There are some insights I’ve been wanting to hash out, but I’ve been too sick and brain fuzzy. I woke up this morning with laryngitis and had to call in, so I’ve had the day to rest and sleep. Feeling a bit better, but now whatever I’ve got’s moved from my sinuses to my chest.
Anyway. I grabbed a book of my roommate’s the other day to read at work called The Art of Possibility (http://www.amazon.com/Art-Possibility-Transforming-Professional-Personal/dp/0142001104). One of the things the book talked about was the idea of changing your mindset from the point of view that we live in a world of scarcity to that of abundance. This idea of abundance also surfaced when I was reading The Ethical Slut (http://www.amazon.com/The-Ethical-Slut-Relationships-Adventures/dp/1587613379/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=3E2NFUURUWCDY&coliid=I14K93IYPALSC).
The idea is that we operate in the mindset that all resources are scarce, but in the case of emotional resources especially, what if we chose to operate under the guise that there was enough love and affection and attention and generosity and honesty to go around? How differently would we treat others if we weren’t in competition with them?
(I feel the need to note here that this post might kind of go everywhere, but I am still sick, so my train of thought isn’t exactly what it could be. There are just several things that happened this week that have me thinking and I want to write it out.)
Last Sunday I went for a Thai massage session with Robert Gardner (http://robertgardnerwellness.com/). During the session we talked about a lot of things, but also about his practice and how long it’s taken him to finally get to a place of financial stability. And he said he had friends in business who chided him for teaching Thai massage classes in the area, saying he was compromising his customer base. But he said, “If I teach 100 people Thai massage and charge each of them $1,000… That’s $100,000. I could retire.” The business friends were working from that place of scarcity, rather than a place where the most important thing is for as many people as possible who want it to be able to learn to make themselves and others well.
I had a job interview Tuesday and it was going well until the end when they asked why I moved to College Station and if I saw myself living here. At the end of the interview one of the women said they’re looking for someone who wants to make it a career. Who knows, they might still pick me. But it seems less likely now. But on the other hand, they deserve to have someone working there who is invested in what they’re doing.
And that’s ultimately what I want. I want a job I can be excited about getting up every morning to go to – a job I could make a career of. Realistically, probably the places willing to hire me for the 8 months or so until my lease is up are crappy jobs with high turn-over rates. And that sucks. Because I do want a different job.
But maybe it’s more important for me to find some way to tap into my passion, even if I have to be poorer for a while? I don’t know. Robert asked me if I’ve ever thought about teaching bodywork. I have thought about going to massage school or yoga teacher certification – I just haven’t saved up the money ever to be able to seriously consider it. And I couldn’t technically get paid for Thai massage without some kind of actual certification in something, but that could be one path to consider of something that I could do on a flexible basis to make money and be able to pursue other avenues. Heal people physically with that and then emotionally through devised theatre.
I think my work is also working from some kind of backward place of scarcity thinking. The coordinator for the temporary employees sent out this e-mail about attendance and how important it is both this month and throughout tax season. And I get coming to work is important, but I don’t think threats, guilt trips, and cash incentives are the way to get people to come to work, really. At one point in the e-mail she said that she was sick last week and had a personal crisis going on but she still worked overtime because what if she didn’t come in and our paychecks were late?
I mean, in theatre we have the whole “the show must go on,” but that comes from a place of knowing how vital the work we are doing is, and even with that mentality there is a point at which people understand that sometimes you might need to miss – especially if you are sick. There is a point at which showing up sick is more detrimental overall than missing one day to rest so that you can return rejuvenated, rather than more ragged than the day before. And on a day like today, I could have suffered through the laryngitis, but that might do permanent (or at least more) damage to my vocal chords – not something I think is really worth it.
This woman didn’t say she came to work anyway because she believes so much in the mission of the company or knows how vital the work we are doing is and the kind of impact it makes. Really, what she was saying was that if she had missed work people would be upset their checks were late and blame her. Is that supposed to motivate me? I don’t want to work someplace where someone feels they have to come in regardless of illness and personal family crises or incur the wrath of their coworkers. And that’s how they frame it when we miss, too – that our coworkers have to pick up the slack and that isn’t fair.
And maybe it isn’t fair. But at the same time, if a coworker is sick, I’m fine with taking a few more calls so they can stay home and rest. It’s super rare I get calls back to back anyway, and maybe I’d be less bored. Since when is picking up the slack a bad thing? Shouldn’t we be cultivating a culture of teamwork and building relationships with our coworkers, rather than seeing ourselves as pitted against them?
And Thursday I got my monthly “Report Card” for work – yet another thing to make me feel like I’m back in public school. They use this rubric to grade you, but again, rather than motivating me, it made me feel more hopeless. Missing work today because I was sick already puts me at a disadvantage for this month, and no matter how many good calls I do, if I mess up once and that’s the one Quality Assurance happens to grade, it can severely bring down my monthly average.
We also have grades for handle time, but a lot of the calls I get involve lengthy explanations of one process or another to the caller, and being worried about handle time is more likely to make the CSR feel the need to rush the caller off the phone rather than actually helping them understand. Is my job about giving customer service or about bring down my handle time so I can take more calls?
This is another instance where I feel that no one *actually* cares about the callers. The companies don’t care that much or they wouldn’t have foisted customer service onto a third party. And I get the feeling we only care as much as they pay us to care – because they also frame us missing as causing the company to lose money. So I should come to work because otherwise my bosses lose money and my coworkers will be mad. Are these the best reasons you can come up with?
Why not come up with a vision that could get me passionately engaged and excited about coming into work every day? Because as nice as money is, after the point where I can pay my bills, it’s not that much of a motivator for me. Don’t offer me cash incentives and threats. Offer me a vision. Offer me a purpose. Because if all you care about is the bottom line, you are going to consistently draw employees who are only working here for the money and will do the least amount they have to to get by as a result.
What kills me is that I actually want to do a good job. But I don’t think that they way they measure our progress actually tells them whether or not I am doing that. It’s all quantitative – not qualitative – analysis. I know it’s impossible for a company this big to have someone evaluate all of my calls, but pulling calls at random might not actually provide a realistic sample of how I am doing. And putting focus on handle time doesn’t take into account the number of callers who are elderly or bereaved or just have no idea about how the financial world operates.
And paying attention to how slavishly I adhere to my 30 minute lunch and 15 minute break times also doesn’t tell you how good I am at my job. That tells you how good I am at following orders. It’s the same as how standardized testing doesn’t really tell you whether kids have learned anything in school, and actually makes them learn less. People higher up on the corporate ladder lose touch with reality somehow and make these decisions about standards, but the rubrics they put in place don’t actually achieve the goals they are purported to achieve.
It’s really frustrating. So I decided I am going to make a list of things that I want in my life that I don’t have right now, and I can move from there to figuring out how to make my life look a little more like I wish it could.
— Time to spend with friends
— A best friend who lives closer to me that I know I can call anytime, day or night
— A bigger kitchen – including more counter space
— A garden full of tasty, healthy foods to cook with
— Time to create
— A group of intellectual, creative people to meet, talk, and work with
— Flexibility in my work schedule
— The sense I am making a difference
— A project to work on, a trajectory to work towards
— Getting back into a yoga practice
… I will edit as I think of more.
But really, I’m considering applying to substitute teach next semester. The pay is crappy but if I could find something to supplement it with at least I would feel like I was doing something productive. Now, to find something flexible to work from home and supplement teaching with…
And to figure out where I’m going after my lease ends in July…