Mewsings from Lowecat (aka Indianacat)

My rants, ravings, and overall 'mewsings' on life, the universe, and everything.

Friday, August 28, 2015

WTF Happened?

This kitteh's expression pretty much sums up how I felt around 1040AM this morning, when I received a tersely worded email from the supervisor/manager heading up this project I was contracting since 5 August.  It was the same expression that came over me just before 1PM when the account manager for the temp agency told me said manager wanted me removed from the project.  

Allow me to backtrack just a tad.  I landed a nice 60 day temp to perm position through a staffing agency here in Indy, doing outbound calls to get new members of health insurance to take a screening survey.  In doing the screening, the members would earn money to use for groceries, OTC meds, baby and/or personal care items.  Sweet deal.  Getting paid to make calls and ask incredibly personal questions of complete strangers five days a week and maybe land a perm position with the company.  No benefits, no guarantees, but it was a start. 

I should've known there'd be troubles ahead on orientation day, which was also training day (the only day of training).  Things just didn't seem very organized at orientation, as the HR person would start a video and walk away.  There were about 20 or so people in the session with me, but little did I know that another, larger group of people were being 'trained' for the job in the room next to us.  They would go through orientation in the afternoon while we were being trained.   A very large group being quickly trained on a few processes in two different segments made me nervous.  

The next day we report to the downtown location to begin the project.  We had our log ins, and some of us had access to the necessary database that would record our work.  Some of us, like myself, did not have said access on the 'first' day.  A few lucky people got to work in cubicles, but the majority of us were put in a large room, at long tables with computers and phone banks - much like the old telemarketing 'boiler rooms'.  It was crowded and it was noisy.  There were no subject matter experts or trainers to help anyone with questions.  Just the three managers who had been pulled out of their regular work to train us and manage us. 

 Most of the time, those managers were off in the cubicle area so that they had to be tracked down if a question arose.  It caused a lot of dissention and ill will in the 'boiler room'.  Things didn't improve when we had a mass meeting at the end of the work day and were informed by the lead manager, whom I will refer to as 'the bully' - told us that anyone not performing up to speed (100 - 125 calls made in the day) by Friday would be replaced.  

One of the other people without mainframe access asked about that situation, as we had been unable to make any calls unless we did so under a neighbor who had the access.  The bully stated lack of access wasn't an acceptible excuse, and wanted to know why no one had spoken up during the day to tell him. 

"A lot of us did look for you guys to tell you, but were unable to find you," I spoke up politely.  "I personally emailed all three of you, and one of the managers (I identified her as the lady with the mechanical hand because her name wasn't known to me) told me to call IT.  I did, and emailed you all with the results." 

"I get thousands of emails a day, you can't expect me to wade through them all and get back to you!" He retorted.  "It's your responsibility to make sure I am made aware of such issues!" 

We all shared the same look of shock and surprise.  I couldn't help thinking that any manager who expected his people to hunt for him when a problem arose was a sign of danger ahead.  

Fortunately, the next day, the mainframe access was available to us, as if by magic.  Who knew?  But now, instead of being able to load the new members the way we were originally taught, we had to rely on spreadsheets being sent to us to work from.  OK, I can deal with that.  It's a change, but it's just a minor thing.  Right?  

Some of the co workers made the mistake of returning their spreadsheets to him with color codings and notes.  Though he hadn't told us how he wanted them back, he expected them to be returned to him without colors, without notes, and with just the results of the three attempts we were to make (successful or unsuccessful and our names).  He blew a gasket and had a temper tantrum at all of us for not knowing what he wanted without him informing us.  

Yes, I said temper tantrum.  Now do you see why I refer to him as a bully.  

The next day, one of the other managers pulled me aside and warned me that I had to get 100 calls that day, or not come back.  

"Wait a minute, you only gave me one spreadsheet with 37 names on it, and didn't get it to me until after lunch, even though I tracked down all three of you to tell you that I had access!"  I protested, again politely.  

"Just smile and dial and don't waste time," was the response I was given.  

So I smiled, and dialed, while around me, a few rumblings and mumblings about the way we were being treated were going on.  I made the mistake of trying to show empathy/sympathy for the managers by reminding the group 'Hey, there's only the three of them to all of us.  I suspect this was kinda thrown at them last minute, so let's give 'em a chance."

Good going, Myra!  Great way to win friends amongst your co workers, you brown noser, you!.  But at the end of the day, I'd tripled the number of calls made, and felt I was safe.  Still, the bully's behavior and the warning about numbers worried me, and I contacted the staffing agency to let them know of my concerns about the training, the lack of access, the lack of helpers, and the general chaos - information the staffing agency said they appreciated having.  

So the next Monday, back to the 'boiler room' and the making of calls.  There was a lot of non productive conversations going on, a lot of cell phone use, and again, no subject matter experts or trainers to help us.  I just sat down, shut up, and smiled and dialed. By the middle of the week, cubicles had been found on the other two floors the company occupied, and things quieted down a bit.  No one had said anything to me about my production - or lack thereof - so I developed a system of tracking my own attempts and completed surveys, and reporting those numbers at the end of the day along with my completed, pristine and properly filled out spreadsheet.  

The work itself wasn't all that hard.  When I did get to do a screening, I always told the person being screened that 'I'm not here to make judgements based on your answers.  This information is simply to help us better help your doctor keep you well.  But, if a question makes you uncomfortable, just tell me, and we'll move along."  The person on the other end seemed to relax then, and instead of shooting out questions in a monosyllabic 'let's hurry up and get this done' tone, I actually interacted with the person I was speaking to.  It took the same amount of time as the rest of the group, but there was a sense that the person on the other end felt a connection.  I felt good about what I was doing. 

We as a group would get occasional emails with changes to the processes.  Not a big thing.  One of our problems was that the members we would call would show up in the state web eligibility system, but weren't loaded in our database, so we couldn't record the screening (if we were able to conduct the screening,that is.  We were to do a paper survey, and then enter the answers in later when the member was loaded in the database).  

If we came across a situation like that, we were to email the account number and the name of the member to all three managers.  Again, no big deal.  Until I sent one in as directed and got an email inquiry "Did you do the survey?"  

"No, the attempt to reach the person wasn't successful.  I left a message." 

"Please advise when you send these in whether you completed the survey or not going forward."  


So, on Tuesday, I sent in another one, and this time included below the name/account number "unsuccessful, invalid telephone number".

On Wednesday morning, I get this from the bully: 

Please do not send us an email for every error on your sheet.  You will just need to follow the process.  If the number is invalid please reach out the PMP office on file to get a valid number.  If you can not get one each time you reach that name on the sheet mark it unsuccessful.

Just to make sure we are on the same page.  Was there something about _______ email with the process that you did not understand because this is outlined in there?

I replied : 

This is the exact wording from _____________ email, so would you please tell me what I am missing?  Cause I’m doing precisely what she indicated: 

o  If the member shows eligible in web interchange but cannot be pulled up in ____you can do a paper HNS and send an email to ------------ so that we can get them sent over to be added. Keep the HNS to add at a later date, with members name and id# so you can find them later. Please lock those up at night.

These are the only emails I am sending at this time, pertaining to ‘errors’, just as instructed.  What has changed since this email went out to us?    A clarification would be appreciated and helpful.

M. Lowe

Unfortunately, I didn't include the addendum email from the third manager telling me to advise of the attempt.  You see what happenes when one assumes?  I assumed they would tell each other these things!  Silly me! 

So I get this in response:   

k and if you look at your email below you sent me an invalid number.  My emails says do not sendevery error off your sheet.  There is nowhere listed you should send invalid numbers.

Please let me know if you are still confused.

So I replied: 

No, what I was doing was showing that the attempt was an unsuccessful one, because _______ had asked on a previous email such as this if I had done the HRS or not.  I was simply trying to be professionally courteous in advising the attempt had been unsuccessful and why, so all y’all in management would not have to worry about PHI floating around.  

In future, I will just send the name/account number and not report the outcome of the attempt. 

M Lowe

It didn't take long for the bully to reply: 

Myra –

I need you to follow the instructions given to you by _________.  If you have any questions about those please call me ASAP at ______.  We have over 60 people and I am trying to streamline this work and need everyone doing the same thing.  At this time you are not.


It was at this point that I forwarded the volleys to my contact at the staffing agency.  

Just sending you a copy of back and forth email conversation between me and ______.  He is really working my last nerve with this thing.  Maybe it’s just me, but the whole tone of his responding email really set my teeth on edge. 

It would really be helpful if the management team would be on the same page. 

Guess this kind of thing will keep me from being offered perm with this place.  The newest email from ______ has me in tears at the moment. 

To which he replied: 


I’m going to forward this on to my manager for you. I’m currently out of the office till Friday. But she should be able to resolve any issues you’re having. I understand completely why you are upset.

A little later in the day, his boss emailed the following: 

Hi Myra,

I hope all is well. Jordan forwarded this email and asked I reach out to you. I apologize you’re upset and I’d be happy to speak with you after your shift today.

I’m sure _______ didn’t mean ill-will when responding. I know the management team is stretched quite thin at the moment with this large project, so my assumption is that he was responding quickly and directly. I don’t want you to be frustrated or feel like you aren’t valued, so please let me know what I can do. My recommendation is to no longer send emails for invalid numbers. Please let me know of any questions.

I literally did a head desk.  Why was everyone focusing on the invalid number thing?  It felt like a three ring circus all out of control.  I replied to that person that my shift didn't end until after 7, and she'd likely be gone for the day and explained (again) that the original email contained the acct # and name of the missing member, why I'd included the end result of the attempt, and that I was already not including that last bit of information.  No response came back from her.  

In response to the bully's last email before I forwarded all to the staffing agency, I replied to him:  

In answer to your comment about not following the process, here is WHY I went the extra mile for you folks.  To save you folks from having to make inquiries such as this. 

I won’t make that mistake again.


The body of the email was the correspondence between myself and the third manager.  

His response was: 

Thank you! 

No acknowledgement of the misinformation, no apology for the misunderstanding.  Just the two words.  

I replied, 'You're welcome", and forwarded the last volley to the contact.  

The rest of the day, I smiled and dialed, though yes, once in a while, I grumbled to myself.  At the end of the day, as usual, sent the threesome the spreadsheet with all the attempts completed, advised to allow for 15 mins non productive time due to the misunderstanding about the process, and requested a new spreadsheet for the following day.  It was my practice to put on my nightly report if I'd taken any bathroom time or had some other unusual situation (such as a translation call) that ate into production time.  Part of it was to CMA, but mostly as a professional courtesy to them.  Or so I thought. 

So Thursday, I get in, log into the phone, then check email for a new spreadsheet.  None.  

I emailed a polite request to the trio: 

"May I have a new spreadsheet please? I returned the completed one to you all last night.  Thank you." 

Fifteen minutes later, and no response.  The one manager on our floor wasn't on the floor.  I had no instant message access, no extensions to call except for the bully's, and wasn't feeling up to walking all three floors to look for one of them.   To be honest, I didn't feel it was my job to track one of them down to get work to do.  I sent a second request, politely worded, with the little red exclamation mark highlighted that mean 'important'.  "Just in case you might've missed it, may I have please have a new spreadsheet?  Thank you." 

And waited again.  Another 20 minutes goes by.  I've been at work for 30 minutes, and not able to make any calls.  I'm getting a little nervous, as the clock is ticking and there is a quota still over our heads.  At 1035, I sent a third email, again with the little red exclamation point highlighted.  This time, I wrote in all caps in the subject line "THIRD REQUEST, MAY I HAVE A SPREADSHEET PLEASE?"  Followed in the body with 'Sorry for shouting in the subject line, but I've been waiting over 30 minutes without a response." 

One of the managers gets back to me with 'My bad.  It's coming."  Two minutes later, she sends me the requested work. At the same time comes a terse email from the bully:  

"Come to my office NOW!" 

Up to the 9th floor, wondering what on Earth was wrong with the bully this time.  I walk in, remain quiet for the sake of the other workers, he has his door closed.  I peek in to the room where the third manager was working, and found the manager for our floor there.  "Go on in," she tells me, following me inside.  Naturally, I knock first and wait for his summons to enter his den. 

I'm not offered a seat, so I stand in front of the door with my back to the wall. He tells me that he does not like my combative attitude.  "We have 70 people, and I get thousands of emails.  Just becuase we don't answer you right away doesn't mean that you won't get an answer in due time!"  

Bewildered, I asked what he meant by combative.  He told me the was no reason to send three emails asking for work.  "You don't need to tell me why you're not productive, we can see when you're making calls and when you aren't.  _____ had to go looking for several people this morning who were suposed to be making calls and were buying their breakfast in the basement, I was on a conference call, and ____________ was handling her own work.  We have other responsibilities besides this project, and you are not falling in line!" 

"Wait a second, here.  I don't use my cell phone on the floor to call my kids and yell at 'em or talk to potential employers, nor do I run around and sing and gossip and cause a ruckus on the floor.  The only places I go to are the bathroom, the breakroom, and my desk. I make calls until the end of the day, and only then do my wrap up work, and yet you call me combative and not falling in line?" 

"Take yesterday, for example!" He shot back. "I gave you a directive, and you questioned me, not once, but several times!  There was no need for it!  I've also heard that you've been speaking negatively about the management team and that is not appreciated." 

"Hold on.  Granted, yesterday was frustrating, but I said nothing to anyone directly against any of the managers.  I've had concerns, yes.  The entire project team has concerns.  I've actually defended all y'all to the rest of the staff when they've complained!  How is that being negative!" 

"I don't think this is the place you need to be," he replied.  "You need to decide what you're going to do.  Either toe the line or get out." 

"Are you telling me to leave?  For what crime?"  

"I'm not telling you to leave. Your attitude needs to change.   No more unprofessional emails, no more telling us about your down time.  Just do what you're told." 

"I'm trying to, it's just a little difficult when there's conflicting information going around," I pointed out in a reasonable manner.  

"That's it!  I can't deal with you.  Your staffing agency will be in contact with you about your future." 

I was dismissed.  Yet, I hadn't been told I was fired or anything like that, though I had a feeling.  So, away from the floor, away from the bathroom and breakroom, I called the staffing agency to advise the manager of the account what had happened.  I was in tears, shaking, and upset to the stomach.  I was bewildered.  The call to the agency didn't make me feel any better, but I went back to my desk and worked.  I smiled and dialed and made three surveys in two hours and 30 call attempts.  

Then the account manager for the agency appeared in my cubicle, asking to talk to me.  I finished the call in progress, properly noted it, saved the speadsheet, locked my computer, and followed her to a consult room. There I was handed my walking papers as the bully had called her and demanded I be removed from the project. 

The damn water works started flowing again, and I let her know just what had transpired on the 9th floor.  "Unfortunately, the recording I tried to make didn't come out, otherwise I'd play exactly what happened up there." 

"I'm sorry.  They're the customer, we have to abide by their wishes.  I need your badge and need to escort you out."  

I quietly walked back to the cube, packed my gear, made a pristine copy of the work sheet, sent it to the three without any preamable in the body, noted my time on the time card and logged out of the computer.  

Then I got on Tig, the Honda and rode to my doctor's office to find out WTF is wrong with me that this happened. 

Thank God I've been with my doctor for so many years.  She knows me.  She knows the issues I deal with.  Yes, I have a type A personality.  I call 'em like I see 'em to your face, not behind your back.  I treat people with respect and only request being respected back.  After decades of being treated as a second class citizen due to weight and eyewear, I won't accept that kind of treatment any longer and will fight for the right to be treated decently.  

Dr. does not think I am one of those types of people like that asshat that shot the two reporters.  The type of person who collects perceived wrongs done to him/her as an excuse for their own behavior.  Have I made misjudgements in the past?  Yup.  Have I goofed big time?  Oh Hell yeah!  Am I willing to apologize for existing?  Fuck no!  Not anymore! 

Dr. also does not believe that I'm turning into my birth mother, which is my greatest fear.  "Unless you have a Jekyll/Hyde personality I don't know about, you've never treated any of my people badly, even if you're stressed like you are now," she assured me. 

"Well, I have my temper moments, Robert knows, even if he won't tell you.  I scream in the car, or on the bike at times.  I've gotten mad at him many times in the last 21 years.  I get impatient and annoyed." 

"That's normal." 

But she gave me the name of an actual psychiatrist that she trusts, not an LSW or someone who will tell me it's all in my head like in 2004.  Our insurance will cover the cost, so I'm going to take advantage of it while there's time.  That and maybe finally take the MC road test to get my endorsement finished.  But that's another story for another time.  

Thanks for caring, for supporting, and for being there.