The circle of life
Stepping back and looking at my time as a supervisor, I can see a definite cycle in how I'm managed by The Powers That Be. We're always trying to change, to respond, to make things better -- but, much like a dog tied to a tree, no matter how fast we run around in a circle, we're not making any progress. If anything, the leash just keeps getting shorter.
The cycle seems go something like this:
Step One: The Changing of the Guard. Massive management changes or policy changes occur. Chaos ensues. A lot of meetings are held, pep-talks are given, and reams of memos are issued. The older employees grumble about how all of the changes are stupid. They're wrong, of course. Only most of the changes are stupid. Random chance dictates we're likely to at least one thing right.
Step Two: The Big Squeeze. Why aren't we making money? How can we cut spending but increase earnings? Things start to get strict and mean -- perform, or die. To save money, the management always decides to squeeze the employees by cutting spending on compensation, building improvements and basic maintenance, proper amounts of training and enough supervision. All the while, there is a drunken orgy of spending elsewhere, wasting absurd amounts on useless things -- consultants, expensive travel to "train" managers elsewhere, and crackpot theories from people who have never worked in a call center. Meanwhile, management contends that they key is to focus on "let's treat our people better!" and squeezing supervisors to have no morale loss from the budget cuts by giving us stress balls for our whole team. "This should motivate everyone! So why aren't they working twice as hard as last month?"
Step Three: Truth and Consequences. Like waking up next to an ugly stranger after a night of heavy drinking, we feel regret and horror when we see the all too apparent flaws in our hastily planned strategies. We see many of the programs that we spent so much time and effort on fall apart because of day-to-day issues that dominate our workload. Due to lack of investment in operations, nobody is available to mess with all of the actual feedback that the expensive consultants gave us, and it fades to a distant memory. Employees start leaving in droves because of all of the various offenses they've endured during the process. We can't be bothered to spend enough time (or, really, money) on the hiring process, so we start to bring in people who have no business with any type of employment. This scares or insults our existing staff -- like rats fleeing a sinking ship, they leave without notice or regard. Meanwhile, the supervisors are being squeezed to solve the problem; having no means, the supervisors generally start to beg people to stay or give in to demands, and lose authority. The quality of the work suffers, and productivity slumps back from its brief surge. The supervisors are looking around saying "how did this person get hired?" and wondering what happened to the center, because they've been too busy following orders to pay attention.
Step Four: Crisis. Do something! Do anything! Just try to cork the hole in the boat! We're just trying to stay afloat and make it through the day, and the frantic decisions made to keep us going rankle and backfire. People are walking around with angry faces or, worse, silent resignation and nameless dread. The calls never seem to stop and we simply don't have the staff to handle them; the remaining dregs don't really care if we sink, but we don't fire anyone because we can't afford to. Management starts to get desperate and cruel until, finally, they're gone too. The corporate office is starting to breathe down the back of our necks and nobody knows what is going to happen. The supervisors, burned out and frustrated, are pressed for ideas and then blissfully ignored, and we hire a bunch of new management that will Fix Everything!
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.