and said if I did not improve my performance in two weeks I would have to leave.

I put everything I could into it. I tried harder than I had ever tried before. Finally, the two weeks was up and we met in his office to discuss it.

"I spent some time praying about this last night. This was a very hard decision for me to make. I have seen some improvement, but just not enough. I feel really bad about this, but I'm afraid we have to let you go. You are just too slow to do this job."
"Don, you said I've improved, my accuracy is better right?"
"Yes, your accuracy did improve, and your speed improved a little, but you are still not where we need you to be."
"Look, if you give me more time to do the job I could get more done. I don't even need overtime pay. Put me on salary, and I will come in early and stay late to get all the work done the right way."
"No...We've made up our mind. You leave at the end of the week."

I was crushed. Fired again. The week passed very painfully. There were several awkward moments where I just felt embarrassed and sad. I wished I could have just left then, but I wanted the full paycheck. We had a pizza party on Friday, and they bought me a plant as going away present. It was a peace lily, how's that for ironic? I just wanted to crawl under the table in the lunch room. Couldn't they let me go without injuring my crushed ego all the more? This wasn't them making amends, it was rubbing salt in the wounds. To their credit, they did extend unemployment benefits to me, and said I left because, "I wasn't right for the job." They also gave me as good of a recommendation as they were able to, you know, something like, "He doesn't drink or smoke on company time and he showed up everyday, but other than that he wasn't so hot..."

It took me a while to come to grips with what had happened. At first, I chose to blame myself and my "slacker ways" most of the time. I remember having lunch with my pastor, who used to be a CEO of a larger company, when I explained how it all went down, he told me that he believed they wanted me to leave because of more personal reasons. Especially because I had made improvements and was willing to do whatever it took. My wife was more to the point, she said my boss didn't like my politics or my religion and that is why he wanted me gone.

This was hard for me to come to grips with. I always thought better of fellow Christians, especially those in the ministry. But as I get older I know better. Everyone has weaknesses, no matter how spiritual they appear, no matter how much God may have used them, everyone has feet of clay and struggles with their own problems. Where my boss missed it, is that he did not even consider that his disagreements with me would color his management skill. He was so sure of his unsullied sincerity that it did not enter into his mind.

I didn't write this post to speak evil of other Christians, or ministers. I certainly played a part in losing this job. What I did want to point out was that just because a business is "Christian" doesn't exempt it from the same sort of common labor problems that "secular" workplaces have. The most important thing about this job is that it taught me a very important truth that I have seen repeated no matter where I go: if you can't get along with your boss, working hard doesn't always solve your problems. I don't consider that an excuse to slack or be a bad worker, just something to accept at some point. There are some people that we won't ever get along with, no matter how hard we try.

I don't know what the sequel to this one will be, I have to decide which job to write about next. Check back every once in a while. There is a link on the blogroll to this post under "A Series of Cogs".

Thanks for reading,


Anonymous Cog

you are a great writer. interesting story, why dont you stop with these useless jobs when it seems like you have the talent with your writing to do great things, reach more people and impact lives on a greater level then just through sending out booklets. why dont you write them instead?
Thanks Amanda. I've often wondered if I could get paid for writing. I got published in my undergrad days a couple of time. I'll think about it some more. Thanks for the kind words, I had wondered if this post was way too long, I'm glad you liked it.

Hi AC,

Very good and thoughtful post! It is so painful to find out that Christians also have feet of clay (just like everyone else). It is hurtful and eye-opening but I think you should be very proud of how you handled it all!! The fault was definitely not all yours by any means!

You're a good writer, AC! I enjoy reading your blog and how well you capture the atmosphere of wherever you are. Your writing allows the reader to identify with similar situations in their own lives.

I think you're talented but I also think that you should do whatever it you is you really want to do!! :o)

Hello anonymousC,

Haven't had time to read all of this (stealing time from employer at the mo') but what I will say is something that struck me from Pt 1.

When I first started blogging a few short months ago I thought it'd be great to tell my story and see if people like it. Now it's become somewhere that I think I may be trying out a voice that I feel I can't use in my day-to-day life. Maybe that's what any of us 'diary' bloggers are trying to do. Find our voices and damn well use them! :-)

Vive la individuel!
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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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"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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