Friday, September 24, 2004

Friday Afternoon Lull

So it's friday afternoon. The email queues are empty, all free donuts have been eaten, Metafilter has been extensively browsed, and when boredom set in I even looked at the technical support procedures on the Intranet. These tell me quite a lot about how I should do my job. Trouble is, my supervisor never mentioned the documents and in fact some of the things he told me are different from the documents.
No do I go the extra mile and try to conform to the policy, and furthermore do I go and disturb my supervisor, who will not have the time for me new start since he'll be busy with his reports, to get a crystal clear idea of which should be logged as what - or do I wait until someone finally gets round to reviewing my support emails (which I started sending two weeks ago), and in the meantime contribute to the inconsistency of the database like so many of my colleagues. My German work ethics would demand the first, and even though I'll probably do the first, it seems like so much self-inflicted pain for nothing. At this company I've been given a desk and a salary and then some generally very, very vague instructions on how to proceed, and for the rest of the time it's basically as if I don't exist (to my supervisors - the colleagues are excellent). Since they have so many employees I feel reduced to a very, very small unit. The unit has been bought and put into a place into the apparatus; sets of policies and procedures have been installed in the unit; input and output channels have been connected; by all rational calculation the unit should by now start functioning.
However if your supervisor and generally NOONE gives you the feeling that they have a good overview and a clear sense of direction, or for that matter any enthusiasm for what is being done or is to be done, and they basically ignore you - it feels like the company doesn't give a fuck about you, the unit.
Which is probably a pretty close approximation of the actual facts.

It is true, there is a lot of fluctuation. Almost nobody here seems wanting to stay "forever", or as Ali (an Algerian guy) put it: "You always know: One day I will leave." Then he said: "Fuck, in two months I'm gonna be in Canada."

I first promised the company to stay for at least a year (I had to, they were offering me a "permanent position") - then in the first week when it revealed its ugly, american, fascist machinelike face to me I was pretty close to quitting then and there, seeing the obsession to log everything, watch the worker's computer screens, this whole apparatus which is placed above human qualities like communcation and common sense (the concept of "softskills" actually never made sense before I came to this place - I thought everybody had them, but boy was I in for a surprise).

However now I know the place where we do the technical support is much different from the place where they do customer care for the global players. It seems like an oasis compared to what appears like some sort of modern western sweatshop (actually the "emotional work" in the callcenter has been said to be "the new factory's work" of this century).
I'm easier and have promised myself to stay for six months at least, after which I will have access to super-cheap (and legal) copies of highly demanded popular software, and get a pay rise.

But I feel like I can quit anytime. I fight the urge to become too comfortable in what is, effectively a cushy (if slightly spirit-crushing) job. I feel best when I remind myself that there is a huge gap between this place, where I have arbitrarily put myself, and my person, that I don't belong. Take a step back in your own mind, and when you see things laid out before you you can play.

Anyway what I was going to say is that despite nice material conditions I don't feel obliged to this company any longer, at all. Just the way I have been treated at the beginning shows that they don't feel obliged to me, period. It is an ice cold rational pay-for-work relationship, with the possibility to be terminated withhin one week during the first six months. The unit can be chucked out at anytime should its performance not "live" up to expectations.

Furthermore - the training I've received so far is a mess, or rather, it was left completely up to me to train myself. Which wasn't that bad. I enjoy getting paid for reading books about software for four weeks and I was interested in getting to know these eight tools products. My mind seems to map software very well, even after years I still know which button or checkbox does what in the third submenu of a submenu of a submenu.
I was a bit pissed off, when, after a month had passed, they suddenly turned up with a schedule and asked me to do it again.

Today I took one hour off for lunch instead of half an hour (and I was 10 minutes late this morning). For that, I haven't received so much as a comment from anybody.
I don't really know this corporate culture, maybe in their way of doing things they will just come up with disciplinary measures. That would be like these people: Not saying a single word to me themselves (which would expose them - to communication, as a human being...) but rather let the rules and regulations do the work.

What they would really like you to do is internalize the rules and regulations; so when they sit inside your head you will give yourself disciplinary hearings. They're trying to nourish a fear of the apparatus, so for example when Training Mum came to tell me about a new rule (i.e. asking the customer at the end of the call if he was satisfied), at the end of her speech she said: "This will be taken into the monitoring parameters - you know that all the calls are monitored, right? So they will notice if you leave it out. And are you familiar with the concept of mistakes and fatal mistakes?" ... What the fuck - please! I'll do it if you ask me nicely, but just laying down the rule like "it's the rule now and you should adhere to it or you will get fucked by the system - and by the way I have nothing to do with it" pisses me off.

Training mum just passed me by and flashed a slightly pained smile. I'm getting paranoid, time for the weekend...

So I'll close my trusty firefox browser now. I've done the following things to it to make it look like and email window:
- disable all the toolbars
- download an extension called "Web Developer"
- with the help of the extension, disable images, animations, page colours, javascript and styles. Nicely reduces a web page to pure text. This is actually quite relaxing...
- Changed the windows colours so the application status bar will be in the same grey as the outlook bars
- resized the firefox window so it fits into the outlook new mail window, the lower part, where you write the mail.

This is since I'll be fucked if they ever see me using "SUCKS business assets for other than work purposes", AND decide to actually, for one time, follow up on the rules.

Cheers for the weekend me hearties!


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