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No Nonsense, No Cut Corners, No Worries

, , , , , , , | Working | September 11, 2021

To put myself through college, I worked fraud protection for a retail store’s credit card. We would call out to people with suspicious charges or take calls from people we had blocked and basically try to confirm that the person on the other end was who they said they were and that their purchases were legitimate.

The job jumped between hectic times of non-stop calls and complaints, during peak hours, and extremely boring times later in the day leaving messages on answering machines. To try to alleviate the boredom a little, I made a game out of figuring out how to be as fast as possible, and I came up with lots of tricks to try to make myself a little faster.

At one point, our manager was dragged away on short notice to work on a new team, leaving us without a manager. We went a good five to seven months without a proper manager. The employee with the most experience on the floor acted as a quasi-manager when customers inevitably demanded to speak to one.

Eventually, we got a somewhat strict woman who had just retired from the military. Others complained about her no-nonsense approach, but I’ve had enough military friends to recognize it as pretty standard officer behavior and didn’t take offense. That being said, I did get an odd feeling that she didn’t like me whenever I talked to her, more than just her usual no-nonsense behavior, but too ambiguous for me to place exactly what it was or if I was imagining it or not.

A few months after she started working, I noticed this new manager standing a bit behind me. I glanced back, but she didn’t ask me for anything, so I went on with my business at first. When she didn’t move, eventually, I asked her if she needed anything, but she insisted she was fine and I should just go back to work. I tried to do so, though I couldn’t get past the odd feeling of being watched with my manager hovering behind me for so long, even if she claimed everything was okay.

A week later, one of my fellow employees was escorted out of the building. Management wouldn’t say exactly why she was escorted out, only that she wasn’t coming back. About the same time, the strange hostility I had been sensing from my manager disappeared; in fact, now she seemed to really like me, though I still didn’t know why.

That is, until our monthly team meeting came up. During that meeting, the new manager suggested that there were a number of steps she thought everyone should learn to help improve their speed at handling calls, and she suggested that I could potentially give tips to other employees. Eventually, she even had me do a brief twenty-minute visit with each of the slower team members to give suggestions for helping them to improve their rate at handling calls.

It was around then that I finally put together what had been happening. During the time we were unsupervised, two employees had noticeably higher metrics for their number of cases handled compared to everybody else: me and the woman who was escorted out of the building. I realized the manager likely suspected that both of us had taken advantage of the lack of managerial supervision to find a way to cheat the system to get our numbers high enough to earn rewards associated with high call volume.

In the case of the woman escorted out of the building, I’m quite sure she was “cheating.” She would publicly announce that she didn’t want to handle some of the more annoying — and thus slower to process — accounts and was going to skip them. In her defense, I don’t think she realized how much skipping them was artificially inflating her metrics or why that was such a bad thing. Surely she wouldn’t have been quite so blatant at admitting to everyone what she was doing if she had?

In my case, my high numbers were warranted. My tricks gave me a decent boost to the rate I could handle accounts in the later evenings. As an accidental side effect, my ability to make calls out so quickly resulted in my rarely getting the much slower to handle inbound calls during the evening, further inflating my metrics.  

I assume it was only after my new manager watched me working for a while that she saw what I was doing and generally decided that I had earned the numbers my metrics showed fairly. Thus, I got to stop being a suspect to her and instead became a manager’s pet that could help boost team productivity by sharing my “secrets” with the rest of the team.

I left only a few months after that to focus more on school work, and I got a much better paying job once I completed my degree, but after my many years’ — and managers’ — worth of work experience since then, I still occasionally find myself wishing that I could have that no-nonsense woman, who made sure that employees who met standards were rewarded and those that slacked off punished, as a manager again.

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