Sunday, May 16, 2004

When Employees are smarter than the Managers

Jay Blalock reports on how he gets around his job's crackdown on outside reading material.

Jay is that rarest of birds: a person who works in a call center, and seems to actually enjoy it. I find this almost completely mindboggling: I worked in a small call-center for a year and a half and hated it. To this day, that's the only job I've had to which I did not feel the slightest guilt when I called in sick. (Which I didn't do often.)

The rules at my center were pretty much the same: no magazines or novels were allowed, although the site supervisor wasn't totally militant in enforcing this. My center was devoted to placing outgoing sales calls, so it wasn't like we had stretches of time between calls to take up by navel-gazing (Jay's operation is an inbound customer service center), but it could get pretty monotonous just the same, and a magazine or catalog or something often made the boredom palatable.

I worked at that job while I was in my "writing everything longhand" phase, so I tried doing my writing on the job, but it just didn't work well. I couldn't get a train of thought going on the stories or the novel, and if I did, I ended up spending an unacceptable amount of time off the phones. All in all, I'm glad I eventually realized that I am not geared toward a job in which my activity is actually measured in terms of minutes spent doing things, and not on actual things accomplished. I actually have far less chance to read on the job now than I did then, but that's fine with me. In my experience, managers who subscribe to the theory that a minute not spent on company business is a minute wasted are managers who will invent all manner of stupid busywork to fill all those minutes that obviously can't be devoted to generating sales and/or helping customers. Ninety percent of reports I've ever seen fall into this category.

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