Killing Them Softly

by admin on June 1, 2009

Most of the stories in this section are about angry, unfair, or paranoid bosses.  I had a friendly boss, a sociable boss, who was a terrible person to work for.  I worked at a call center with about 30 operators, and “Dora”, who was head of our department.  She tried hard to learn about each of us and to treat each of us individually.  Delightful, yes?  Well the flip side of that coin is that she couldn’t bring herself to fire anyone (“so-and-so is gone so much because she has kids and she needs this job”) and she couldn’t bring herself to censure anyone when they were doing a poor job (“I like to give people every single chance to succeed”).  Unless you weren’t into sharing your personal life at work and then you couldn’t get a doctor’s note used as an approved absence.  She wasn’t mean about it, it would just get lost on her desk and you’d have to give her another one and hope she’d eventually get it to HR. 

Dora’s love for us, the operators, led to some other problems as well:

  • Dora wanted us to make more money than we do, so she would hire terrible people to prove that our pay rate is too low (I can’t hire anyone decent for $xx.xx per hour).
  • Dora did not like to monitor our calls because she didn’t us want to feel like we were being watched.  It’s a call center, call monitorings are par for the course.  Because we worked with medical professionals, ensuring we did our job right was literally vital for the patients!
  • Dora would go into IT and rail incoherently about problems with our software systems.  “The operators can’t take calls with programs like these…they are always having problems with….” and she didn’t feel like she needed to provide error messages or any sort of documentation: “the operators are here to take calls, not troubleshoot software”, so IT never fixed anything.
  • Dora griped so much about our pay rate and benefits to the finance department, that she couldn’t get a penny out of them otherwise.   We worked 24/7 and 365 days a year but we got no snacks or sandwich fixings for holiday shifts, and no air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter for people who worked graveyard, swing, or weekends.
  • One time, I was asked to come in specially for an “all departments” meeting that included the shift leaders, and I obliged.  I clocked in and went to the 30 minute meeting in the board room.  After the meeting, Dora asked the shift leaders to follow her to her office for additional quick meeting.  That took about 20 minutes.  Then Dora started chatting about the call center in general, and the conversation became more social and personal.  One by one, the other shift leaders begged off by claiming other work but I, the weekend shift leader, could not claim this.  Dora began to tell me about her wild adolescence, which included mooning some guys in her living room and breaking the window and picking glass out of her…I made “gotta go” noises several times but she just kept sharing.  I was paid for 3 hours that day, 1 of which was actually work.  There were lots of operators who purposely went in to chat with Dora as a way to pad their paychecks.

So many people cried when Dora left, but I was quietly relieved.  Our next manager got all kinds of things fixed, dead weight shifted, standards tightened, and extras approved.   Many people still miss Dora but even they admit the call center is a better place to get work done.  06-01-09

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous February 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I had a boss like this, too. A little too nice, to the detriment of her employees. For instance, one woman showed up late for work, and went on and on about how she had no money for cigarettes. The boss then actually drove down to the convenience store and bought her cigarettes. The woman also loudly complained about how she had no money for gas, etc. for our next job (we were seasonal employees at a sports arena, and only worked when there were events). It’s also important to note that, while this woman had technically worked for the company before, the previous supervisor no longer used her because of suspicions of theft. The boss actually gave her cash to buy gas for her car. Now, all of this would be sad (the boss really was just too soft-hearted), but none of my business, if it didn’t affect my job as well. Without bragging, I am better at that job than this woman. I consistently get good reviews from customers, and am always trying to find ways to serve our customers better (we were servers in the suites that companies rent out for sports events–usually only one server per suite–so our performance was integral to the customers’ overall enjoyment of the event). She, on the other hand, got numerous complaints, told her customers “no” on anything that inconvenienced them, was often late or simply didn’t show up at all, and spent half the event smoking outside her suite. So I was pretty irate when I found out I was no longer getting called to work many events because the boss had decided that, not only did this woman “need the money more”, but that the only logical thing to do would be to hire her boyfriend, who had no experience and the same work ethic as his girlfriend, because the woman had spent an entire night going on to the boss about how broke they both were.

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Tara March 11, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I feel pretty sure this is my old boss, “D”. Very sweet and yet completely clueless about business etiquette.

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