Case 049 - Call Centre

I work have worked in a call centre for 18 months and really started being bullied almost from the start of my employment, but I can only see that in retrospect now. After about 3 months of employment, I was moved to a new team as my team leader resigned suddenly. My new team leader seemed very friendly and helpful to start off with. Without reason she started to attack my Scottish accent (I work in a call centre in Australia). She started saying things like "I cannot understand you so God help the customers if we cannot understand you". These comments became more and more frequent and they got to the stage where they became very upsetting.

I spoke to a union rep (even although I was not a member) for advice. She told me that these were racist remarks and to take it to HR. On her advice this is what I did. HR decided to tell the call centre manager who promptly sent me an e-mail asking me to "withdraw my allegation as this could ruin someone’s career". I felt intimidated by the e-mail, and as I had only been in the job for six months thought it better to withdraw my complaint in case I lost my job. Apparently HR spoke to the team leader in question who said she was not aware she was making comments about my accent. Funnily enough though, after HR spoke to her the comments stopped.

I felt very uncomfortable being in her team and she was nit-picking about small things in my performance and was now saying my tone with customers was inappropriate as when I get a difficult call my tone rises. I tried to tell her this was a normal reaction that everyone’s tone rises when stressed or upset but I was told this was not the case. I asked for a transfer and was told that they were not happy about this but would give me it this time but there had better not be any more problems.

Anyway, I thought this would be the end of my problems but unfortunately worse was to come. I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire so to speak. On my first day in my new team my new team leader told me that she was my last chance, if I did not make it work with her I would be out the door and this had come from the call centre manager. I was reminded this on a daily basis for eight months. I felt intimidated and stressed by this but no matter how well I did at the job it was never good enough. Between them my call centre manager and team leader manipulated every situation and even lied between them to support their stories. I have been belittled, have constant derogatory comments made about my accent and culture and am constantly threatened about losing my job. This has made me very stressed and my blood pressure very high. I cannot sleep and feel physically sick in the morning about the thought of going to work.

It is having a terrible effect on my husband as he also works in the same company and he sees the constant abuse I am subjected to. I recently wrote a 14-page report about my team leader and lodged a formal complaint. I was off work on stress leave at the time as my doctor was very concerned for my health. I was assured by the HR department that my complaint would be investigated. I have been moved to a different team but none of the issues I raised in the complaint have been addressed. I am back at work now and am now being intimidated by the call centre manger and HR. My union rep knows what is happening but is powerless to stop it. I am scared, frustrated and stressed. I do not know when this is going to end and my health is really suffering.

At the moment, I am in the process of lodging a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission re the racial abuse and comments but I don’t know how much good it will do as the company will manipulate the situation into me being the problem not the victim.

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