Constant criticism, excessive monitoring, denial of rights, abuse, coercion, threat? Read this
A TUC hotline set up for call centre employees in the UK to report unhealthy practices has been flooded with calls. Amongst the worst examples are employers' attitudes to toilet breaks, from keeping logs of time spent on the loo to forcing the person needing most frequent breaks to wear a nappy. The Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) was disappointed with the poor management in some call centres. Meanwhile a report by the Industrial Society suggested a link between badly run call centres and mental health problems. The report, New Work, New Stress, indicated that the obsession with efficiency and productivity resulted in reduced control for employees, a significant factor in mental health problems.
Call centres handling telemarketing and telesales, one of the fastest growing industrial sectors in the UK and Republic of Ireland, have been hailed as the saviour of British jobs. However, working practices and conditions vary and rates of 50% staff turnover are common. Some call centres have churn rates in excess of 80% and staff turnover rates of 100% or more have been reported.
Phrases like "sweat shop" and "slave labour" are frequently used to describe working conditions. Whilst managers have been reported as claiming that 87% of staff enjoyed their jobs, less than 60% of employees said they were happy.
Among the worst examples are:
One solution to toilet breaks...
Some facts and figures:
David Oliver, a researcher in Newcastle, northeast England, reports that
the hi-tech software used by most modern call centres allows supervisors to directly
compare call length and amount per hour. Although this is a useful management tool, it is
used by supervisors on the floor of the call center to discuss which staff are better than
others. This is discussed openly and meant to induce competitiveness but in reality often
leads to undue competition which makes people more stressed when they deal with customers.
Supervisors can also specify particular call takers and transfer calls straight to them,
rather than let the system distribute calls fairly.
In many centres there is a poor structure whereby the management (who are mostly competent and well respected) put pressure on the supervisors to increase performance. These supervisors are not professionals; all they do is increase the pressure on the call takers. This increases the stress on the call takers who, due to this stress, underperform. This underperformance is picked up by the managers who again pile on the pressure. It's this cycle of pressure, David suggests, which leads to unhappiness at all levels and is thus the cause of the high turnover rate.
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Have a look through this web site to recognise the bullies and bullying in your life ... start with Am I being bullied? then move on to What is bullying? To find out what you can do about bullying, click Action to tackle bullying. Have a look at the profile of the serial bully which is common to sociopathic managers, harassers, stalkers, rapists, violent partners, abusers, pedophiles, even serial killers of the organized kind.
If bullying and harassment have caused injury to your health, commonly diagnosed as "stress", see the page on injury to health and the one on the psychiatric injury of trauma, a collection of symptoms congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
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