Saturday, July 24, 2021

Stream of Consciousness I: The Job

 On my first day of vacation, I am thinking about my job.

You're not supposed to do that, obviously. Once that quitting time whistle sounds, you slide down the dino's back and land in your paleojalopy (how DOES that back wheel stay put?) and wipe your mind free of all workaday pressures. A clean Slate, you might say.

It's not a bad job, as jobs ago. Actually, it's cushy as hell -- something many other agents fail to recognize or appreciate. It makes me wonder where else these people have worked. In every retail job I have ever had, there has been a dearth of communication somewhere, either within the store or between the store and head office. Walmart has nine different petty manager-gods in every store, with nine competing agendas. Customers blame you for every out of stock (because you did that, personally) and at least outside Walmart, the attitude on breaks ranges from "break? waddat?" to "well, you can take your break or you can do all this work, ahem." At 7-Eleven, at least at some stores, you don't get breaks at all. 

I had one boss at FreshCo who got the equivalent of at least one full-timer in free labour every week out of us and who refused to pay overtime. I had a boss at Walmart who refused an urgent, immediate plea for help by saying "I've worked thirty seven years so I don't have to do this shit anymore".  I had a boss at 7-Eleven whose mission in life it was, I am absolutely convinced, to make every employee cry. She constantly accused her employees of theft: ironic, because as it turns out, she was the one who was stealing from the company. At Green Gables my boss was my mother. Enough said. 

Is this a perfect job? Of course not. Probably the biggest annoyance is the schedule: it changes frequently and there are very few shifts available that match my desires (day shifts with weekends off). But that's not my employer's fault: it's an issue inseparable from call centres. Ditto "shift bids", the mechanism by which the good agents get the good shifts: they're arbitrary, never seem to show up or come into effect when we're told they will, and there is zero flexibility. 

I am, he said modestly, a good agent. I'm not the best on the floor, but I'm up there. My drive is to secure one of those few decent shifts, but I have a competing drive to just do the job correctly that stands me in good stead come shift bid time. 

It's mostly because I genuinely enjoy my job. I love that there is no supervision: do the tasks correctly and your boss will check in with you once a week: "any questions?" "nope." "Brilliant, keep it up." And that's the end of my interaction with my boss for another week. It honestly doesn't bother me that the tasks are repetitious: there is enough variation within the tasks themselves to keep it interesting.

 And it's amazing how much you can memorize. Replacing an electronic gift card is probably the most intensive common task I see (two or three a shift). There are something like 47 steps. and rattling off a new gift card in nine minutes flat is a point of pride. (A former colleague claims he could do it in six minutes. He might not even be lying, but I have no desire to go any faster and can't imagine how I would, anyway. I haven't missed the average handle time target since sometime in late March.)

Another big reason I'm good at what I do: I learned from some of the best people I have ever worked with, anywhere. Most of them have moved on now (Tess, Jamieson, Maryanne, Liam,  Rae, Amanda and Opal and Jayden and Gwilym and so many others.) However they may feel about the company and the job, I'm grateful I got to work with them. Deeply grateful. There are good people in every job, but I can truthfully say there are an inordinate number of special people at this one. 

I was being groomed as a trainer before chat got amputated from our site. I'm torn between pursuing that path in Order Support -- I do love teaching -- or staying right where I am. I've heard entirely too many horror stories. It makes a promotion less desirable than it might otherwise be. 

But that, too, is ubiquitous: with greater power comes much greater responsibility, and all the shit that attends it. I know of several Sobeys employees who became managers...and stepped down when they realized that even with the modest raise you get moving from hourly to salaried, the number of hours you're expected to put in every week means you actually take a pay cut. Between a little extra money and work-life balance, within reason, I'm going to pick the latter every time. 

Speaking of work/life balance, the seesaw has tipped towards "life". (Contented sigh)

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