Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Mad Phone Skillz October 16, 2010

Filed under: Work — Meredith @ 6:01 pm
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At my 90 day review my boss gave me one area for improvement: “I just wish you could be a little nicer on the phone.” I smiled and tried to look like I understood what he was talking about.

But the truth was, I really didn’t understand because I was fairly impressed with myself at my phone skills. I hadn’t hung up on anyone, I didn’t point out (directly) when they were asking stupid questions, and I rarely sighed (loudly) before saying “no, no, it’s not your fault. The internet is very confusing.”

Apparently my face betrayed my confusion because my boss followed up with “Listen, I’ve done your job. I know. I know how stupid people are, and how annoying it is to answer the same question over and over. But that’s the job. So just try to be a little bit nicer.”

The problem is that, I’ve done this job too. Only then I was 22 and wanted everyone – even strangers on the phone – to like me. I gave really good customer service back then, and I think I just ran out, or that part of my brain froze over or something because I honestly can’t really tell you what I’m doing now that’s so different and less nice than what I did then. Yet, on some level, I do understand that it is.

BUT, all things considered, this is a good job, and I like my boss, and I want to at least look like I’m trying. Otherwise it just gets awkward.

My desk is outside his office and every time I pick up the phone I’m aware that he can hear every word I’m saying, and I remind myself to use that (stupid) old customer service  trick of smiling while I speak, so I sound happy, and I swallow my sighs of impatience, and try to sound sincere when I say “No, really, its my pleasure to walk you through our on-line registration…see where it says Select Category?…ok, so select a category….Oh that’s ok, just click back and then you’ll be at that screen again and this time, when it says Select Category, I want you to select your category, mkay? I know….it IS confusing….” And I think I”m successful at least 83% of the time.

The other day I was away from my desk, and didn’t hear the phone, and so my boss answered it. I got back to my desk just in time to hear him say “you know what? Let me just transfer you to her, since apparently SHE knows what you’re talking about” and I immediately recognized his tone and noted, with a certain amount of satisfaction that it was his “I’m trying really hard not to call you an idiot” tone. It’s the one he uses with sales people right before insulting them.

I answered the transferred call and heard “HEY – its Janice! From yesterday?” Ah yes. Janice. I pictured her as a 24-year-old executive assistant, who takes her job very seriously and believes herself to be expert and final authority on all things, and the ONLY thing keeping that office running. She’s energetic, fashionable, sassy, calls it like it is without ever apologizing, and believes she’ll be running that company before she’s 30. Maybe she’s right. I don’t know.

“Hi Janice!” I say, in my nicest sounding voice.

“OH MY GOD GIRL. That man I was talking to was NAS-TY!”

“Really?” I say trying not to laugh.

“Yeah, I don’t know why he’s answering phones if he’s just going to be testy like that. I’m just sayin’.” Unable to agree with her for fear my boss would somehow understand what we were talking about, but also because I am kinda grateful he’s the type of boss who answers the phone when I’m away from my desk, I just said “So, what’s up?” 

“I never got that email you sent yesterday. Which I was trying to explain to that man, but he acted like I was crazy….”

“I’m sorry” I interrupt her. “I’ll send it again,”  It’s not that I didn’t want to listen to her go off on my boss’s phone skills, I just didn’t know how long I’d be able to refrain from commenting.

 “You know what?” she said “I bet you spelled my name wrong, EVERYBODY does. I KNOW! I’ll send you an email and you can just reply to it.”

While she’s waiting for me to get it she says “And you should tell your boss to RELAX. That man is TESTY. You know what I’m sayin’?” I answered with a non-committal noise. “You should tell him not to answer phones if he’s going to be like that. I mean, SERIOUSLY. I was like ‘um, just transfer me to that girl who USUALLY answers, cause she knows what I’m talking about.”

“Right,” I said, wondering if there was any scenario in which I repeat all of this to my boss and he finds it funny.

As we were ending the call she said ” Now you tell that boss of your’s to RELAX. I think that man is too stressed out. I mean, there’s just no reason to be that unfriendly on the phone. K? Bye!”

After I hung up, all I wanted to do was run into his office and yell: “Who needs to practice their phone skills now, BITCH???”

But I didn’t. Because I am a professional.  

Ok, because I’m pretty sure he’d fire me on the spot and have me bodily removed from the premises before I could even get my water bottle off my desk.  


But now, on those days when I find it particularly difficult to “be nicer on the phone”, I just think of Janice and I don’t have to force the smile into my voice.


Awkward August 6, 2010

Filed under: Work — Meredith @ 3:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m the “administrative coordinator” in my office. Which is different from a receptionist in that….oh yeah, it’s not at all different. I deal with everyone who walks through the door and everyone who calls.

We get a shit-ton of cold calls. Both on the phone and in person.

My boss hates salespeople. Like, he firmly believes every last one is a slimy, lying, subspecies of the human race.

I on the other hand, love sales people. Or, I did, before taking this job. See, I have a long history with sales people. My dad is not just a salesman but a sales trainer. My brother is in sales. I used to be in sales and some of my best friends are in fact, sales people. It’s a hard job, with lots of rejection and only a few are cut out for it, (I definitely was not. Obviously.) I feel especially bad for in-person sales callers. I mean it’s one thing to be hung up on or insulted over the phone, but being willing to take that kind of rejection to your face takes some serious balls/ovaries. So I respect and empathize with these men and women hocking copiers and office supplies, plying me with candy and promises of cookies if I let them do a demo of their coffee maker (which I totally would have done if my boss hadn’t been here.) I try to be nice, and at first I would lead them to my boss’s office when they asked for him – this was before I knew a) how he felt and b) how much he enjoyed letting them know how he felt.

I learned quickly.

Soon every time I saw an eager faced man or woman in a nice suit carrying a padfolio at my door, my anxiety would spike. It made my stomach hurt to know what they would face if they had the misfortune to interact with my boss. I’d try to explain to them that we were happy with our copier/phone system/paper supplier. I’d push my card at them and urge them to leave before they were spotted. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

One day, as I was talking to a particularly persistent older man (I have to confess, the older men, the ones I put in their 60’s, make me sad. I hate the idea that this is still where they’re at in the career – cold calling office buildings and dealing with overly perky receptionists) so I was already extra uncomfortable for this guy. And then my boss came out. And it was…well it wasn’t pretty. And then I had to spend the next hour pretending to agree with my boss that sales people are a scourge on society.

It was not a good day.

So I started trying to catch them before they even got in the door. I would whisper “You shouldn’t be here. My boss is not nice. Please. You have to go. NOW.” And some of them heeded my advice, hastily handing me their card before scurrying back out into the hallway.

Some refused to hear me. Like these two office supply guys. Late 20’s, very cocky. They laughed at my warning. They assured me they could handle it. I tried again to explain, but then one of them put his hand on my shoulder and said “Don’t worry. We’re professionals.” So between the touching and the condescension, I figured they deserved what they got. So I led them into my boss’s office and then returned to my desk to enjoy the show. And a show it was. They were asked things like “can’t you find a better way to make a living?” and “Do you enjoy wasting the time of people who actually have real jobs with real work to do?” Oh yeah, it was ugly. Way worse than I’d expected, and I was wracked with guilt as the two guys scurried out the front door, their egos a stain on the carpet. My boss then stood in front of my desk and said “There is a No Soliciting sign on the door. The next time one of them comes in here, I’m calling the police. If I’m not here, get their card, and I’ll call the police and report the company.”

Holy Shit Balls.

I want to put a sign on the door that says “Beware of Boss”. Something, ANYTHING to cut down on the carnage. This is the only point of stress in my entire job.

Well, I just had one walk in my office a few minutes ago. He had a sweet, youthful face, and he was selling…something that would somehow make our business better. I leaned over my desk and whispered “I promise, my boss won’t want whatever you’re selling, and he’s not very nice to salespeople.”  And he laughed a little and asked for a business card. I said “I don’t have his cards. I’m serious, it’s not safe for you here.” His laughter took on a nervous quality. He said “Well do you have any card at all I could take?” So I gave him my card and he asked my boss’s name again. I hesitated, but finally told him, and as he wrote it on the card I said “but please, don’t call him.  Don’t come back here. You won’t like what happens.” He looked at me with a strange expression for a moment then stuck out his hand and said “I appreciate that. Thank you.” I shook his hand while shooting nervous glances at my boss’s mercifully closed office door. I said, “Now go. Quickly, before he comes out. Please. But first, promise me you’ll never come back. Its. Not. Safe.” He nodded and backed away from my desk, then uttered another “I appreciate it” before turning and hurrying out the door.

I think I got through to that one.


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