Oh those poor BPO workers—the ones that make salaries that qualified freshie engineers envy, the ones that flaunt state-of-the-art electronic gadgets, eat out at fancy joints, strut their stuff at the discoes. It seems that their actual state is comparable to those of galley slaves in ancient Rome and to prisons in the 19th century.
Aww those sugar bunnies.
The labor practices call centres follow are even much older. Take, for instance, the monitoring of workers at the workplace. “Work is monitored on the spot and after working hours with the help of specially designed software, computer network and closed circuit cameras,” the study says. “The degree of surveillance required at work is even comparable with the situations of 19th century prisons or Roman slave ships.”
Oooh. So the only similarity with galley ships is that workers in call centers are closely monitored. For a second there, I thought that BPO workers were tied to their chairs by chains while being whipped by the floor manager. Don’t know about you but I feel that in a line of work where you are dealing with people’s social security numbers, credit cards and the like, you should not crib about being monitored. It’s part of what you signed up for.
Let’s assume that you work in a diamond mine. You will generally have a full body cavity check every time you go home from work. That in itself does sounds draconian….I mean how would it feel if someone subjected you to an anal probe everytime you left the office building? But then body cavity searches come with the territory of gold-diamond mining —-though I can bet that the VV Giri Labor Institute (who did the BPO study) will say that conditions in diamond mines are comparable to prisons all over the world—excessive intrusions into body orifices—without considering the fact that for the industry concerned , that’s just the way things have to be.
In rediff, in a discussion on what makes BPOs such horrible places to work, a recovering call center worker says things are so bad that even cell phones are not allowed in the office. I mean how bad is that—-no naughty or as we Indians call it “non-veg” SMS jokes, no sweet nothings to your “woh” and no surreptitious shots using the camera phone.
Now I wonder why BPO employees hate constant monitoring….could it be because of the hot BPO sex that seems to go on in these places (All our representatives are currently assisting other representatives) which they naturally want to keep in the “Mummy Ko Nahin Hain Pata” state.
Another complaint against BPOs is that continuous night shifts screw up the body clock, making the employees physically and emotionally drained. They are unable to make connections and become pathologically detached from normal life because of night shifts. Now it’s not that the BPO bosses are insensitive to their mental trauma—-company sponsored nights at discoes, group activities and other nice-sounding things are organized from time to time.. And yet more and more BPO workers are going postal because of their incessant nocturnal lives.
Now I wonder how, for so many years, engineers who oversaw production were able to keep their heads despite rotating night shifts—standing for hours in an environment where choking dust, heat from furnaces and ear-numbing noise was part and parcel of their nightly lives. No ergonomic chairs, no air conditioner, no color coordinated workplaces, no fun and games, no company sponsored nights on the town and the only chance of carnal gratification—a same-sex experience with the assistant foreman behind the boiler room.
Similarly doctors and nurses have also done countless night shifts without any sympathy. So how come its only BPO workers who need to be mollycoddled when, in reality, they have it so much better than many other professionals?
Another complaint I read (again this is based on what I have read….which maybe a subjective statement of a few individuals) is that it seems that one of the downsides of working in a call center is that workers lose their moral fibre and call each other by the rather cool appellations of “Hi sexy” at work. They spend greenbacks like it’s going out of fashion, partake in casual sex and do other kinds of things I would have liked to do when I was 25. And it’s all because of the culture of the call center — the daily onslaught of American culture manifested by the “neutralized” accent, fake Westernized name and knowledge of baseball and duck hunting season.
Aww please. Firstly in any American company worth its name, using “Hi Sexy” at work will inevitably be followed by a letter from the lawyer. People do not exchange “non-veg” jokes, do not compliment each other on their appearance and personal space is strictly maintained. The so-called call center culture, if it exists, is purely an artifact of young and desperate men (like I was a long time ago…repeat a long time ago) and young and repressed women (the kind I always dreamt of meeting but never did) , both with a lot of disposable income (something I never had) and no responsibilities ( something I even now avoid) thrown in close proximity of each other where their perfunctory introduction to American culture serve as the moral justification of their basic instincts. In other words “When in a call center with the name of Chris, do as Americans do.” That Americans don’t do is entirely a different matter.
But holding call centers responsible for such behavior is as silly as blaming MTV for the follies of men like me who were young in the 90s. Not that I had any follies. Despite my best efforts.
Lest it sound like a rant against BPO workers, it is not. My extensive experience in calling 1800 numbers has led me to believe that call center employees in India are much more professional, courteous and competent than their non-Indian counterparts.
The reason for their dissatisfaction may very well be that recruiters, in their eagerness to hire people in an industry with high attrition rates, paint an overtly rosy picture (fun, games, foreign trips and easy money) neglecting to mention the downsides and once employees experience the monotony of saying the same thing over and over again and a continous process of evaluation and feedback (You lost a call—no cookie for you) combined with the ever-present threat of retrenchment (because BPO workers are easily substitutable) they realize that they may have been oversold.
However stress and performance expectations are not unique to them. Their salaries are quite generous in the context of the qualifications required for them, promotions reasonably fast and work environments far more employee-friendly than many other professions. Hence when they complain (remember the report is based on feedback from call center workers) that their working conditions are like slaves in galley ships, then maybe, just maybe, they are going a bit over the top.