The Call Centre: Adventures in Depression

by Mr Uku

EDIT >> I don’t normally do this, but on re-reading this piece I’d ask you to ignore the bits about the TV show. It really isn’t relevant to the rest of the piece other than it reminded me of what an awful time I had.
As you were.

This week BBC3 began showing a new series called, The Call Centre. It’s based in the call centre of a company in Swansea who are responsible for those cold calls you get that make you want to vomit a slew of obscenities down the phone at the idiot who has rang you several times that week already.

I didn’t watch it. And having read Grace Dent’s review in The Independent I’m glad I didn’t. The trailer was enough for me; but according to Ms. Dent, a person who normally love trashy TV, it was much worse than the trailer would have you believe.

The boss of this call centre is a man called Nev. Nev likes to force his staff to sing karaoke each morning to get them in the mood. Nev likes to throw office items at his staff if they yawn because he finds it offensive. Nev likes to humiliate his staff if their personal life is getting them down.

Nev is lucky to be alive.

I worked in call centres for several years and while I didn’t experience any manager as bad as Nev, I did have an awful time of it. But it didn’t start out that way.

I used to really enjoy it. In fact my managers were amazed that I was one of the very few members of staff who would often tell them how much I loved working there. We didn’t do cold calling, we were placing orders for people who rang up. It was flowers at first, then home furnishings. Then I was put on a team to help push the new website and advise customers how to use it. I trained the rest of the call centre, designed the entire training program and wrote the manual for staff to keep with them. I did the same thing for the new food ordering system and even travelled to that London to test the improvements they had made.

Then it all went to shit.

I don’t know why exactly. It just sort of came over me one day. Maybe it was building up but I didn’t notice. The first I knew about it was when I was being bundled off to the recovery room they use for people who have suddenly become a bit sick.

I was not sick.

I was nothing.

I’d been in work for a few hours and had been a bit quiet. I’d logged out of my computer  and been for my break and was now sat at my desk. But I wasn’t doing anything. I was simply sat there trying to log onto my computer. I say trying, I mean I was sat there but the thought of turning that thing on and taking another call was too much.

I also couldn’t speak and my face had gone grey. So off to the recovery room I went.

When I came back I was sent home on the understanding I would go to the doctors. This I did and he prescribed a couple of weeks off.

A couple of weeks later I felt brilliant and came back to work all raring to go and everything. I lasted about 30 minutes. I went home again and went back to the doctors. This time I was put on anti-depressants and given three months off.

Being off was great. Being on drugs was great too. But all I could think about was the impending return to work and that didn’t fill me with fun thoughts.

When I went back I was put on light duties.  That meant no difficult calls and a lot more emails. It should have been easy, but it wasn’t. I was loaded up on Citalopram which controlled the depression but I still had to cope with the insanity of the call centre. And that mostly meant managers who didn’t know what they were doing.

We had a supervisor who was younger than everyone on the team and who was more interested in pushing her career forward than in looking after us. We had a morale problem that was “solved” by turning Friday into “Thank Crunchy it’s” Friday. This involved giving everyone a fun size crunchy bar each Friday but being told you weren’t to eat it at your desk because of health and safety. I had HR sending me to be tested by the company medics in case my own doctor was lying about my condition. And I had all my senior advisor advantages dropped so I was no longer training people or being given the interesting jobs away from the phones.

On top of that we had a call centre manager who decided to improve morale by greeting everyone in a cheery manner. This involved her shouting “MORNING!” in a sing song, fake cheerful style, each and every day to each and every person.

I’d be lying if I said that every morning I heard that voice, I wasn’t sick in my mouth. It was without a doubt, the worst, WORST way of starting my day. And being told to cheer up didn’t help. I barely managed to stop myself from lashing out.

Maybe now you understand why I decided to not watch The Call Centre. If I’d been working with Nev and his forced singing, his throwing staplers at people who yawn and his humiliation of his staff, I would have smashed the fuckers face into a bloody pulp before writing my letter of resignation on the wall using his own entrails.

The world of the call centre does not need twats like Nev. The job is awful enough without having to put up with managers like that.

As for me, I decided to leave that call centre and get a job at a different call centre. I figured a change would do me good.

Despite a earning more money and having a very attractive team leader, I lasted three months before I started throwing up every other day.  Then I found myself struggling to log onto my PC again and I decided it was time to call it a day. Call centres were clearly not for me.

So I left to put up with the idiots at the job centre who think they know more than a doctor and who, while claiming to help you find work, actually just threaten to stop your benefits and pay no attention to your own needs and wants. But my rant about those cunts can wait for another day.

I now work from home. It’s ace. I still get bouts of depression, but I can more easily see them coming and do something about it.

I will never EVER work in a call centre again. Certainly not while there are fuckwits like Nev about. Never again will I have to listen to some idiot of a manager try to improve moral by faking cheerfulness. Never again will I be encouraged to live the brand. Never again will I have to sit through a presentation aimed at making me love the company like it was my family. Never again will I be able to flirt with my sexy manager… I knew there’d be a downside.

How depressing

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Viv June 8, 2013 at 10:59 am

Thank you for sharing the side of you that doesn’t default to rampaging monkeys or cephalopods.
I understand. xx

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Mr Uku June 8, 2013 at 11:02 am

Maybe it explains it 🙂

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leslie (crookedstamper) June 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

Oh, man, I couldn’t do that job day after day. At least you weren’t the cold-callers. That job HAS to suk. I’m glad you can work from home now.

Oh, and my job is like Office Space. I love that movie!

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Mr Uku June 8, 2013 at 11:19 am

I would (and have) always refuse to do any cold calling.
Not sure I’ve seen Office Space. I’ll have to look it up.

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Rosalind Adam June 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

Sounds rather like the way I left full time teaching. You’re making me feel guilty for being so horrible to cold callers though.

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Mr Uku June 8, 2013 at 11:26 am

It’s hard to know how to react to cold callers. After all they are bloody annoying, but they are also only doing a job that they probably hate.
Luckily, I suspect many of them know they’re being annoying and don’t care so I wouldn’t feel too guilty. Especially since most operations are only vaguely legal anyway.
But now I’m getting off topic 🙂

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Nettie June 8, 2013 at 12:21 pm

A brave and honest post, Gary.

You’re far too kind, funny and clever for these places. And now you’re at home all day, you have Rachel Riley to make you smiley.

Nx

P.S. I woz hacked.

Reply

Mr Uku June 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

You forgot awesome.

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Pete June 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I avoided it too. Too many memories of awful people in real life.

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Mr Uku June 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

There are some things you’re better of leaving behind.

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Rosie June 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Nev needs to shut in a room surrounded by constantly ringing phones that have all have cold callers on the end and no way to make them stop while screens show him everything that is wrong with the world.
And then covered in bread and put in a room of seagulls.
My call centre doesn’t have someone like Nev but my manager is an idiot who told everyone the other day that we all HAVE to be friends whether we
like it or not. You know what bitch, you can’t make me

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Mr Uku June 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

It seems to take a special kind of idiot to become a manager.

Reply

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