The office that I work in is rather typical for a phone support operation, I think, though it probably falls on the small side of that spectrum. There are several dozen phone support techs like myself there working two shifts. And it was nice at first. The first three months or so were fun, interesting, and only mildly stressful. It even paid well for a phone support job.
I worked the evening shift, from early afternoon until midnight. I help new customers set up their dialup or DSL service when I can, and I'm fairly good at that. If you were having trouble with either of those, you'd probably want to talk to me... I don't read from a script, and if you tell me you are using something other than Windows, I don't freak out and get rid of you. I'd even help with things less supportable than alternative operating systems, supposing no other calls were waiting. Routers, playstations, you name it, I'm familiar with it enough to help.
Many dumb things happened that I didn't worry too much about. Offices are that way, a person either ignores it, or bad things happen. I ignored them. The evening supervisor was friendly, a fellow geek, and best of all, someone who could help you figure out a problem even if you can't do it yourself. He'd take supervisor calls if you bothered to weed out the whiny customers even a bit for him.
The people I work with were cool, after 10pm or so there was often enough times between calls for idle talk.
Then things changed.
We got a new supervisor, a bad one, but not so bad that he was immediately intolerable. He's the chinese water torture of bad supervisorydom. One little drop of water every day or so, and what's a drop of water? But now it's been over three months, and its all but indistinguishable from the waterfall.
One particularly bad evening, he emailed me about some call escalation. A customer was driven insane about our inability to provide reliable DSL, and drove 450 miles from Philadelphia to our headquarters. He somehow managed to get inside a secure building, and accost the CEO. So, shit rolls downhill, and the word is out from up top that we need to call this customer up every night til it's fixed. He never told me any of that in the email though.
I call the customer as he asks, but I only get voicemail. Figuring it's fairly important, I decide to wait til my supervisor gets back from lunch to tell him. It's always better to tell him in person, right? Well, too bad that he decided to take a 2 1/2 hour lunch that night, something he's started doing more of lately. The miracles of salary. So I forget to tell him.
The next day he goes ballistic about it. I explain that I didn't bother to email him, and that by the time I got back, I had forgotten to update him on it. Not good enough though. I even bite my tongue, and fail to mention that it's not my business to be taking escalation calls, and that I'd not be able to help this guy in any event. But the Director pulls him away in the middle of the chewout. Hardly a rescue, as I'll soon describe.
Later that evening, he decides to pick up where we left off. Three minutes after I had clocked out for my own lunch. He asks me if I want to clock back in for it (as opposed to waiting for my lunch hour to end). I tell him its no big deal if he intends to keep it short. It ends up being 52 minutes of my lunch hour.
I really would like to describe that conversation to you, and I do certainly remember that it was in english. But it was so bizarre, I find that I simply cannot summarize it. He starts off about how he has a lot of responsibilities now that he's a supervisor, despite the fact that a) he never helps us solve any issues, b) there are reports that show that he never makes any outgoing calls to customers, c) his little kingdom is too small for all his time to be taken up by mundane paperwork that is taken care of by Human Resources anyway. It gets fuzzy here, but I do remember one or two jabs at the former supervisor, who "didn't want to be here anyway". Who would want to be a manager? There are no technical challenges. It wasn't that much of a raise. The only ones who would be are ladder climbers, if one can indeed start climbing ladders on so low of a rung.
There are insinuations and innuendos about how I wasn't getting along with any of the new recruits, even though I'd never said so much as a word to any of them yet, having been busy in addition to the fact that at that point they had maybe been there all of four days, two of those days being my day off. I got lectured on how I had better shape up, and start pulling my own weight, even though I had fewer complaints and took twice as many calls as anyone else. Even this past month, I ranked #4 in the department, not bad considering that nearly every single one of my calls is interrupted by one of the new techs who have caught on pretty early that our supervisor is incapable of helping them in any technical problem and will deride them for even bothering to ask.
So, a week later, he comes back from a long lunchbreak, and sees me surfing the web. The records show this was as long as thirteen minutes or so, not suprising since company policy allows non-offensive web usage during breaks and deadtime, and that there were no calls holding.
At this point, it's becoming rather irritating. I mouth off. My sarcasm bites hard, and it is something like "I'm obviously being derelict in my duty, and you need to write me up so the Director can fire me tomorrow". It was not the brightest thing to do for someone that still has a few months to go before his credit cards are paid down, and he can start saving. I admit that. Time for another lecture.
This one starts out with the, in my opinion, nearly philosophical question of "What did we just talk about at our last meeting?". What didn't we talk about? So, he draws this out for over an hour, complete with selective testimony of my co-workers. They're brought over, asked leading questions, even the guy that had just had a heart attack scare a week before. He was taking medication, but damn did he look nervous and stressed-out. Calls are piling up in the queue during my kangaroo court trial, even as the words slop out of his mouth that "obviously I didn't give a damn about any of our customers".
The verdict: I'm guilty of being too easy a target, and on top of that not meekly playing the submissive to his control-freak personality. The sentence: being written up. Followed up with a "you had better shape up, I'm going to be keeping a close eye on you". Double my stupidity, I point out that I might as well be fired now for efficiency's sake. I continue, stating that people fudge things in minor and completely forgivable ways all the time and that if I'm under a microscope I'm not going to bust a ventricle like my coworker trying to make sure I'm not "back 10 seconds late from my lunch". We take our lunchbreaks off the clock, for fuck's sake.
So, a few weeks later, we're working the weekend shift. He's not there, so that generally means things go smoothly. It's one of the weekends that are becoming rarer lately, where we have as much as ten of fifteen minutes between calls, and often there are several us not in a call. We joke, talk, do the things that any human being would do in a lonely building when there is no work to be done. In particular, we joke about some of the worst customers we've had, something that I would be shocked if I discovered that it happened in less than 100% of the call centers on planet earth. The joking goes on for maybe the better part of an hour, on and off, us being careful to not be overheard by any customers that a coworker might be talking to.
I'm pretty sure that the nature of the joke is immaterial, but in case I'm biased, toward the end we joked about answering a call with it in mute, and just letting them get tired of it and and hang up. I pantomimed doing so. There are several reasons why this could not be more than a joke. One for instance, is that the queue reports show all phone activities. How long you have a customer on hold, how long it takes to transfer them, even whether or not we have those customers in mute.
It doesn't help that customers get tired of the muzak, hang up, then call back an hour later bitching that they were hung up on. Let's see, you were calling from a cell phone with 3% battery left? You're phone line has problems, and you were calling in about that in particular? You're a pathological liar who gets to dish out abuse in what is actually a perfectly legal way to reduce your stress? You must be one of our customers.
It actually required that one of the new guys be a snitch, because the queue report didn't show that we had done that. Yet, the following Thursday, I'm called into another meeting. I worked on Monday, no one said a thing. The following two days are my "weekend". So, the weekly reports don't show anything, no more than the usual number of calls on Monday to our customer support department claiming they were hung up on or spoken rudely to that weekend. And I'm still written up. Second written reprimand. The kicker: I'm told that bosses three rungs up the ladder are absolutely pissed, and that I'd be fired if only they could prove that I had done it. I'm not a teenager anymore, I don't act guilty during this meeting. I chuckle and point out that we were joking. I ask him how I can be written up for joking, and his only words to me are "Why would you even joke about that?". I'm no Troi, but there was a little sense of him actually believing that was the extent of the behavior.
So, joking about hanging up on obnoxious customers is the equivalent of joking about babyrape and Nazi gas chambers. I did not read that memo.
Well, I'm not quite at a boil at this point, so it goes another week or so. Then, eight days ago on Monday, there is a department-wide email saying how certain sofware is banned from use. This happens to be software that makes my job easier. I don't bother asking my supervisor, and it's not yet 4:30pm, so I ask his boss if she can spare a few minutes to speak with me. The answers are barely satisfactory, but I'm given some probationary permission to continue using it.
So, it's Final Stupidity Jeopardy, I've bet all $17,200 and I'm boiling over, relatively positive outcome or not. The answer is, NoMoreNicksLeft writes this scathing slashdot journal entry and doesn't bother to scrub his damning publically viewable email address.
Time til the superschmeizzer found it, despite the fact that I can't imagine him reading anything other than sportscar websites? 7 days.
I recieved an email late last night telling me to prepare to "have a meeting" when I come in Thursday afternoon. The bastard doesn't even have the decency to avoid having me drive 20 miles before telling me I'm shitcanned.