Interviewing with HR

February 13th was kind of a big day for me. I wasn’t going to say exactly, but it was actually my year mark at work, and I was sent my annual review that apparently goes out to everyone on the date they hired in. So goes a year of my life… drowned out on the phones in commentary I can’t be moved to care much more about than I do about the people who tell me how much I should stop by their kiosks at the mall to “try a little something” because they want to jack up prices on some product I shouldn’t purchase and wouldn’t use.

Clearly I shouldn’t have hired in prior to Valentine’s Day, but so goes it…

That said, it’s been a real trip the last few days this week. Monday I responded to the human resources questionnaire I was sent as part of my “thanks for staying” email from our VP of HR. Being the honest and blunt sort, my answers to questions weren’t exactly expected, and I was promptly emailed back by the VP requesting a meeting with me.

I will say that by blunt I don’t mean I was aggressive. Nor was I rude. I simply answered honestly and without sugar-coating any of my feelings on things the way some people would possibly have done. When asked, for example, how engaged I felt with the company, I stated “not very,” and proceeded to explain why and how they could change that for me in my department.

I know it’s the place of human resources departments to take care of employees. We are their customers, so to speak, and so said my VP when I met with her Tuesday. She tried to reassure me that she sees the people on the phones as the life blood of the company, but the truth is that when all is said and done, we are still just the employees.

As I told her earnestly, the trickle down affect of our COO’s patronizing and demanding ways moves through the ranks from our Assistant Vice President to our Manager to our Supervisors and Assistant Supervisors. It doesn’t stop with them. They demand the performance that is causing so much stress and dissatisfaction with the job.

I know she understands because she’s putting together a plan of action for the department, and that’s great. She asked me to bear with the department as they implement the new changes she wants, and she’s determined that we won’t feel as downtrodden as I described myself in the questionnaire responses I sent her.

I’m not sure if this has any connection to my meeting with her or if I was chosen in a random sampling that they’re doing, but I received an email from another of our HR gurus today asking me to meet with him to discuss the employee morale and engagement of our department. He’s asked me to fill out a second survey, which is scarily more personal.

In fact, it requests I rate my loyalty to the company on a scale of “extremely” to “not at all.”

While I don’t recall seeing a place to put my name on the form, I have to question just how honest I should be in this form.

I can understand why our HR department is taking such an interest in the call center employees’ morale and engagement. I just highly doubt they’ll be able to offer any form of improvement over what we have thus far developed as the main form of management and supervisory skills.

I’m still debating on how honest to be in that survey…

At least I have until Monday before I have to make any hard and fast decisions. My meeting with the HR guru is then. We’ll see how it goes, but at the very least, I have the reassurance from my VP of HR that I’m not on the chopping block that she keeps track of in terms of potentially losing my job. So that is a relief.

– RaeNez

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Scheduling Blues & Valentine’s Recap

Well, I’ve been away several days, and it’s been an exciting and busy few days to say the least. I’ll start by saying that on Friday (yes, I’m bypassing Valentine’s for a moment) we had a meeting at work. That’s always a danger. It was even more of a danger because it was with our outbound collections team only instead of the entire call center team.

The meeting began with the management team informing us we’re going to a new schedule. Now while it isn’t pleasant for me, I wasn’t as upset by the changes as some people were. It’s not like I can complain anyway. They do what they want, and I simply do as I’m told, right? Right.

Our current schedule is a Monday-Thursday 9-hour shift and Friday 4-hour shift. You can see why some people were upset. They cherish their 4-hour Fridays. As do I. It’s one of the few days I’m really able to see Fernando, after all, since his crazy schedule as fast food assistant manager keeps him busy on 10-hour shifts five days a week, he ends up taking off Fridays and Saturdays to see me. So we get my half-day Fridays and all day Saturdays and most of Sundays.

If we’re lucky, we’ll see each other at various times during the week. But that hasn’t happened often lately due to our schedules.

Now my schedule will be changing starting in a few short weeks. It’s going from the above to a straight 8-hour Monday-Friday shift. They determined this was the best option to get the most call outs done and get things taken care of in the timeliest manner.

I have no quibbles with leaving an hour earlier. I’m not too chuffed at losing my half-day. I’m just rather tired with all the changes. It’s every other week we’re having a meeting about changing this or that policy. Or perhaps we’re getting an email at least once or twice a week about being able to accept or deny new pieces of information for customers when they apply for different programs. Then there’s the constant change in seating arrangements. I feel like I’m back in high school, moving desks because the teachers disapprove of so-and-so sitting next to so-and-so or whatnot.

In fact…

I had to move my desk to a desk literally not two feet away from where I was sitting. It wasn’t a big deal. They had me move on Thursday. And while I’m not really complaining, I find it amusing that I was moved.

You see, I didn’t ask to be moved.

Evelyn did.

She has severe asthma, and it’s been acting up terribly in our prior seating arrangement next to the supervisor. We were seated directly under a vent that constantly pumped out air (whether warm or cold) that would irritate her asthma and cause her to cough uncontrollably. Honestly, it was an OSHA issue more than anything else. But she was going nuts trying to get over the coughing, and she had requested to be moved to a seat where there was no vent (a seemingly impossible task in our large facility).

She requested to take over the resident “bro-ski’s” seat because he sat in an area that wasn’t as heavily hit by vents. Now “bro-ski” is an okay guy, but he’s not someone I talk to a lot, and I’m not particularly a fan of his. Evelyn took him aside and explained her situation and asked him nicely if he’d consider switching seats with her. His response was, unfortunately, predictable.

He told her in no uncertain terms he would raise cain if she tried to get him to move.

Well, strike one.

Then my supervisor came up to me on Thursday morning after I noticed her speaking to “bro-ski” and asked if I would move. She told me she knew I wasn’t really interested in moving but asked if I’d be willing to. I said I would, end of story. I mean, they’d move me anyway, so I had little choice in the matter.

That afternoon our systems went down completely for about an hour. It was great and glorious. I couldn’t take calls. It was a really beautiful world. And that’s when I moved. I took over another “bro-ski’s” desk who was out sick that day, and that’s when I realized what had happened.

In order to pacify “bro-ski,” they moved me so that his “bromance” with our other “bro-ski” could continue unhindered by distance. And of course, because the “bromance brothers” are the “teacher’s pet” types in the call center, they get pacified in their desires.

I know that’s very sarcastic and all, but you have to understand the call center life is one of those things that is very similar to high school. You have the teacher’s pets who suck up to the supervisors and get what they want. You have the cool kids who band together and get to do special things because they’re cool and they can. And then you have people who don’t really fit and just try to make it without getting in trouble.

There’s more to it than that, but I’ll likely do a separate post about how the call center is just like high school.

In short, I got bumped for the “bromance” duo, and I’m not altogether unhappy, just amused at the irony of favoritism.

In other news: I am hoping and praying for a favorable review of an interview I had Friday afternoon with an amazing company that I’d love to work for. I won’t say much here now, but I had a phone interview with them last Thursday and arranged for an in-person interview with them Friday afternoon. And now it’s a matter of waiting for them to call me this Friday to let me know if I get to go on to an executive interview, the next step in their process. I’ll definitely keep you posted on how that goes! Be wishing me lots of luck!

Finally, I have to say I had an excellent Valentine’s Day with my dear Fernando.

He surprised me big time, and though the women at work were wagering on how many bouquets I’d receive and whether he’d propose or not (to both of which they were disappointed), I was frustrated by the end of the work day. The flowers rolled in, and it was a riot of roses in the office, but none came for me. And what really frustrated me wasn’t the lack of a delivery but my co-workers’ constant jabbing at me about how I hadn’t gotten anything yet and how something much bigger and shinier must be waiting for me at home. (Or as one co-worker put it, I must have a “butt naked man” waiting for me.)

By the time I went home, I was annoyed and ready to call it a night and just go wherever for dinner and not even bother with all the hoopla surrounding Valentines, even though I’d made Fernando a card on Sunday and gotten him chocolate-covered strawberries the day before. So when he showed up at my door dressed nicely with his hands behind his back and told me to pick a hand, I was taken aback and felt annoyed with myself for being annoyed.

He brought me chocolates and a beautiful bouquet of red and pink roses and the sweetest card. I think I liked the card best. Probably because he wrote me the most wonderful note, and I’m nothing if not won over by a few lines of ink on paper. I almost cried but didn’t and instead hugged him and didn’t want to let go to get dinner.

We went to a seafood restaurant here in town and got a delicious meal. I got a nice fish that wasn’t too fishy tasting with a lemon caper sauce and au gratin potatoes. He got filet mignon and lobster and steamed broccoli. And it was all just lovely. I thoroughly enjoyed my Valentine’s Day with my first Valentine.

I’m not going to make a huge deal out of it, but he was incredibly sweet, and I adored him for it. And now here’s hoping all the good vibes from Valentine’s allowed my interview Friday to push me toward the potential for a new and better job in a company that seems to be really amazing and, more importantly, cares for its employees and wants them to enjoy coming to work.

What a difference that would make!

We shall see. And I will definitely keep you posted.

– RaeNez

I Like A Man Who…

…challenges me intellectually.

Of course, this is why I enjoy Fernando.

I do not, however, like a man who thinks he can challenge me intellectually under the pretense that he’s a man and knows better than me because I’m a woman. It’s the classic “I know better than you. I’m a man.” complex that makes me roll my eyes in amusement as I casually crush his dreams because I am, quite happily, smarter than him.

No, I’m not bragging.

Honest.

I’m just saying.

As a woman, I like a good battle of wits. I like to be challenged intellectually. Stimulate my brain, and you’ll appeal to me on so many levels. Stimulate my cynicism and sarcasm, and you’ve got me hooked. Engage me in a battle of wits where the object is to entertain and amuse rather than demean and dominate, and you’ll have my attention for sure.

However, when you translate this intellectual challenge to my job, I have to say, don’t even bother.

I know what I’m doing. You don’t. I don’t care if you’re a man with a degree in five different things. You don’t know what I do, so quit trying to sound ultra-intellectual. You just come off sounding ridiculous.

“Oh yes, but doesn’t that mean that during those periods the interest accrual is deferred due to the account being on hiatus per my request?”

You just spoke Greek, I’m pretty sure. And, even though I can translate all that, you’re wrong. Sorry. No offense intended, but don’t try to sound smart. You just come off sounding like a moron.

This, boys and girls, is the lesson of the day: How To Convince The Call Center Rep To Do What You Want. And this is how not to get her to do it.

Man: “Have you received and processed my payment request?”

Me: “We’ve received it, but it’s still in processing. It typically takes 7-10 business days to process these requests. We should have this completed by the middle of next week.”

Man: “How can we fix the account right now since I haven’t paid?”

Me: “We can’t. We’ll have to wait for your payment request to go through.”

Note: This is not the time where you should decide you know better than me. This is where you should smile, nod, and get off the dang phone so I can take the next call.

Man: “My wife submitted the same payment request on her account and spoke with a rep and was told they could fix it over the phone for her. Why is it you can’t do that for me? The other rep did it on my wife’s account.”

Oh, yes, I feel oh so guilty now because I didn’t fix your account for you the way the other rep did for your wife. Mmhm. In fact, I clearly lied to you the first time I told you we couldn’t fix your account. 

Me: “You don’t have any available options to fix your account without waiting for the payment request to go through. You’ve used all of your options, and there are none left.”

Clearly I must be mocking you. Or maybe I’m speaking in tongues. Either way, what I’m saying and what you’re hearing are not the same. 

Man: “But the other rep was able to do this to my wife’s account. I don’t see why you can’t do it to mine.”

And if your wife’s account jumped off a cliff… okay, bad example. But seriously. Perhaps you should pay more attention to the fact you have, you know, separate accounts? 

Me: “Your wife may have had available options on her account. You do not. We’ll just have to wait until your payment request processes.”

Yes, I recognize that I don’t speak clear enough English to make it plain that your account is not going to be fixed until we process your request if it takes you three tries to figure it out. But all that did was keep me on the phone a few seconds longer and made you sound like an ignorant fool because you seem to think that your account and your wife’s account are the same thing.

Perhaps I should rephrase…

I like a man who challenges me intellectually unless it’s on the job. Then I like a man who shuts up and leaves the talking to me, takes what I say, and gets off the phone as quickly as I’m through. Because clearly I’ve told you everything you need to know. So you can get off the phone and leave me alone now, ‘kay, thanks, and bye. 🙂

And that is the lesson from today’s round of Manic Monday Inbounds…

– RaeNez

P.S. If you’re one of those men who calls in and tells me your name is Doctor So-and-So to try to intimidate me into thinking you’re smart (whether you’re an MD or a PhD), you can leave that at the “May I ask who I’m speaking with” door because I will not be addressing you as Doctor. You will be Joe Blow like every other Joe Blow I speak with, and you, too, are no smarter than any other Joe Blow who thinks he knows everything there is to know about my business. Unless you work in the same industry as me, I feel no compunction whatsoever in telling you how wrong your intellectual smarminess is, and I take great joy in crushing those hoity-toity words you think you can use to intimidate me… especially since I understand them and can throw them right back at you the way they’re meant to be used. Next time, grab a dictionary…

All Hands on Deck!

It’s been a day… a long, exhausting, mind-numbing, sleep-inducing day. I don’t even know where to begin, other than to say it’s been a day.

I’d like to take the time to break apart and analyze an email our department received from a manager today. I’m not quite sure how kosher that would be on a blog, but given it isn’t exactly going to be the full email or give away any exact details, I suppose it’s not too terrible.

If you’re not familiar with call centers, I will only say they are all about metrics. Did you meet your call volume for the day? Did you hit the hourly call rate? Did you manage to avoid any supe calls? Did you keep the call times to below 2 minutes? Did you take less than 30 seconds to notate accounts between calls?

These are the things we deal with when we’re taking inbound calls for hours on end. And these are the things that irritate me to no end. Our company (Call Center Xtroardinaire) has recently gone through a great deal of expansion, and we’ve increased our account portfolio by a high percentage. That translates to having increased the number of individual accounts by more than 1 million over a very short time frame.

This, in turn, has created an expanded need for call center reps to tackle the inbound calls. Makes sense, right? Wrong. What we’ve done is turned this into an opportunity to instead fire reps, decrease our call center size, and draft other agents from different departments to handle calls with us. Other departments are now on mandatory overtime, but we are still given the option (when that will change is anyone’s guess), and other departments are spending a portion of their day taking calls due to the increased volume.

We have about, oh, a handful of new people coming into the call center mid-February (poor, unfortunate souls) to tackle the open positions we have. They won’t nearly cover the open desks we have, but it’s a start.

So, onto the patronizing pep talk we received from management today…

“Be efficient on each and every call! Typically we like to focus on one-call resolution and avoid having the customer call back and check on other issues. I’m not saying ignore this by any means, but we really need to focus on answering the customer’s question(s) and move on to the next one! Many of us (myself included) tend to get easily sidetracked talking about the weather, sports, etc., but please try to keep that to a minimum!”

Well, that was enlightening. It was just one of the points in the email, but I have to argue it could be put a little simpler by saying: Quantity over quality, people. Get it right! It’s clear management has adopted an attitude of getting through the issue of call volume rather than addressing the issue of staffing, call quality, and customer service.

I don’t get sidetracked into discussing such inane things as the weather, and typically if a customer tries to discuss it with me, I’ll steer the conversation right back to his account. “Oh, yes, it’s lovely we’re having weather. Now, did you say you wanted to make a payment with me today?” I do get sidetracked into noticing that a customer wants to hold their payments for a month and is set up on an autodraft and needs that taken care of. Or I’ll notice that when directing a customer to the website to sign up for the autodraft, I should also check to see if he’s been there before – oh! – nope, he hasn’t, so sir, please make sure to sign up for an account instead of just trying to put in a user name. I’m pretty sure the user name won’t work unless you register first.

These seem like mindless little details, but these are the kinds of things we’re supposed to cut from our calls. So that explains why I got a call from a man who, after calling in earlier in the day, asked me why his blankety-blank user name wouldn’t work and why it wouldn’t register his information when he tried to log in. Well, you see, sir, you don’t have an account on the website. Maybe you could start by signing up for one? Fifteen minutes of holding his hand to walk him through all his website woes later, I’m off the phone and onto the next call, something that could have been avoided had the last rep not simply told him to sign into his account to fix it.

Next on the list…

“Be confident! You guys know this stuff – there’s no need to check with us on the things ‘you think you know, but you want to double-check’. If you think you know the answer, you probably do! And we totally trust you guys on this! Obviously there are tons of scenarios that come up daily that you (and us) need to research further, but overall be confident in your answers and advise the customer accordingly!”

Wow. Can I just say wow? I think we could easily have summed this up to be read as: Don’t ask us questions; we’re tired of it. Just answer them yourselves! Now, going right along with the above nixing of the details, this is one of those ways we shave off an extra few seconds of call time, save an extra minute or two of “off phone” time and essentially free up the supes to handle other things (what things I don’t know).

This just says to me, as a rep on the phone: We, the management, don’t give a damn about you. You are a peon, and you will take the calls and deal with it. No, we will not take your angry customers and supe calls. No, we will not take your questions. No, we do not care if our system screwed something up on an account or if one of our departments didn’t do something correctly. We are management. We will not be bothered. Go, go, advise the customer.

In short, the pep talk did more to raise my blood pressure (literally, it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 132/70ish at the doctor’s office) and infuriate me than motivate me to put in 2 hours of overtime per week for the next 5 weeks as another point in the email stressed. Now I’m on more medication to try to solve the issue of an infection I’ve now had for a week and a half, and I’m betting stress at work will certainly help that. Not.

After a wild day of crazy calls, I’m exhausted… so I suppose this shall end my post for tonight. But I hope if you plan to call a call center (especially if it’s mine) tomorrow, you’ll refrain. Spare me the misery, please. At least for one day? 🙂

– RaeNez

Flip-flops in February

No, I’m most definitely not referring to the footwear. I only wish I were.

In fact, it might be easier if I were referring to footwear. Today was my first day back after a week off from sickness, and the call center was in full steam, rare form, and full of energy, vibrance, and noise.

Well, maybe only noise.

I was slightly overwhelmed by it all but pushed through and was rewarded with inbounds.

I haven’t broached the subject even though it is the subject of my waking nightmares, and by that I mean the nightmares I live day in and day out in the call center on a regular basis. As today is Monday, it’s the only appropriate day to start talking about them, too.

It might come as a surprise that I have a preference between outbound collection calls and inbound customer calls, but the truth of it is I’ll take the outbound calls any day of the week. Why? Because the vast majority of inbound calls are inane. They’re heaped one on top of the next. And if the outbound crew is pulled to handle them, you know you’re bound to have a number of angry customers to deal with because of the wait to speak to a rep.

Today was no different, really. Mondays are the worst. Our call center, thank heavens, is closed on weekends, so we get a reprieve to get away from the madness. The tradeoff is Manic Monday, where you’ll be assaulted over the least little thing because Sally Customer has waited ten minutes to speak to you and simply will not be quiet now she has you on the phone.

Normally I go through the same routine on outbound calls and can do it in my sleep. Inbound calls are worse because some of the questions you get are so completely idiotic.

And, yes, I am pointing at you, Sally Customer, who called me today to tell me your computer didn’t want you to download a form from our website because “it’s a virus.” Clearly you either have the wrong website or your browser’s security settings are too high, but no, don’t listen to the girl who works there. Demand, quite haughtily, she mail it out to you at once and then ask her when you’ll receive it.

(My crystal ball says: Ask again later.)

For much of the afternoon, I took back to back calls, notating the accounts as I went. Inbound is more or less like a screaming infant. You pick it up, walk it around back and forth for a while and pray it will get sleepy. Then you plop in a rocker and try that to see if the rocking motion pacifies it. You stick a pacifier in its mouth only to have it spat in your face. And just when it seems to nod off, the dog barks or the floor creaks, and it’s screaming again.

That was today. We had over 200 calls holding most of the afternoon, for a steady two and a half hours. Two and a half hours.

Who holds that long?! Oh, wait. Sally Customer. Who then curtly demands I fix her problem as she rushes me on the phone because she’s been holding too long.

I’m ever so sorry. (Not really.) But when you complain about the wait, you’re only taking that much more of my time that could be better spent hustling you off the phone. And when you say you hope the calls are monitored (they are) so my boss will hear that we need more reps (he doesn’t care), I yawn and feel my eyes cross as I remember the new motto of the company.

Pretend I work for “Call Center Xtroadinaire.” Our new motto for the call center? “I am Call Center Xtroadinaire!”

Now add to that a motivational speech about how not hiring enough reps has saved the company loads in salary that they can now use to cater lunches on Mondays and breakfasts on Fridays. And maybe an addendum that everyone can wear jeans for the next six weeks as we focus on lots of pretty goals, and we’re really talking!

And, that, is what I missed by not being at work last week.

Oh how I wish I could stay sick. Just a bit longer, really.

Because, as I long to tell my boss, had I known I was signing on to take flip-flopping outbound collection calls and inbound customer calls, I would never have taken my job. Period.

Just saying…

And now I’m off to bed because it’s late and I’m exhausted. Oh, and, yes, that’s right. I work in a call center and have to get up early in the morning. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to bed I go…

– RaeNez

Speedy Gonzales, or Work Life meets Love Life

In the interest of being professional and honest, I won’t say I’ve never had any workplace infatuations, and I won’t say I’ll never go into details on that score at some point here. I will say that my current boyfriend, Fernando, is most definitely not related in any way, shape, or form to the call center. He is, in fact, an old flame from high school that never quite went out (and how glad I am of that!) who has become a rather important part of my life.

That said, I figured it might be worth it to touch on something that people all too often find themselves struggling with: work life and love life. When those two lives meet, it can become quite volatile. Sometimes it can be explosive. And sometimes it leaves you with less than satisfactory results for one or both aspects of your life.

I intended to keep the details of my dating relationship outside of work, really, I did. But working in a call center is working in a gossip den.

Add in a few flowers, and, well, my fate was sealed.

Shortly after Fernando and I began dating again, he did something that completely threw me for a loop. He had flowers delivered to me at work. I had never in my life had flowers sent to me. I’ve seen it, many times at the call center for Valentine’s and birthdays even, but for me on a regular day? Never.

This was definitely just a regular day.

Now let’s shift gears a bit and move on to something else. Or rather someone else. A woman I work with, we’ll call her Evelyn, has had it out for me since we started working together. And by having it out for me, I mean, she frequently made comments to the effect of: “Girl, we need to get you to a club! And get you some tequila! You need a man. And a condom…”

As you can imagine, Evelyn was extremely interested to see what all the fuss and the flowers were about. So much for keeping my love life secret. Evelyn is one of those people who likes to assign nicknames to significant others she hasn’t met; don’t ask me why. So after Fernando took me to lunch a few times and managed to whisk me away before she could catch up to us, she nicknamed him Speedy Gonzales.

It stuck.

Everyone calls him Speedy Gonzales. I’ve told them his name time and time again. It doesn’t matter. And everyone, simply everyone, has an opinion.

Take Evelyn. I haven’t dated Fernando for a year, so I simply am not allowed to marry him. Clearly he and I shouldn’t even think about it. We should be all over each other as much as possible in the meantime to make sure, you know, that we want each other. But marriage? Perish the thought until you’re much, much further down the line. At least a year.

I’m so glad she’s given me the rules because I wasn’t aware I was on a time frame here.

Or let’s consider Beth. Yet another coworker of mine who seems intent on knowing how this saga with Fernando plays out, she’s kept well up to date with me on a regular basis. Beth was secretly pulling for a Christmas proposal. (Clearly she hasn’t been reading the rule book or consulting with Evelyn.) And she’s made it clear I should leap into Fernando’s arms when the bling arrives.

I’m glad her confidence in his imminent proposal is strong.

Somewhere in the middle is Edith. She originally encouraged me to go out with Fernando when he first started showing interest again and I wasn’t quite sure. At this point, she told me she wouldn’t agree to someone getting married before they’d been together at least a year to see what they think of one another, but when I mentioned having known Fernando and dated him on and off for almost ten years, she seemed more open to the idea. Then she asked if I’d considered moving in with him. I said no and that I wouldn’t do that unless I was married to him; to which, she replied she was proud of me.

I’m glad she’s decided it’s okay for me to marry him now…

It amazes me how working in a call center seems to mean everyone’s business is suddenly, well, everyone’s business. I don’t mind Evelyn, Beth, or Edith telling me what they think about my relationship with Fernando. That doesn’t bother me. But it would be something else entirely if I were to date someone within the call center.

The funny part of it all is how different everyone’s opinions seem to be. Thankfully for me, Fernando and I will be making our own decisions about our love life, and everyone else at work can keep their noses out of it, thank you very much.

Of course, if he does propose… he ought to be prepared for all the amusing stories I’ll have to share from the wonderful women I work with. They will, I’m sure, start with questions and comments about the ring and only escalate into tips and tricks of the wedding planning trade.

I shudder to think how that would go.

Perhaps Mr. Speedy Gonzales should spirit me away instead… a nice elopement might work out quite handily. And create a tidy bit of scandal to leave the gossip mills running at work for quite some time. Perhaps I’ll suggest it to him (so long as my mother doesn’t find out – she’s another matter entirely).

Anyway, food for thought on this eve of going back to work after a long infection…

– RaeNez

The Dreaded Cubicle

Growing up, we always saw them portrayed as the ultimate in horrifying work conditions. Working in cubicles… four padded walls and no door, the ultimate in the insane asylum effect. If you ever wanted to take a person to insanity and push them to the asylum, assign them to a cubicle and give them a menial task for 8 to 10 hours a day, then send them home with no hopes of advancement and no light at the end of the tunnel.

A fairly typical sight in many working environments.

I rest my case.

But coming from someone who currently works in a cubicle and sees very little light at the end of the tunnel and no hope for advancement (nor any real desire to work in management for my company despite my credentials), I have to say the cubes grow on you after a while.

I mean, the nice thing about them is not having to be restricted to one design theme. Sure you’re seated the same way as everyone else, you’re assigned a seat, whether it’s next to the loud-mouth obnoxious woman who gossips at the top of her lungs or the married man who flirts with you every chance he gets is not up to you, and you’re given standard company equipment you have to obtain a doctor’s note to change out for something more comfortable.

And sure you can decorate with all kinds of things that you can bring from home. Though you may want to store it happily away in your desk drawer when you’re not there… I’m just saying. Company theft will not be tolerated and all, but who says that sandwich wasn’t lifted from the refrigerator? Oh, and don’t mind those internal motion detectors they have that go on at night. They only come down from the ceiling and reach a range not far off from the top of your desk. Hope you don’t decorate with anything too tall that shifts in the air conditioning.

See? Cubes aren’t too terrible. They’re perfectly square. Er, I mean, functional. In fact, you can pack a room full of these charming pieces, squeeze a couple hundred reps in and fill the rafters with the charming sounds of people talking all at once.

“Ma’am, I’m not raising my voice at you. I am telling you what we have to do to fix your account.” 

Sir, if you would just listen to me… Fine! You talk because every time I try to speak you interrupt me!”

“Now if you do this, interest accrues, but you don’t have to pay. Wouldn’t that be a nice option since you don’t have any money?” 

“I want you to write this down very carefully. I AM REQUESTING…” 

Indeed. And for those reps who get chronic headaches, like myself, this is the perfect atmosphere for inducing said headaches. It’s full of all kinds of triggers: loud speech, loud noises in general, obnoxious scents, fluttering lights, varying degrees of lights in different parts of the room, fluctuating temperatures, etc.

Again I digress. (You’ll find I do that a lot.)

All said, the cubes make you wonder if even the comic strip artist responsible for Dilbert could be right.

All copyrights go to Dilbert’s owners. I’m just posting here, but to see more of his genius, please visit his website. 🙂

There’s a co-worker of mine, Rhonda, who’s a bit loud and obnoxious and doesn’t exactly censor herself. She’ll holler across the room to make herself heard despite the super-sensitive microphones we speak into at work to discuss accounts with customers.

That said, Rhonda is one who is rather fashion conscious, which includes how she wants to be seen when she’s not at her desk. It’s color-coordinated and highly organized. It’s got some lovely black and white zebra print office supply items featuring a framed picture of her and her boyfriend, a pen holder, and a mousepad. And one other thing that definitely sets her desk apart, aside from the pictures that feature her in them, is the arrangement of Christmas lights she has draped artfully around her cube.

I tell you this because Rhonda tends to email us all when she’s bored, annoyed, tired, or being dramatic. Which means this happens relatively often, and on a Listserv email operation, it means I can’t opt out of receiving her emails. And if she asks for help or tells you to see her for this or that reason, she makes mention of the lights around her desk as the way to find her.

As if we didn’t know.

I say all that to reiterate that the cubes aren’t terrible. They just turn you a bit jaded, maybe somewhat cynical, and a tad bit hard. Perhaps it’s easier to feel more like a human being when you aren’t lumped in with a number of other people tethered to a computer mouse and monitor, a headset and phone and who feel scrutinized like bugs under a microscope when you stand to stretch or walk to the bathroom or take a small break.

The cubes tend to make you one in a crowd. Breaking it down, they make it easier not to see the faces or attach the face to the nameplate. They make it easier to dehumanize a group of people and begin treating them as a single entity instead of as individuals with differing circumstances. When you do that, it’s easier for management to begin treating the whole as very manageable by standards unobtainable by everyone.

Sure, one person can reach goals such as 400 resolutions a month, 30 people can regularly hit 250 resolutions a month. Then we’ll add in additional goals, stick them in their cubes, and grade them on a monthly basis to let them know where they aren’t working hard enough.

That’s the pitfall of the cube.

That’s the reason for my blog. It’s why I’m trying to escape cubed life. It’s why I am looking for other jobs and other opportunities. It’s why I do take every moment outside my job as a blessing and a chance to think about things that make me happy and bring me joy and make life interesting and challenge me.

Because my job certainly doesn’t.

Personally I think I’m much more inclined to be a bit like this meme that’s become a series of products like mousepads and clocks and coffee mugs…

I completely agree!

– RaeNez

P.S. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, of course.