The Meeting


Today I brought some left-over smoked salmon, dill and caper penne pasta for my lunch, a nice treat for the fish lover that I am, but sadly it’s still sat there in the canteen fridge. I just couldn’t face hanging round the building for my break. I desperately needed some fresh air. Stomping out of the foyer my head felt as if I’d drunk several shots of adrenaline  followed by a cortisone cocktail. I could sense my veins throb, my mouth was hang-over dry and my hands faintly trembling.

So how did the meeting with my manager go?

Well I’ve discovered a few things about her, firstly that she doesn’t take too kindly to being questioned. We began with discussing the stats. I said that I have been using the system all the time so am puzzled by why I’m not hitting 100%, let alone 75%. I mentioned the phantom calls I’d got last week as a possible explanation. Instantly she began rifling through her reams of paper trying to prove me wrong. I also said that as the stats she is referring to are produced by taking the number of calls we receive in given period matched against and the number of times we have either recorded a reason for the call from a drop-down-menu, or else processed a payment, or created a new order. I suggested that as one call may result in orders for up to 12 items with each counting as an individual input and as people processing mail would also be creating orders without there necessarrily being a call then the figures are skewed and unreliable so comparisons can’t be made.  I also said that I found being on auto-answer didn’t help me much. Her answer was that it is the same for all of us and added ‘everyone’s on auto-answer they manage it’… umm no they’re not. ‘So tell me who isn’t” she said,, strangely I thought as I’d been told by another colleague that our manager had taken her off auto-answer after she had requested this. I searched my head quickly for an example ‘well John isn’t on auto-answer’. I mentioned that as we all did different shifts suppose a catalogue drops on a Friday, then people on Friday will be taking orders all day and their figures will be higher, likewise the figures will be higher for  people working at weekends who process more mail as it tends to be quieter. “I just want you to hit 75%” was the response, “you’re not doing that right now, you’re not taking responsibility. The accuracy of the figures is my problem not yours” We finally agreed that we’d review the figures for today as I’d been meticulous about logging everything, this would reveal to me at least if there is a bug in the system.

If this seems civilized in writing, then I do reality a mis-service. Each point was contested and wrestled over. At one point I noticed the MD in the next room glance over as voices were raised and the conversation took on an animated, aggressive tempo. By this point I’d had enough and just wanted to get out of the room so decided not to bother with my points about the arriving early issue and favouritism. My manager clearly hadn’t had enough, probably feeling she’d won the first round on points she continued onto the issue of being ready to take calls at my start time. I offered to be at my desk 5 minutes early. This was not enough, but you need 10 minutes to log in she said. She began on the anecdote about ‘if you worked in a shop’ I re-iterated my offer of 5 minutes unpaid work and added that I felt doing work outside of my contracted hours could be seen as unfair. My manager then went on the attack, pulling out figures saying that I’d been late back from breaks, never by more than a minute, or a few seconds, but it was an effective attack nonetheless. This meeting had been a mistake. Sensing victory my manager added that I often log-off early and that if I am not prepared to come in 10 minutes early then I will be expected to stay late if a call over-runs. This put me off balance, if there is one thing I never do it is log-off early. I refuted this allegation. “well I’ve got evidence” was my managers reply. I decided that enough was enough, I said that 5 minutes was on the table, we’d trial it for a week and review… and there the meeting ended. I got back to my desk and immediately left for my break.

As I walked round the grim streets surrounding the call-centre in an attempt to cool off, I reflected that the meeting had been a disaster. I was shocked at how confrontational it had got certainly nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. I’d billed it as the showdown, so maybe part of the blame for this was mine, I certainly felt I’d got sucked into a tit-for-tat argument, in fact it was like a bad call. My manager should have known better though, surely they should be adept at diffusing situations not arriving at the party with several loaded guns? As I turned back toward the call-centre I wondered just how much the meeting will accelerate my exit.

I was certainly no longer in the mood for confrontation when I got back to my desk, but my manager approached. “Can you take a look at this and sign it” It was a brief outline of the discussion, I turned it over a few times, usually I just sign these things and file them in the bottom of my drawer, but I had a feeling this document may be pulled out at a later date so I asked for a couple of amendments. My manager then presented me with a list of times, some had been marked with pink highlighter, the ones where I’d been late back from breaks. Another sheet marked with highlighter was she said evidence I had logged-off early. I decided to take a closer look, my eye unfamiliar with the layout I asked her to explain…

“well this see.. you took your last call at 17 minutes past.. the call lasted 10 minutes, so you should have been able to take another call in those 3 minutes”

“but, does it say I logged out”

“no”

“So then it just says that I’m not available to take a call”

“yep, you had just under 3 minutes”

“Well as the call was 10 minutes that suggests it may have been quite involved, maybe I was doing something on the system, or an enquiry form”

“but, that could have been done during the call”

“but we can’t say, the data you’ve given me doesn’t say what the call was for, or what I did, why I did it or anything else at all. That’s the problem with quantitative data like this that’s the point I’ve been trying to make.”

My manager was exceedingly unhappy with this “well if you get a call like that and are doing an enquiry form then I want it on my desk and I want you to write how long it’s taken you to do the form written on it.”

I’m considering my next move….

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