Corporate Ratchet (Part 9) – The day the ratchet died

 I allowed the sage words of wisdom from my mother marinate as I made my way to work. She was right. Unless you have a strong chance of getting a better job elsewhere due to established contacts or credentials/skills set, it is always a good idea to stick with what you have until another door opens. Its kind of an unspoken rule among hiring managers and job seekers alike. It is definitely the rule than the exception. I decided to collect all my feelings about management and the job itself and file them somewhere deep in my mind. New motto: Go to work. Get the job done. Hope for the best.

But this motto was getting more and more difficult to abide by as rumors of lay offs and budget cuts spread through out the company. Of course, we were advised to just ignore to rumors,keep calm and carry on. This was hard to do as more and more representatives were unceremoniously escorted out the building daily with their belongings in tow. In spent many lunches following my decision to not to quit, listening to the grievances for coworkers who needed the job to make ends meet. Case in point, my fellow trainee, Bethany* expressed her concern. With a unemployed live in boyfriend and two sons to put through school, she needed this job. So you can imagine my surprise, when days later, she was escorted out the door by a supervisor with her head low. When I inquired about why she was let go, I found out it was for reasons that normally would have handled with a verbal warning. But hey, whatever justifies making cuts I guess.

Nothing solidified my potential departure from this job than when I returned from my lunch break to find my boss’ space empty. Completely empty. Except for the plastic plant and the computer monitor , it was as it he was never there. Reason for his departure? Issues with management. I guess this was their politically correct way of saying that he was too expensive to keep as an employee. He was far from perfect but for the most part, he was not a horrible boss. But like I said earlier, any excuse necessary. All I knew was this very fact, my days as this job were numbered.

My team got a new supervisor. This supervisor had a reputation for ruling with an iron fist and letting people go without a second thought. Word on the street is that he once let someone go for coming in late, even after it had been established that the representative had a flat tire on the way to work. I caught myself looking over my shoulder multiple times a day, wondering when , for whatever reason, he would tell me to come into the office to speak with the operations Manager. I was starting to get more and more paranoid by the day, but I decided that so long as I was doing my absolute best, I was not going to allow things that are out of my control affect me.

Funny enough, the day that I was finally let go, it did not happen as I had expected. No looking over my shoulder or expecting a call from my supervisor to come into the office. In fact, for some reason, I dressed up the day I got laid off. I applied a little more make up than usual. I had one a pair of khaki dress pants and a pink silk blouse. Why? I don’t know but it if were going to be show the door , I was walking out in style. I walked into the building with my coffee mug in tow and was told immediately by my supervisor to not turn on my computer. Yep, it was time.

I walked into the operation managers office and sat down. Long story short, management changes , budget cuts, mistakes made on my part, you have to go. Trust me, I was not even arguing with them. I was at peace. I no longer wanted to fight for something that never wanted in the first place. I allowed them to complete all the formalities for my termination while I sipped my cappuccino. They promised me unemployment benefits and a good recommendation for my next employer. Its the least they could do I guess.

As I walked down the long hallway toward the door leading to the parking lot, like many of co-workers before me, I felt like a kid on Christmas day. I was excited. Excited that the next day, I did not have to come back to this job that had pretty much sucked the life out of me for close to a year. I didn’t look back to see my fellow co-workers who were arguing with toxic customers on the phone. Not even to make eye contact with them as I did whenever I was leaving for the day. I was moving forward.

I drove out of the parking with a sense of relief. I was done and happily so. As I made my way home, I had some business to take care off.

Stop by favorite bakery. Pick up two cupcakes- Check
Fajitas to go from my favorite Mexican Restaurant -Check
Celebratory “beverage” purchase- Check
Optimism that my sad days are done and better days lied ahead of me – check and CHECK!!!

* – Name changed to protect identity

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Corporate Ratchet Part 8 : Botched plans

 

On the way home from work that night, I kept going over my meeting with  my supervisor and my boss. The more I thought of every minuscule detail of that conversation, the angrier i got. In business school, I was taught that when it comes to management, the corporate climate is established from the top and it trickles down to lower management. If a manager creates an environment that shows that he/she is interested in the work that his team puts in and is willing to defend them to upper management when necessary, there is a sense of security. And when an employee feels that they  secure, it drastically improves the quality of their work. In the end the difference between an average employee and an excellent one is how secure they feel when it comes to their leaders.

When you are working for a company where you are made to feel like you are replaceable and only the fraudulent survive, you can’t help but wonder what you future is going to be. I recall a moment when I confessed to a co worker over lunch that there is no future for me working at the company.  I never thought that after working for two years to earn a Masters degree, I would be working somewhere lacking room for growth.

I spent the weekend weighing my options. Do I quit and spend time focusing all my energy into finding a better job or do I just stick it out?  I asked my friends what they thought. I got mixed reviews. Some felt I should stick it out. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, they said. You can get a better job when you have a job, they said. And some said I should just turn in my badge and quit. Take a risk, don’t turn back.

All these opinions did not make my decision any easier.  However, by Sunday night, I made my decision. I was going to quit. For a moment , I had this euphoric feeling on what was to come but I didn’t know what it was. I felt like I was on the cusp of something amazing but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  All I knew was  the more I thought about not having to be at work on Tuesday because I was planning to quit on Monday, the more excited I got.

Of course, I had to share this news with my mother.

I woke up that Monday feeling excitement. I had a whole plan in mind. I was going to wake up super early and look around for any company property like name tags or badges laying around. Wanted to make sure that I have every thing I need to hand back to the powers that be when I go in to resign from my position. Because of the informal nature of the job, there was really no need to give them two week notice. They would just fire you. So I decided that I would go in, guns blazing and just tell them I am done.

As I skipped down the stairs to go to work, I found my mom in the living room sipping tea. I happily plopped into the couch next to her and told her about my plans. I had already rehearsed the whole thing in my head.

Me: Mom, after much consideration, I mean, I have really thought long and hard about this. I have decided that I am quitting my job today.

Mom: **blank stare**

At this point, I thought if I elaborate more on why I was choosing to leave my job, she will give me an expression of understanding.

Me: Mom, you know that I have been having a hard time with the management at my job for a while and it is hard to work for a company that does not have your best interest….

Mom: **blank stare, occasional blinking**

Me: I mean ,there is not future for me there. I feel that in order for me to be able to keep my job , I had to cheat the system and that goes against everything I learnt in my Ethics class in Business school. The environment is toxic and I feel undervalued. I mean just last week, they laid off some of the best representatives in the company. They had been working there for years. What hope is there for me? I feel like I am on chopping block anyways and I refuse to be fired from a job like this…so I am going to leave.

Mom: **deep inhale and exhale** So you are going to quit?

Me: Yes..

Mom: So, do you have another job lined up?

Me: **Blank Stare**

My mom was totally killing my vibe. I knew where she was going with this

Mom: Well, do you?

Me: Does it matter? I am going to get another job once I have the time to look.

Mom: If you quit this job, how are you going to explain to say a potential employer or recruiter why you quit a job when there are thousands of people looking for jobs? How can you run when no one is chasing you??

In this very moment, I wish I had just kept my plans to myself because my mom had to just give me some of her wisdom. The kind of wisdom that you know if right but you don’t want to admit it. I mean, I had a plan laid out as to how I was going to quit. I was going to waltz into the building, head over straight to HR and tell them that I am resigning. I didn’t even plan on talking to my supervisor or checking in with him as I am supposed to. I was going to give them my badge, sign whatever documents necessary and leave. I was going to pick up some cupcakes from my favorite bakery, buy some lunch and spend the rest of the day celebrating. But alas.

Mom: Listen, I know you don’t like that job but until something better comes along, you have stick with your job and give them your very best.

I felt like deflated balloon. Reality bites. She was right. Until someone chases you, you can’t really run because what are you running from? With my botched plans in tow, I hung my head and went to work. So much for that plan.

 

 

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Corporate Ratchet Part Seven : A slow but steady decline

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You know you hate your job when you would rather be bed ridden with strep throat than go to work. I was that person. The girl that would come to work and be happy when the systems were “down” which meant no customer calls. The girl who was done with the day from the moment she put the car on “Park”. I know it sounds bad but anything that kept me away from toxic customer calls was a good day for me. And any day that I could come to work and see on my report that I had good surveys from the customers from the day before was  huge. But that didn’t happen always. You see, in customer service, no matter how much you try, you can never make a customer happy. Even if you give them all the credits you can off of a bill error or promise them free stuff, they have this resolve to make sure that they let the establishment know that they feel unappreciated. With every “bad” survey, whether it was out of your control or not, the management always looked at as a strike on your record. And like any system, you have just so many strikes before you get canned. Or “taken into the office” as was the code phrase.

My pride would not allow for me to ever get fired from a job like this. I would quit first. Besides, what would it sound like for me to be fired from a job that I was overqualified for in the first place? Sigh!! I have grown up a lot since I took this job but back then, I had a huge chip that resided comfortable on my shoulder.

Despite the toxic customer calls, lazy supervisors and egotistic co workers who had mastered how to defraud the system in their favor to avoid bad surveys or gain sales points, I decided that I would do my very best every day while actively seeking employment elsewhere. Night after night, I would sleepily search job boards and apply for positions that I qualified for. I had hope that since I already had a job , it would be easier for me to get another job. So that was my hope. That I would get a job very soon. I even smiled one day when I found out that someone had stolen my Snapple from the community fridge. What did I care about a stolen ice tea when I knew that very soon, I will not have to put up with this job any longer. What did I care that a supervisor ( another team supervisor, not my own, because he was no where to be found) cursed me out because I needed her to do an adjustment on a customers bill? I will not have to see her ugly face again when I get my job with an awesome office view over looking the city from a 20 plus floor high rise building. If everything played out the way it is supposed to, I will no longer have to put up with the ratchetness ( I know its not a real word)  that was my current situation.

Or so I thought.

” You got another bad survey, Princess”  my supervisor told me soon after my lunch break. I hadn’t even logged back into my computer and he informed me off this without even looking up from his computer. “This is your second this week…” he continued informing me that even though I had done everything that can be done for the customer, the customer still gave me  bad survey because they were upset with the company. Even though the customer has pleased with me, I still had to use my sixth sense to see if i would get a bad survey. But that is  kind of hard to do, when you ask a customer if they are satisfied with “YOUR” customer service and they say yes.

As he told me this, I couldn’t help but wonder how many calls I had ended on my line that I felt were good calls but could lead to bad surveys later because they were mad at the establishment. You would think that those surveys would be dismissed because they not about me but with the way the system is set up, a bad survey is a bad survey. Another big issue I had with this job is while they expect you to go above and beyond the call of duty, they don’t really take care for  their own. Why should they? As far as they are concerned, you are a number in the system that can easily be replaced. I was reminded of this every other week when I would see new recruits come though the office  for a tour.

As I feared, by the end of the day, I was called into the office by my supervisor. I got two bad surveys. Again for things that were completely out of my control but my spidey sense could not detect that I would get  a bad survey. My supervisor took me into my his boss’ office. In the chain  of command, anything a representative does could reflect positively or negatively on my supervisor and anything that makes a supervisor look bad , makes his boss look bad with overall management. At this point, since I had had a total of four bad surveys in a week, I was on the verge of being fired, and like I said before, I was not going out like that.

I nervously walked into the OM’s office. This was my first time being called into the office since I had been employed. I sat down and like a principal that is shocked to see an otherwise very good student come into the office, the OM was surprised to see me. As procedure, I listened to the call along with the supervisor. This call was  was very long. I squirmed in my seat as I heard my voice booming from the speakers. While I had a very good over the phone voice, it was still weird to hear. The issue: my customer wanted me to give them a plan that no longer existed in the system. Ordinarily, only a supervisor could do that. So I did the customary transfer to my supervisor but along the way, the call dropped. So when the customer got the survey, they noted that I hung up on them which was not true.

” I see that you did everything you could do on that call, but unfortunately, it is still your fault. You should have called the customer back”.

**Blank stare**

How was I to call a customer back if I didn’t know the call was dropped??? I get an average of 50 calls a day. How am I supposed to keep track of each and every single dropped call in addition to making sure that I offer the customer everything within my ability???

” It is standard to follow up with all customers within 24 hours to see if their issues were resolved if the call is sent to a supervisor” the OM stated as- a- matter- of -factly.

** Insert expletive here** No where in the system does it say that you have to follow up with call transferred to a supervisor  after 24 hours. Why? Because you do not get surveyed for calls  transferred to a supervisor. Everyone knows this. Again *Insert expletive here**

I went back and forth  with the supervisor and OM for about twenty minutes but as I argued my point, I knew deep down, this was a battle I was not going to win. I have five strikes a month for surveys, I was down four. I was given a final warning.  But what was I being warned for. I was doing my absolute best. As I walked out of the office, I logged out of my phone and slowly walked to my car. I sat in my car, thinking about the entire conversation and my utter disgust with the situation. Then I started weighing my options. I could sit here and get fired or I could get my hands dirty and just put all customer phone numbers on the “do not survey” list which is what many representatives did but would get them fired on the spot if caught. Or, I could just quit. What did I have to lose? I already hated this job and leaving this position would free me up to look for  a position full time. But I was still undecided. I quickly texted a co-worker for advice.

Her response ” Well, if you get fired, at least you can file for unemployment….”

Sigh. I guess I was expecting a more optimistic response. As thought more and more what happened in the office and how I was pretty much disposable to these people, I knew what I had to do.

 

 

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Corporate Ratchet Part Six : Blank Stare

** Let me start by apologizing for my absence from my blog! It certainly is not for lack of interest in sharing my story. But as all you know, sometimes, life gets in the way. My sincerest apologies. But anyways, now that I have that out of the way, back to blogging :)**

 

It was just another Monday morning at the job and I felt like I had been rambling to my supervisor for twenty minutes about  a customer on my line who wanted me to do the impossible. While discussing the issue with my supervisor, I was also worried about keeping the customer on hold for too long. Company policy states that you check in with a customer every two minutes if they are placed on hold. Lets just say, that never really happens. Depending on how complicated the issue is, the customer could be holding for a while. With every minute that goes by, I felt like my chances of getting a good survey from my customer  for “exceptional customer service” was unlikely. And since a poor survey could jeopardize my bonuses and my job all together, you can understand why I was so anxious.

So I speed walk over to my supervisors desk, who surprisingly is at his desk. For anyone who has ever worked in customer service, you know that everyone is trying to avoid what they are supposed to do. No one wants to be on the phone with an irate customer, trying to convince them that all their demands are pretty much ludicrous. So, most times, whenever I look at my supervisors desk, he is not there. I would say at least 90 % of the time, if he is at his desk, he is the office phone  pretending to talk to someone so no one will bother interrupting him. Either that, or he is no where to be found.

Because leaving my customer on hold reminded me of a boiling pot with the lid on, I decided to give my supervisor the edited version of what was a 10 minute complaint from a customer laced with four letter words that for the sake of decency, I will not repeat on this blog. Long story short : Customer wanted a month’s worth of fee service for being a loyal customer. *Insert yawn here* I get a dozen of these a day. But today, I was past my limit for transfers to the retention department which meant, I had to have a supervisor get on the line and speak with the customer.

As I dashed through the story, I felt more and more relieved that my supervisor was going to put on his red cape and save the day.  But all I was left with was a blank stare. A blank stare. Like a soulless stare. No glimmer of light in his eyes. The kind of stare that says “This can’t possibly be my life”. After a brief pause, he let out a deep sigh and spoke.

“Well, what do you want me to do about it ?”

At this point, I could hear my heart beating through my chest. Uhm, what do I want him to do about it?!?  Well, I want you to  get a fire extinguisher and quench the fire that it is coming from the other line because this customer is breathing fire. She was taking no prisoners and I just didn’t have the time for it . It was only Monday!!

“Uhm, she asked for a supervisor…”  I said calmly. She really didn’t but I figured if someone is asking for a month worth of free service, there is really nothing I can do about that.

His response was a four letter word that was audible enough for me to here but inaudible enough to not get written up for “inappropriate language in the work place”.

” You need to take ownership of your calls, Princess. Use the issue resolution manual on your computer to help you with this”. All this said with a blank stare. Oh yes, and the princess thing, that’s another story for another day. The issue resolution manual is pretty much just a script to pacify intense customer calls. It was more or less like putting a band aid on an open wound that needs stitching. It doesn’t help. Not in this case anyways. I already checked.

This was my last effort to get this issue off of my hands. The lady at this point had been on my line for at least 10 minutes and I was too scared to “check in” with her every two minutes as policy demanded .

” The customer asked to speak to a supervisor, there is nothing more I can do” I said

With that said, my supervisor asked for me to transfer the call to his line. I insisted that he end the call on my line since I had already exhausted my transfer limit for the day. This lead to another two minute exchange as to what was the worst of two evils : exceeding a transfer limit or getting a bad survey from a dissatisfied customer.  In the end , I figured that one more transfer for the day is not as bad as a poor survey. Call transferred. My supervisor was on the line with this lady for 2 hours. He periodically cast death stares my way. I figured at this point, it was a good time for me  take my lunch break.

If I were a smoker, this would be a good time to take a smoke break. But since I don’t , I  just eat and instagramed . As I ate in the lunch room, I looked across the room at the other service reps. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them just had a customer from hell on their line. While some of them ate their food or smoked,  some just stared into space. I realized that my breathing had normalized and I could no longer hear my heart beating though my chest. I had only been working with customers for a couple of weeks. Some of the people at this job had been working there for years.  With all the stress and anxiety that comes with managing the emotionally charged customer calls on a daily basis, I wondered if I would be one of those with blank stare on my face at some point. Customer service had a way of sucking the life out of you.

**Stay tuned for part seven of Corporate Ratchet. Thanks  for reading. Please share and let your friends know about my blog**

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Once my classroom training was complete, followed by a two week stint in “the tank”, I was officially a customer service rep. The tank is a part of the training process where trainees work with actual customers . The experience was everything that I thought it would be. Daunting. Contrary to what my trainer told me on my first day of training, I did not bust into tears on my first call and I did not get cursed out.  I did ,however, stutter a lot while trying to take notes in the system on what the complaint was about and making sure I said everything according to the  standard script. All my calls were monitored by my tank leader who stood by and gave me feedback on every call at the end of the day.   While others chose to freak out between calls, return inappropriate comments from customers with inappropriate four letter words of their own and in some cases,  quit during their lunch break, I pushed through.  I once saw a trainee  walked out of the building after she hung up on a customer. To be honest, I was tempted to do the same on at least 8 out of every 10 calls I handled. But I didn’t.

As the weeks went by before I would “graduate” to the main floor , I kept waiting to be rescued. My nights after my shift, were filled with hours surfing the internet for any position I qualified for.  And some that I didn’t qualify for but took the risk of applying for anyways. With every lunch or bathroom break, I would check my phone for any missed calls from a recruiter or my emails for any interview request. There were none.  I kept hoping that by the time my stint in the tank was over, I would be offered another position elsewhere.  But alas, I graduated after two grueling weeks in the tank. Trainee  count went from 20 to 15. On my last day in the tank, I was assigned a supervisor and a permanent time schedule after a cake reception in the conference hall to celebrate. There seems to be a theme here.

My first three months on the production floor was myriad of very unpleasant feelings.  In a perfect world, handling customer calls would be a much more streamlined process. Customer would state their complaint/request, and customer representative will handle it while keeping their time on the phone under a certain limit and limiting the number of times when a supervisor would have to intervene. But think of situation where no one wants to what they need to do. Your supervisor does not want to attend to issues that are no longer in your control and you get the blame for it when the customer gives your a bad survey after every call. I noticed very quickly that if you did not meet their expectations , they could easily fire you and replace you like you never ever existed.  All it took was a “call into the office” for your short lived career at the company to be put to an end. The turnover rate ( a term that I learnt in business school) was extremely high. Periodically, a new batch of recruits would be given a tour by a trainer through the main floor to give them a glimpse of what it would look like to work there. With each group that passed by, I would try to make eye contact with each recruit, telepathically telling them to run and not to turn back. But, alas.

However, in any environment, be it the jungle, the class room or the corporate world, there are always those who rise above the fray.  The superstars.  These select individuals took the theory of survival of the fittest to another level. In the mist of Cheetos-eating agents void of emotion, handling all their calls with robotic flare, issue avoiding supervisors and anxiety laden reps like myself trying to deescalate customer calls demanding  a kings ransom in refunds, these individuals managed to rise above the ratchet. The cream of the crop with their perfect stats and perfect customer feedback.  They had discovered how to not get called into the office for poor performance where their career would suffer a swift and painless death. It might not be an ideal career but it was one they were not willing to lose. I wanted to learn their ways.

A very wise creature by the name of Yoda once said ” Do or do not, there is no try”. What it took to survive at this job was one that I certainly was not going to do and  it certainly didn’t matter to even try.

Stay tuned for part 6. Thanks for reading.

Corporate Ratchet (Part 5) : Survival of the fittest

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Corporate Ratchet Part 4- A pot of gold

** Disclaimer: The time frame for these blog post is 2012 to2013. My blog series “Corporate ratchet” talks about a job experience I had shortly after I graduated with my MBA. This story series does not reflect my current state of affairs as I no longer work for this establishment. I apologize for any confusion**

 

I stared at the man who would be my trainer for the next six weeks for a second as I tried to process what he had just said. Now when think about your first day at a job, you are expecting bright smiles plastered on the faces of the people you will be working with, enthusiastic about showing you the ropes and how awesome it is to work for their company. Telling a new recruit that sobbing is part of the job description was hardly a heartfelt welcome.

As I signed in, I was asked to take a seat in a room filled with computer monitors. On the walls were posters with procedures to follow and rules to abide by. Kind of like when you are in elementary school and you have “drills” posted across the room. I took a seat close to the trainer’s table and waited for the remaining newbies to come in. Our trainer, Marcus * was a middle aged black man who looked more annoyed than anything. Hence the welcoming comments. I once caught him at his desk, checking his Facebook account while going over a lecture. I could tell he really wanted to be there.

The next six weeks consisted of long lectures on company policy and standard procedure on how to handle customer issues. Four of these weeks would be purely theory and two weeks will be in the lab where we will be working with actual customers. Everything was done down to the minute, from the moment we walked in the building till the moment we left.  We were allowed hour long lunches and 15 minute restroom breaks.  In between the breaks and mind numbing lectures, I got the chance to get to know my classmates.

In my class of new recruits there were 33 students. More than half of them were either in college or just graduated from high school. Some of them had college degrees like myself and were just doing this job to get by.  Seated next to me was a young lady, Jess *. Jess had just graduated with a degree in Social Work. We had bonded over our shared interest in bad reality television. She was petite and soft spoken. She had been applying for jobs for over three months and when the bills started coming, she figured this job would be a temporary fix for now. I could relate to her.  In between text heavy modules and chapter tests for each lesson and nibbling on gummy worms, we talked about college experiences, our career goals and our concerns about the job market.  My kinship with Jess made training with a room full of colorful individuals, bearable.

Three weeks in, I was starting to feel like I could do this job. I was doing well on all my quizzes and the trainer Marcus had great feedback to offer me. Meanwhile discussing our job prospects over coffee each day with Jess before training started, was what I looked forward to. That feeling was short lived. I walked into the training room one Thursday morning, coffee in one hand and a juicy story about how I found an awesome position online the night before that I applied for on the mind.  I walked over to my computer next to Jess’ desk and waited for her to arrive. Jess normally arrives before me but today she was late.  As training started, I kept one eye glued to the door. Surely at some point, she would breeze through the door and join me.  By break time, I was concerned.  Maybe she taking advantage of the two free absences we were allowed.  I couldn’t think of any reason she would not show up for work. She didn’t seem sick the day before, so it couldn’t be that. Or maybe she had emergency? Meanwhile, all these thoughts were going through my head and all I wanted to do was share my story about the pot of gold I found online.  I decided to go to lunch, alone. On my way to the lunch room, I bumped into one of our classmates, Vanessa*. Vanessa and Jess lived in the same apartment complex. I asked her if she had heard from her. What I heard next left my heart in my stomach.

Girl, you didn’t hear? Jess got a call yesterday for a job interview for a position with the city. She was checking her voicemail and got a message for an interview for this morning. She went for the interview. She just texted me saying they decided to hire her on the spot. Great pay and full benefits.

Well, color me surprised.  I was stunned. While I was thinking I had found a great job to apply for, my work friend was had found the pot of gold, the rainbow and even the leprechaun. I let out a huge sigh.

So, she’s not coming back?” I said realizing immediately that was probably the dumbest question I had asked in a while.  It was followed by an equally dumb look from Vanessa.

Girl, she accepted the position on the spot. She already dropped off her id at the front desk”.

I smiled and said I was happy for her and quietly walked to the lunch room. I had lost my appetite. I was happy for her. There is nothing like getting that call for the position you have been working so hard for. Like finally reaching the light at the end of a very long tunnel. But it was less about her success and more about me. I just felt left behind.  Of all my fellow trainees, I felt she was the one I felt I could relate to.  Admittedly, I wish it were me, getting the unexpected call, an interview and an offer.

All my thoughts of self-pity were quickly interrupted by Marcus, informing it was time to get back to the training room.  This was going to be a very long three weeks.

*- Names changed to protect identity

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Corporate Ratchet Part 3 – ” So, you got a job??? Let’s eat cake”

I needed to think.  Sitting down for a bit to process what I had just done was not such a bad idea.  I walked out of the reception room and made a bee line for my car. As I walked to my car, I noticed a group of people hanging out at the other end of the building. Some of them were exiting the double doors, leaning against the cars and smoking.  Some of them were playing on their cellphones and others were engaged in intense conversations.  I couldn’t quite make the connection but I felt that was a lot going on for a workplace. I got into my car and just sat there. I didn’t turn on the ignition or the radio. I sat pure silence. I couldn’t think of anywhere to go. I just needed a moment to collect all my thoughts and process what I had just experienced.

Did I just agree to do a job described as “stressful”?  Did I just agree to do a job that pays less than what I made before I started graduate school? Did I just agree to work with customers who can be considered “unreasonable” and “irate”? 

Have you ever had a moment where you just wanted to say “Oh no, forget this” and just leave? Everything in me wanted to turn on my car, put it in reverse, pull out of the parking lot and drive away. I have heard of horror stories of how draining and stressful a customer service jobs can be. Granted that I have had a lot of friends who had worked at a call center at some point in their life, they always looked at it as a college job or a temporary situation. Not a job as Master degree holder. 

You have all these thoughts of how logical it would be to just drive home and hit the keys again looking for a job online. But then, a small voice in your head says “What other options do you have? I mean, you have been looking for what…six months? And not even a call for an interview? You are half way to making some money and you want to run? “. I am sure if this voice were an actual person, it would be looking at me with crazy eyes.  That good old voice that just wants to squash what was otherwise a really good idea.

**Sigh**

For close to two hours, I went back and forth on whether to stay or whether to leave.  The final consensus: I was going to take the job if offered to me.  I will give myself three good months but the moment I feel that this job is something I can no longer handle, I will quit.  I breathe a huge sigh of relief.  I had figured out my grand plan and avoided having a “chip on my shoulder” mindset. I didn’t want to feel like I was above working in customer service. But if I were to work at a customer service rep, it will be temporary.

I took a deep breath and fixed my hair. It’s funny how quickly time flies when you have a lot on your mind. I decided to go back into the building and wait for the second part of the interview process to start. In the reception hall, I noticed a couple of people texting on their phones and some taking a nap. I sat close to the door and waited.  Twenty minutes later, “Katt Williams” walked into the reception hall and called my group for the second part.

We were brought back into the room where we took the assessment and were told to wait for our individual interviews.  Soon after sitting down, a lady stepped out of her corner office and said my name.  She was average height and very well dressed and her hair was slicked back into a bun. I stood up and she told me to follow her into her office. The lady introduced herself as the hiring manager asked me if I fully understood the questions I answered during the assessment. I said yes.

“Will the pay rate be enough for you to take care of your monthly financial obligations?”  the lady said in a very stern voice.

“Yes” I said but what I really wanted to say was “Uhm, no! Can we negotiate the pay?

“Well, if that is the case, I just want to welcome you to our company. You did very well on your assessment. Consider it a privilege to work here. Many are called, but few are selected.”

I found that very hard to believe but I decided to be open minded. Maybe the level of professionalism that sought for the company was very high. Or so I thought. The lady directed me to a scheduling manager where I was told that I would have to select the days that I would like to work and my hours. That will be my fixed schedule for the next six months.  Based on the schedule I picked, that would it will now determine my training schedule.

You have selected to work Monday through Fridays with weekends off. You will be training in group B which will be from 3PM to 11PM.”

Huh?? Getting off work at 11PM??? So much for happy hour!

How long is this going to be for?” I asked still thinking I can just get up and leave.

Six weeks, and you will be paid during this time”.

I guess I can handle that. I signed some papers and was told to that I will start my training on Monday.

I slowly lifted myself from my chair and walked out of the scheduling manager’s office. I felt a little light headed.  Just like that, I had a job.  A part of me was happy that I would start making some kind of money, no matter how much. A part of me was concerned about the future. In business school, I was taught to approach things with a game plan, with a strategy.  How will this job affect my overall career?  How will I be able to leverage this experience towards a more professional position? Will there be room for growth within the corporation? If so, how? What is an acceptable time to be at this position before seeking other positions? (Immediately!!!).

All these thoughts made me want to just go home and get some rest.

I didn’t realize when I reached my driveway. The drive home seemed so short because of the myriad of thoughts going through my head. I put the car in park and slowly peeled myself out of my car. I decided that once I walk inside the house, I would walk upstairs to my room quickly before anyone asked me how the day went.

So how did things go?” my dad asked once I locked the door behind me. **Sigh**.  I didn’t know my dad was going to be back from work so early.

It went well” I said casually while still making my way towards the stair case.  My mom, who just happened to be home early as well looked up at me.

Come sit down and tell us how everything went” she said. **Sigh**

I really didn’t want to go into details so I sat down and gave them a very condensed version of what happened.  

Long story short, I got the job…so that’s that, I guess” I said with very little enthusiasm in my voice.

What happened next cannot be explained in words. Till this day, I can’t comprehend what would cause anyone to react this way.

“So, you got a job??” my dad exclaimed.

I nodded.  “Well, this is cause for celebration!!!! “He said with a huge laugh. My mom followed by lifting her hands in praise.

“Let’s eat cake” my dad said. He then called my brother and told him about my job and that he needed to go to the store to get a cake.

Really??? Is it really that serious? Cake?? ” I said to myself.  This isn’t even my dream job. What is there to even celebrate?? With cake for that matter?  I didn’t see this as being celebratory event.

Hindsight being 20/20, I can see why any type of job was a reason to celebrate. You really don’t know how bad the unemployment rate is until you walk into a company and see a bunch of people applying for the same job as yourself.  And the hiring manager did say that not everyone who applies gets hired. I was part of the select few. This was something to be grateful for, no matter the job. But for that moment, I faked excitement and walked to my room to change.

Shortly after, I walked downstairs to find a store bought cake on the dining table.  A birthday cake with the words “Congratulations” on it and a bottle of apple cider.

I cut the cake and my mom took a picture with her camera phone. I can’t make this stuff up.

We ate cake, drank cider and the very next day, I started my first day of training.

Girlthe first time you get on the phone, the customers are going to curse you out and you are going to cry…you might as well just quit right now…” were the first words my trainer told me as signed in and asked what the job was like…

**Sigh**

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