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Call Centers and the Death of the Free Soul

February 21, 2018

 

 

"How many jobs have you had?" A question asked to me by a potential new employer.  I had no choice but to speak the truth with confidence:

 

"I have had quite a few."

 

This prompted an "Oh?" with a raised tone and volume, but it didn't deter him from inviting me to an interview. I digress.

 

That question he asked naturally jump-started my thought process. I have had quite a few jobs.  There's the consistent back and forth I had when relocating in my college years, and most of those summers I would hold 2-3 jobs at a time. And that's only the legitimate ones.  The side hustle is no stranger to me.

 

With that being said, in my time of working I have come learn about most basic professions, except retail.  I can conclude that working at a call center is my least favorite job to force myself through.

 

(I've been debating on writing this for a while...mainly because I worked at a call center while this was a draft. I now do not! So, here it goes...)

 

Don't get me wrong. I get money to do something relatively easy. My feet are relieved and I don't have to go home smelling like vinegar.  There are many reasons why a call center job is incredibly convenient. 

That's pretty much the main benefit. CONVENIENCE.

 

This job doesn't usually require a degree, opening opportunities for more people to make money and get benefits.  The qualifications ensure a quick hiring process and you're guaranteed a 40+ hour workweek.

 

However, this is all for a reason, and that would be the undeniable existence of a call center's ceiling-high turnover rate.

 

In my total call center experience I have worked in three different companies. Each one with their own unique culture and end goals.  But at each one, I would go through the cycle of entering with a classroom of people, and almost everyone I started with will disappear in a matter of weeks.   What makes people quit so quickly? And why is the experience so draining to those who decide to stay?

 

I know the answers now, and they have been proven to me three times over.

 

It doesn't take a genius, to figure out there are just some things that are guaranteed to come in the package and the package is not pleasant.

 

 

Maddening Monotonous Tasks

Your performance is based on how well you can be robotic. Basically.  When making or taking a high volume of calls for one company, there is a certain protocol to follow each and every time. Deviating in the slightest bit (ie. saying "good morning" instead of "hello") may get you reprimanded.  The main variation or excitement comes from the people on the phone depending on the type of call center.  I've worked both inbound (calls coming in) and outbound (you making the calls) centers.  With inbound, you typically get impatient, pissed off customers who are irritable from waiting so long.  Outbound, you're lucky if you even get talked to past the first 10 seconds.  I've received death threats from outbound centers. With all of this, you're forced to only deal with this, as most call centers do not allow you to complete other tasks while at your desk.  No internet and nothing that's productive or "distracting".  I've had a place ban textbooks from the list of acceptable things I could have at my desk.  Sometimes, you won't get a call for an hour or so, and that entire time you're pretty much twiddling your thumbs.

I will note that some centers are "more fun" that others...but again, that's just some.

 

Dysfunctional Upper Management 

There's no form of organization when it comes to CEOs, Managers, Team Leads, and information disseminated between the levels.  If you're the typical worker bee, you listen to your Team Lead.   However, you may got through 6 TLs in 6 months.  Each time you do, there will be a completely different set of rules to adhere to.  One TL may have allowed you to get water whenever you want, while another will set up an entire performance evaluation meeting for doing so when you switch teams.  In my experience, I have ran into issues when switching because everyone exercises their own level of discretion.  I could perform a task one way and think it's the right way for months, just to be reprimanded for the same thing under a different TL.  

 

No Real Loyalty

The company doesn't care about you. Period.  You're expendable as can be.  I've watched so many people get fired for asinine reasons.  I've witnessed new employees get paid significantly more than managers who've been there for years.  A friend of mine got fired for getting in a car accident and needing time off, while another can come in hours late after a drinking binge without consequence.  This job isn't about you, its about how much they can get out of you.

 

Flat Out Gross

No matter where you work, you're bound to run into some corporate germs.  However, it is entirely different at a call center.  If you've worked at one, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  If I were to break down most of the problem, I would have to say its attributed to:

  1. What's yours is anyone's - Seats are normally not assigned. Even if they are, that assignment is only during your shift.  This opens up you daily computer, that you eat around and touch all day, to any sort of riff raff that may have had it before or after you.  People, especially at their computers, are just nasty.  Think of all the times someone licked the food off their fingers and touched the mouse, or sneezed onto everything without warning.  Or the people who don't wash their hands in the bathroom....and we all touch everything everyone else touches.  Just imagine someone came in sick (due to my point above, they were afraid to call off) and had to sit at your desk, and decided not to wipe a thing off before you got there. Plus people love to go through your things.  If there's an unlocked drawer near your desk that you try to stash things in, everyone has already gone in it.

  2. Independent Contracts - This is the main cause of trifling messes in the call center environment, aside from the trifling people themselves.  Most call centers typically lease out a piece of an office building.  Due to contracts within the building and the call center acting almost independently there's very little cleaning and disinfecting.  The cleaning that is provided is typically and literally piss-poor.  Bathrooms may go uncleaned for entire weekends, a long time for a 24 hour place.  There are no napkins or disinfectant wipes provided on behalf of the company.  People would have to bring in their own wipes and sanitizers, because the computers wouldn't get touched by the janitorial staff.

 

Collective Sense of Misery

No. One. Wants. To. Be. There.

Almost everywhere you turn. There's misery.  From the start of the day to the minute you clock out, there's someone moaning and groaning about how they don't want to be there, how they're ready to quit, how they're sick of the BS that comes with the place.  Now here, call centers and restaurants are the same in that aspect.  However, at least restaurants have people full of personality and alcohol  and music to create more of a buffer.  Plus you get to move around.  When you're stuck in a chair ruining your posture, surrounded by boring tasks and people complaining, its hard to keep up a positive disposition on things.  The longer you stay at a call center, the more you notice what it takes out of people, which is depressing in itself.  Worst part is, most times the job sucks up so much time and energy that once you get home you barely feel like indulging in your hobbies, just to get up and repeat the cycle.

 

Now some people like monotony.  There's comfort in repetition and routine.  You know what you're going to get.  I definitely get that.  Call centers are indeed convenient if you need a job right now with a stable schedule and pay.  But for those who cringe at this very concept, for those with a free artistic soul, you're not going to last long at a place like that.

 

 

 

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