Thursday, December 15, 2011

Herpin' derps

This morning, when I got into work ,I found myself alone in the office (not unusual when I usually arrive for work at the ungodly hour of 6.45am). On my way to the desk I saw a poster on the wall I hadn't noticed before...and it pissed me off quite badly.

It was something straight out of 'Office Space'. Emblazoned across the top were the words "Can you give an extra 1%?"...then it answered for you with: 'Absolutely'.

I'll spare you the details, but I'll give you the gist. It basically said that if everyone works just that little bit harder and makes just one more phonecall a day or schedules one more visit, when you multiply that by the number of employees in the company and then multiply that by the number of work days a year, that one extra call means millions more for the company.

This poster was drawn up by someone who has never worked in a cubicle.

You see, if I go to work and just do my job, I get paid at the end of the month. If I go into work, slog my guts out, 'go the extra mile', work through my lunch hour and be the best goddamn employee the world has ever seen...I make exactly the same amount. Worse yet, as anyone who's ever worked in a cubicle will tell you, if you up your game and start Herping 20 Derps a day instead of 10, your boss makes 20 Herps the new baseline and starts asking you to do 30.

If you translate that poster out of bullshit management speak, it really says: Work harder and make a ton more money...for someone else.

You see, if you're a department head, and your department out performs all the others, you get a bonus check and a promotion. If you work in a cubicle, you just get asked to do better next year.

In my last job before I moved to the states, I had this exact conversation with someone pretty damn high up in the company I was working for at the time (being in a position where you're moving in a couple of weeks and don't need the job or the reference any more does wonders for your honesty), and she said:

"Well, yes, but what's good for the company is good for all its employees. After all the company pays your wages and if it under performs and goes bust, you could lose your job"

Now, time have changed a bit, but I called bullshit then and I call bullshit now. If you're a high-level suit earning £80,000 a year with a company car and expense account, you're damn sure you've got a vested interest in your business doing well. If you're earning minimum wage to do all the bitch work in a cubicle, if things go wrong and the business folds...well, let's just say there's no shortage of other shitty jobs.

The other thing she said was that if you work hard you'll 'get noticed' and then you'll be the one with the flash car and expense account...which makes sense, except for the fact that this was the same woman who once told me: "Oh, we'd love to promote you, but you're irepplacable in the role you're in now." In other words, you're too good at your job and no one else is willing to put up with the same shit you put up with for seven quid an hour.

Basically, you can't motivate me with 'team spirit' or 'breaking records' or 'providing world class service', because I don't see the company as a team that I belong to. I see it as the place I have to go to every day in order to pay my bills.

Now, this may seem really cynical and mercenary to a lot of people, but here's the thing: Put me in a job where I'm well paid and well treated and you can be damn sure I'll work my ass off to keep that job.

There's truth to the saying: Pay peanuts and you'll get monkeys. Minimum wage means I can work the same number of hours literally anywhere else and I'll earn the same or better.

Now, the thing is, I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm a 'bare minimum' kind of guy. I work hard and when something needs to be done, I make damn well sure it gets done...but if you want me to 'go the extra mile', the only way you're going to motivate me to do that is to pay me for it, because like everyone else at my level in your company, I want to go to work, make enough money to pay my bills and go the fuck home.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Our Fault?

So, I haven't really commented on the Occupy Wall Street movement yet.

I think this is because, at the moment, it's just a bunch of angry people. Yes, the bankers screwed us over... but if you're going to protest something, you really should have a solid idea of what should be done to fix the situation.

Like the OWS movement, I think 'something' should be done...but until we can all agree on what that 'something' should be, I can't really back a 'movement' that is completely rudderless.

Something I can comment on, however, is people's attitudes.

I've personally written more words than I can count on the kids who leave school with an overblown sense of entitlement. Kids who graduate feeling that the world owes them a rockstar lifestyle. However, I was thinking about this today and had an almost total change of heart.

Yes, kids today leave school with a massive sense of entitlement...but a lot of that is our fault.

You see, we talk about these damn kids who refuse to get their hands dirty and think that flipping burgers or pumping gas is beneath them. These kids who think they're going to go directly from college to the board of a Fortune 500 company.

But, the question has to be asked: Why do they feel like that?

Sure, I can blame a lot of that on the ridiculous no-competition school system we have today which seems to be based around nothing but telling each and every kid how they're each a very special and unique butterfly... but I think the main reason is that we've conditioned kids to expect the world to be a cakewalk after graduating.

You see, I was lucky enough to come from a family that had enough money to send me to University, but was still working class enough to where I was expected to hold down a job at the same time. Basically, I was put in a position where I was forced to learn that when you need the money, no job is beneath you.

When I was living in the states, my A-levels counted as Associates degrees. Along with my bachelors I had five degrees... but that didn't stop me for applying for jobs stacking shelves at Walmart or working the warehouse at the local Home Depot when things got tight.

Now, here's the problem: We brought up the last generation of kids to believe that these crappy menial jobs are shameful and taking one means that you've failed. Think how many times you've told your kids that they have to work hard in school so they can get a good job.

Basically, you've got these kids who have been brought up to think that accepting the normal, crappy 'first jobs' that we all did as a failure state. They worked hard in school and then spent tens of thousands on a university education so they wouldn't end up flipping burgers or waiting tables.

Of course, the world doesn't work like that any more. Jobs are extremely rare and degrees aren't. It doesn't matter that you have a Master's in Computer science because so do a hundred thousand other people and they're all competing for the same hundred jobs.

So, basically, we raised all these kids telling them that they need to go to university to avoid having to work crappy, menial jobs...and then when they do everything right and graduate with a nice shiny new degree, we tell them to go do the crappy, menial job anyway...and are surprised and shocked when these kids think they shouldn't have to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Honey and Vinegar

Just thought I'd share a hint with everyone for the next time you need to call customer service in any capacity.

Earlier this week, some guy called the IT Helpdesk with a really tricky problem...and he was a complete and total ass about it.The fix took too long, he was far too important to spend 15 minutes on the phone and it was totally unacceptable that he needed to do anything (seriously, asking him to click something was a major imposition). Once I fixed his problem, he literally hung up on me mid sentence.

The next day, a second guy called who had been waiting for a relatively simple fix for well over two weeks. This was entirely my fault (I'd taken his call on my first day and hadn't logged the ticket properlly). I was totally straight with the guy, told him what had happened and apologised for it. He laughed, told me not to worry about it and basically said "these things happen".

This morning, both these guys logged new support tickets with almost exactly the same issue.

For one of those tickets I went above and beyond, worked through my lunch hour and made sure the issue was resolved today. For the other, I just did it exactly by the book...IE, putting it in the queue for an engineer so it'll probably get seen to some time this week.

Can you guess which ticket was which?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

6 Reasons Your Company's IT Department Hates You

1) You completely misunderstand our relationship

For some reason, when you call the IT department, you  seem to believe that you're some sort of 19th century Land Baron and we're the the stable boys who have improperly groomed your horse.

In reality, you're calling a team of professionals to request a service. A team of professionals who are probably better qualified than you are...and are the only people who can pull your ass out of the fire. Remember that.

2) You think you're the only user we have to deal with.

Every time I pick up the phone on the helpdesk I get berated for how long it took you to get through or how you've left multiple messages earlier that morning that weren't returned. This, obviously, is because I spend my day playing World of Warcraft with the phone off the hook.

Only it isn't. It's because from the instant I turn my phone on in the morning to the second I log out at night the bastard never stops ringing. You get the answerphone because I'm taking a call. I don't respond to your message because I literally don't have time to listen to it because in the time it takes me to access the voicemail...the bastard's ringing again.

...and yeah, I understand you can't do your job...but neither can the hundred or so people in the queue ahead of you.

3) We are not the ones who broke your computer.

This is something you really need to understand. Just because your laptop won't power up this morning does not mean I personally broke into your house in the middle of the night and broke it. It is not my fault that you lost your data or the presentation you worked all night on.

4) You never accept responsibility.

So you didn't back up your data once a week like we told you to. You circumvented the protection we put on the laptop to visit those dodgy music sites you like. You turned off the virus protection because it 'made everything run slow' and you thought it was a really good idea to balance your coffee on top of the lid when you were carrying it to your car.
Now your laptop's a smoking crater. Guess who's fault that is (Hint: not mine) 

5) You think we can read minds.

So the 'thing' that used to be on the 'thing' has moved over to the other 'thing' and now the 'thing' won't work.

Awesome: Click on the thing to fix it it.

6) You expect miracles and get pissed when we can't deliver.

This is a true story: On my second day on the helpdesk a guy called who'd dropped his laptop, smashed the screen and then got pissed as hell and threatened to 'have my job' because I couldn't fix it over the phone.

Dude, we sort of work like OnStar: Unlocking your vehicle when you lose your keys is no problem. There's not much I can do when your wheels fall off.