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Workplace absuridities as phone support for a DSL ISP.

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) writes | more than 8 years ago

Businesses 16

This journal entry isn't about customers that call in, despite the numerous ijits out there that deserve to be mocked.

No, it's about the company I work for, specifically the bosses.

Yesterday, I recieved an email saying that "Firefox is on the list of banned software, and there will be disciplinary repercussions if anyone is caught using it."

This journal entry isn't about customers that call in, despite the numerous ijits out there that deserve to be mocked.

No, it's about the company I work for, specifically the bosses.

Yesterday, I recieved an email saying that "Firefox is on the list of banned software, and there will be disciplinary repercussions if anyone is caught using it."

Nevermind that all our webapps suck ass, or that I've spent time on and off the clock for the past 3 months, in between calls, trying to make it work with them. Bless you, greasemonkey.

Don't even consider, that on average, my calltimes have to be at least 1 minute shorter because of firefox. I have a single window open, not 20 IE windows. I've not only fixed the webapps, but extended them... when I pull up your phone number, I see all the information that I'd spend the next few minutes (and in a few select cases, the next 15-20 minutes) looking for in a mix of shared drive documents, webapps, and even printed out documents. That one CO location with the abbreviation that doesn't match its name, and since everyone on night shift has only been there 2 months, they can never figure out which... our main webapp now sports a button that I click, to log into it. 15 minutes reduced to 3 seconds.

If you've wandered through our phone menu and gotten lost, I can see immediately if you have our dialup or dsl, or if you're just a telephone only customer... I don't waste the next 60 seconds figuring this out before I transfer you.

So, why would this be a problem? Well, apparently, I let the wrong person test an older version of the greasemonkey script that even makes the webapp work at all. And it opened a ticket, but didn't save the comments. Now mind you, you only have to re-edit the ticket, add them again (and the guy should have noticed, it doesn't whisk you away to another page, it shows the saved ticket there after saving it). Also, consider this: we screw up alot of tickets. On average, a dozen a day, I'd think. Someone using IE forgets to put his comments/notes in, or schedules the wrong person to work on it, or doesn't send it back to the company that wholesales the phone lines when its their problem.

We screw up hundreds of tickets every year. The first one ever screwed up by firefox, because I didn't quite fix the webapp perfectly on one of the earlier beta greasemonkey scripts, and firefox simply can't be tolerated.

So, I go and ask my boss (think her title is Director, never spoken to her before) if she could spare a few minutes to talk to me.

I'm polite, I don't start screaming, or spouting ideological rhetoric. I simply state that this would be a hardship, and would impact my productivity. I explain how the enhancements I've made improve my calltimes, how I've got literally dozens upon dozens of saved passwords in firefox (that IE doesn't save), that I'd spend the next couple of months having helpdesk change for me, or that I'd have to look up in documents no one can find.

What do I get? Do I get anything like the minimal respect that a 30 yr old man is entitled to? That a human being is entitled to? How about because I'm a worker making shit wages who took it upon himself to actually try and improve things there, even just a little? No. I'm treated like a child in grade school. This from a woman that can't be 5 years older than I.

"Now I hate to do anything that would decrease your productivity, but I can't very well let you use it and prohibit it for everyone else."

This is ridiculous. She can say that. She's not giving out candy to kindergarteners, she is saying which workers can use which tools. At construction sites, do you have one guy whining that he wants to use the crane today, that Jimbob got to use it yesterday? Fucking ludicrous.

Side note: She thinks that "E" is the name of the web browser we are supposed to be using, because of the icon...

Finally, I somehow manage to pour more on, without whining (imo). She relents, and I won't be written up as long as "there's not another single incident of it creating a bad ticket".

So, I investigate a little further, after our talk. Seems it was just as I describe, it didn't save the comments (if indeed, he simply didn't forget to type them in). It didn't create some invalid ticket that fucked up the database, and it was caught that very same day.

There are several problems here:

1) A director managing a technical department that knows so litte, she can't name the web browser she uses.

2) The applications department isn't giving us the tools we need to do our job.

3) Making your own tools isn't praised as resourcefulness, it's punished for a single instance of a flaw that is so trivial that the triviality can not be over-emphasized.

4) This proclamation/rule/policy implies that my calltimes aren't important, and the corollary that our abandonment rate is not important either. That has a corollary too, which is that helping our customers isn't important... if they hang up before I can talk to them, then I'm not helping them.

5) It suggests that the managerial groupthink tends towards something I would describe as "militaristic", that is, it is more important I do what I'm told, rather than I've given a problem and left to my own devices to solve that problem.

6) It never ocurred to her that if it can reduce my calltimes, with as much experience as I have (seniority in just 6 months, kind ridiculous eh?), then it might also improve calltimes all-around, especially for the new guys. Not only would I not have to put a customer on hold every 30 seconds to answer them when they ask which CO an abbreviation is (they'd just click that button), they wouldn't have to put a customer on hold to ask me.

7) They're (by this, I mean the director and 2 supervisors) concerned with calltimes and abandonment rates, but only have managerial talents at their disposal to solve those problems. Not only do they not have the technical talent to solve these problems, they can't even recognize technical solutions when they see them.

I don't work here by choice, I'm paying down 5 figure credit card bills from when I was unemployed. Last payment is this month, after which my girlfriend and I will be debt free. My other job pays better, is telecommuting, and I can work in my underwear if I so wish. I don't know if I will continue to work the second job (would be nice to actually put away some savings for once), but the real question is, how can I?

Next time you're on hold for an hour because your DSL is down for the third time in a month, remember that your ISP chases away workers like myself.

16 comments

DSL (1)

rkrabath (742391) | more than 8 years ago | (#12760518)

Could you possibly explain what a PADT tag is and why a D-Link router I have to support keeps droping connections because of them?

Re:DSL (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 8 years ago | (#12760608)

PADT is something we don't deal with. Has to do with PPPoE. My guess is that the Dlink PPPoE implementation is buggy as hell, but that's just a guess. For static IPs, Dlinks seem to be the best around. Linksys routers on static tend to stop passing traffic after a few weeks or months of uptime, I suspect they do so even more than I've seen, but it's random drops here and there, so less noticeable. One call I took, was failing to pass any 6x.x.x.x traffic, no idea what was going on there, reboot fixed it though.

If at all possible, I highly recommend temporarily switching (temporary being for up to 2 weeks or so) to an old linux box. Keep checking tcpdump on both the ppp0 and eth0 interface, hopefully you'll be able to see what's going on. This is of course, supposing that you aren't losing sync at all. On Verizon modems (think they usually use the westel's), this would be the "DSL" light. If it goes dark, or even starts blinking, then it's another problem entirely. Reply if that's the case, and maybe I can give some more advice.

Re:DSL (1)

rkrabath (742391) | more than 8 years ago | (#12825724)

Thanks for the reply.

I was thinking that it was a Dlink thing as well. That's what most of the web has been concluding.

Unfortunatly, I don't really have the time to figure this all out. It's volounteer, and they are switching to my companies point to point wireless service anyway.

Thanks again!!!

ijits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12768808)

Have you stopped to think the problem with your situation is *you*. You'd still be bitching and have a bad attitude no matter where you worked.

Those 'ijits' you referred to, pay your salary. People like you are why I'm becoming more and more careful in my hiring process.

Re: ijits? (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 8 years ago | (#12769057)

First, they don't pay me salary. They pay me wages.

Second, being able to employ others is no proof that you're not an idiot.

Third, the people that I imply are ijits, they aren't the ones signing my paycheck either. In particular, they're people who have been promoted past me despite their inability to even do the job I do, let alone anything more complicated (if management can be said to be such).

Fourth, your understanding of what attitude is is lacking. A lone man on a desert island does not have attitude. Attitude is an interaction between two people, that's why you can think that person A has an attitude, while someone else misses it entirely. Next time you think someone has an attitude, try thinking about how you are enabling that interaction.

Mind you, if my thinking skills were as unrefined as yours apparently are, then I would think that your own post here is indicative of an 'attitude'. But perhaps you do think you have one yourself, with this. If that's the case, why are you allowed to have an attitude, but I am not? Because you have the money to hire people?

Fifth, I've never considered myself a problem. To me, problems are things that you solve. Call times are too long, that's a problem. Call abandonment rates are too high, that's a problem. Joe over there, he isn't doing the work we need done... that's not a problem, that's a hiring error. I've always done my work, more than was asked of me. For you, problems and people you don't like are all one big fuzzy glob, impossible to distinguish between the two. Inability to work with people you don't like, that shows inability to concentrate, prioritize or behave professionaly.

Sixth, it's impossible to know if I'd still bitch no matter where I was. Claiming that is unfair, I have no way to disprove it in any reasonable way.

Seventh, don't you consider it strange that for several months, working with another supervisor, I had no bad attitude at all? For someone who thinks attitude is a monolithic personality flaw, I'd think that would stand out a bit.

Eighth, please, by all means, continue trying to hire people that are the polar opposite of me. I'd like to see you fail. Or barring that, spare others like me any contact with yourself.

Ninth, register an account and quit being such a pussy. I have strong words, but at least there is something like a name attached to them.

Re: ijits? (1)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 8 years ago | (#12769992)

I was going to flame the grandparent, but I resist.

This stuff is textbook bad management. I saw the kuro5hin article and I think I'll send a link to the professor of career class Clemson has for computer types. He likes telling these stories, they're useful examples.

The most useful advice I can think of is to first get a physical copy of your job description signed by both you and your immediate superior that you can later point to and say, "I'm not paid to do that." Doing this and maybe being open and honest to him about the apparent personality conflict will, if nothing else, scare him when he realizes you're -- how should I say it? -- of greater constitution than him and you're taking this pretty seriously.

Second, the "E" character, if she's indeed responsible for the banned software thing, is making decisions she's not qualified to make and her boss should be consulted (after you've told this to her, of course, to give her the chance to desist). You might also want to talk to her about personality conflicts between yourself and the newb to see if she can transfer you into a different department (since it sounds like other departments do some of the same stuff).

Since it sounds like you're in the right here: if neither of the two concede any points then they're just as much asshats as the grandparent poster.

what isp (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 8 years ago | (#12768833)

Re:what isp (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 8 years ago | (#12769093)

Because I'm not a lawyer, and I'm uncertain just where the line is drawn for libel or other similar actionable things.

Even if I knew where the line is drawn, it seems companies manage to sue and win well before it is reached.

And, if you really, really must know, shouldn't be too much trouble to figure it out. But I'm not going to help.

Thanks (1)

gvonk (107719) | more than 8 years ago | (#12772830)

Hey there- Just a note of support. I work in IT as well, but in a consulting position unrelated to your field. I've been impressed by the few phone reps I've encountered in my life that resemble you. The funny thing is, their defining trait isn't even the technological prowess you seem to possess. It's just their demeanor and their ability to meet my needs. Plain and simple.

I get DSL service from my phone company, and couldn't be less satisfied. I have dealt with a constantly-dropped connection for the last 6 months, mainly because a few weeks in, I gave up trying to get help from any of the clueless techs on the other end of the line. I constantly have to reboot my router and they seem completely unable to help me figure out if it's the connection, the modem, the router, or some combination of the three.

Every time I call, the person on the phone with a pathetic grasp of the English language makes me traipse through a 5-minute script of "Ok, Sir, please to unplug your modem from the wall for 60 seconds please..." (Which I started performing from the sofa with a bowl of popcorn after the 5th call.)

Anyway, I'm counting the 36 days until we move and get cable modem service and I get to deal with a *different* bunch of idiots. I just wanted to give you props for being one of the shining examples of behavior that should be lauded, but is apparently heavily discouraged. Know that your clueful, patient, non-threatening customers appreciate it.

same here... (1)

schizacopf (768954) | more than 8 years ago | (#12782694)

I have had a similar situation... though I didn't need the work. I was laid off due to a merger. I had the option of moving to DC, or taking 6 months severance. I opted for the severance, of course. I sat around the house for about a week and then got bored. A friend of mine told me that Verizon (actually Coleman and Associates) were hiring and that I should go with him. I said OK... -- Insert your story here! Bottom line is, we ended up going to lunch and not going back. They called us later that night and told us not to come in. To tell you the truth... I wasn't planning on coming in. You can not treat people like that. Callcenters have such a high turn-over rate because these companies invest in quantity instead of quality. Managers should "lead" not manage. They should invest in their employee's and trust them. I mean why hire someone you can't trust?

Re:same here... (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 8 years ago | (#12782934)

Because "trust" is something you scare into an employee. They're basically little children in big adult bodies. That's why you put up tropical island themed posters on all the walls, hang crepe paper palm trees from the ceiling down every cube row, and tell people that if they get compliments from customers they can win a toy!

The letters/emails are even taped to the wall outside the teacher's office. Oh, I mean director. But you get the idea.

Re:same here... (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 8 years ago | (#12783605)

Add a skeleton, chest full of fake gold, and a Jolly Roger and you could have a pirate themed office.

Yar! Bar morale be a keel hauling offense =]

Though it might lead to problems with some people trying to raid their attractive co-worker's booty *smirk*

(hey, a little humor is always positive in cases like this)

It isn't just help desk (1)

puzzled (12525) | more than 8 years ago | (#12792991)


That sort of behavior isn't unique to helpdesk. Humans are, after all, just large primates. You have an alpha male brain and that is threatening to all of the also-rans that end up in managerial roles. They will *always* prefer failure to listening to someone with a slot lower than theirs on the org chart.

Nine days ago I was standing in an office with no DSL service. The company had been down for four days, the technician had just told me that we were 20k feet from the wire center, the test set would train at the box at 19k feet, and that even with bonded wires she couldn't get it into our office. She then advised me that they were planning to install a DSLAM much closer to us in thirty days. These, for the uninitiated, are big hints that nothing was going to happen for us until that DSLAM install was done. I asked very nicely if they'd give us ISDN until the DSL stuff was done and she looked like a horse had just stepped off her foot - it was going to take a little bit of work and a $125 used Cisco 1604, but it could be done.

The company president was there and he felt the need to not only be in charge but also to exclude me due to my 'bad attitude' about the move process. He threw the cutest little low key temper tantrum over the cost of the ISDN router, vowed that the carrier was going to pay for it (DSL department gets a totally separate division to loan equipment and service for thirty days? Riigghhttttt), and proceeded to derail any chance of the carrier just giving us ISDN. Keep in mind this was all happening at 12:30 on a Friday after having been down (no billable hours) for a week. I got up and prepared to go home so I could get some work done. He got all righteous and said "You're leaving?". I said "Yes". He said "You really need to consider whether you want to continue working here ..."

I considered. I was a contractor. I'd taken in perhaps $120k in equipment sales and consulting in the previous twelve months, 95% of that coming from things other than my cooperative marketing agreement with the assclown president's company. I held two thirds of the paper necessary to make the company a Cisco Premier Partner. I had all of the Open Source mojo and I was the only one with a voice background.

I waited until 5:30 when I knew all the marketing weasels would be out drinking, came back, and I stripped the place clean of any of my gear.

The vice president and technical guy whom I like got back the next Monday, said some bad words, then sent me an email asking me to come back. I wasn't privy to the bad words, but I'm guessing there was a fairly short, pointed explanation on the replacement cost of a unix guru who helps CCIEs with the hard stuff.

That sort of conduct is a warning sign and there were some other undercurrents prior to this event. I set my stuff up in my basement, contacted some of my usual accomplices, and I'll have my very own Cisco Premier Partner with a much lower assclown quotient some time in the next thirty days - just a few trivial exams for my boys to pass and then we're rolling. Next week I see my favorite investor and maybe I'm managing a new regional VoIP carrier that'll be feeding equipment sales and consulting business from customers to me.

I really feel for you - I've been in that very situation over the last fifteen years with Qwest, First Data Corporation, Experian, and the U.S. Postal Service - I'm not nearly as patient as you and I'm blessed with some natural talent and a string of opportunities that have made me largely independent.

Free yourself from assclowns using whatever means you have available, then go and help the others ...

Collective sigh... Management types always suck... (1)

pjt48108 (321212) | more than 8 years ago | (#12800946)

I had similar problems, and I was working in a freakin' PUBLIC LIBRARY...

I was the one and only, sole, lonely tech person in the place. I was underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated. Never mind that I taught myself my whole job (went from neophyte to self-taught Linux/OSS evangelist, etc.), even before my job existed officially. Ack, so much I could bitch about...

Anyhow... Not much I could do about any of that, so when my frustrations finally spilled over into an email to my fellow adminstrators (librarians all, and not a brain to share amongst them), my boss, the relatively new library director, stepped forward to see what she could do to make my job easier.

I was ready. I had a STACK of documentation which showed plainly that I was underpaid. It was thoroughlt researched, unimpeachable data. I clearly demonstrated that, after four years in the job (starting out wondering what Windows registry was, ending up an OSS evangelist), I was underpaid by 12k what entry level tech made in similar libraries in our library cooperative.

She replied later with some half-assed data that 'showed' that I was out of my mind, apparantly... From the stink of the data, I had to know where she pulled it from. Of course, this was data collected in a fashion that typically causes networks and web sites to distance themselves with a stern, "this is not a scientific poll..." statement.

Anyhow, to shorten my tale of woe, she says "I'll take it to the board," meaning the board of trustees, who have to approve salary raises, etc.

One month passes, I email her asking if there is any traction on the matter. No response.

Two months pass, I email again. Again, no response.

Three months in, I email her, saying I figure I'll have to take it upon myself to go before the trustees.

More fool I, as my annual review was coming up, and this petulant little passive-aggressive churchmouse of a stereotypical librarian is simply laying in wait for it...

Now, I'd had three glowing annual reviews before she took over running the outfit. What are the first two things she says to me in my review?

First: "I don't know what it is that you do." This was followed by an hour of reaming me for what she admitted knowing nothing about.

Second (and this was the pisser): "I said I'd take your pay issue to the board; I didn't say when."

Well, apart from other things I could go on ranting over for hours, I'll make this long story short by saying that the bitch had my resignation within a week. She was one big freakin' sad sack case on my last day, while my fellow workers--the library pages and clerks, etc.--feted me with a going-away cake and cards, she sat across the lunchroom table from me looking as if I'd peed in her Ovaltine and she had no way to PROVE it.

So, I feel your pain. Unfortunately, every time I apply for a job, it is an opportunity for her to answer that call asking "Would you hire him again?" And I KNOW what she must be saying...

Take it easy, and good luck in your future ventures.

I feel your pain (1)

SlipstreamBRO (892184) | more than 8 years ago | (#12818779)

I worked for a Transportation Company in the Operations Department. It has alot of the same management issues. I ended up leaving due to illness after their FMLA obligations were fulfilled. Not saying much coming from a "Christian" based business. It's hard to work for something you believe in when the rest of the team including the top tier execs don't want to actually help anyone besides their pocket. I wish I could work jst in my underoo's, but I haven't been able to find a job yet that can pay the bills. I gotta go to school & get that degree still. CONGRATS ON GETTING OUT OF DEBT, BTW!!!

Easy solution (1)

The Spoonman (634311) | more than 8 years ago | (#12836078)

Next time she's out on vacation, install Firefox onto her machine and install FireFoxIE [firefoxie.net] which makes it look and act pretty damn close to IE. Change the icon so she gets her "E" back, and wait. After a couple of days, you have two choices:

1) Saunter into her office one day while she's browsing the web, and happen to "notice" her IE doesn't look right and do a Help->About to reveal it's really Firefox. Make a big to-do about how she's using a tool banned by the company. Make sure your coworkers can hear it.

2) The better option: contact the applications department anonymously and give them a tip about her use of a "banned with consequences" application. Smile smugly as you watch her carry her personal items out to the car while escorted by security.

The simple fact of the matter is, there's no way you can ever win. If something doesn't work, you're a complainer for pointing it out. If someone else notices something that doesn't work, you're a failure for not picking up on it.

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