A man working at a call centre gets bypassed for a promotion.
|There he was again, Ronald giving a motivational speech to the call agents spitting out his spiel about doing more with less. It must have been the second time this month that he gathered us all to repeat that same monologue with the same stupid jokes inserted for good measure. It was getting redundant. I always wondered if my colleagues actually paid attention or cared for that matter about what he had to say. We are talking about a man who never worked in his own call centre a day in his life. He inherited his father’s fortune and company and would show up at work from time to time driving his Bentley convertible when it was too rainy to go play golf with his minions. I have to admit that there was a time where I dreamed of being the one he would invite to play golf with him but I always despised yes-men and I can’t hit a golf ball to save my life.
I was analyzing the room and I noticed that most agents were looking at Donald with a blank stare probably thinking about what they would make for dinner as others were lowering their heads probably texting hoping not to get caught. Let’s be honest for a second. Nobody dreams of working at a call centre and asking questions for a company that no one cares about. These jobs are the equivalent of 21st century slavery. You make minimum wage from answering calls for multibillion companies that could care less about their own employees. They exist to help out their investors not the single parent working like a dog to make ends meet.
In my 12 years at Synergy One, I climbed the corporate ladder going from answering calls from various companies’ clients to supervisor and then regional director. The moment I got that last promotion I told Ronald we would need to penetrate new markets to keep increasing revenue and suggested that we start working with the federal government. I ended up bringing tens of millions of dollars for these endless survey contracts and all I got as a thank you was a dinner face to face with him at his favourite restaurant; The Cheeseburger House. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the gesture. I think I was simply expecting more; a better restaurant, a bonus, a raise, something that demonstrated his appreciation for my contribution to his company.
“To finish, I think you guys are doing great work but I believe from the bottom of my heart that we can still do better, much better.” Ronald pointed to the large screen behind him showing the annual expectations which were always unrealistic to begin with. “Thank you all!” He finished to the sound of applause.
“So Ben, how was I in my presentation?”
“You were great Ron, very inspiring.” I answered. I knew he always liked it when I flattered his ego. He was paying my salary after all. I was not going to tell him that he always repeats himself or that he uses words that the call agents cannot relate to (or understand for that matter) or that they are just happy to be away from their computer to listen to him talk. This means they don’t have to put those oversized headphones on and get hung up on 99% of the time. “So, have you had a chance to think about my proposal to revamp our model?” I inquired hoping he would understand where I was going with this. I inquired hoping he would remember that I had sent him our strategy for the next three years.
“Sorry Ben, I've been very busy these last couple of weeks.” He quickly answered lowering his head. I knew he never had much to do because I worked closely with his assistant and his calendar was mostly empty. He was in his sixties and as far I knew he never lived with anyone nor dated anyone. The occasional appointment over a golf course or some personal rendezvous could show up but that was about it.
“I understand Ron. It’s been a busy month for sure. Maybe we could have a quick conversation about my proposal tomorrow?”
I believed in my plan. I spent a year coming up with a strategy that would make us competitive for the years to come. The biggest challenge was the involvement of investment in modernizing our equipment and tools. Our call agents would also need to be trained to learn how to close deals faster and more efficiently. We lost close to thirty clients due to our lack of technology in the last two years. Sooner or later it would blow up in our face.
“We could meet in my office tomorrow morning; I’ll have some good news to share with you as well.”
“Ok great! See you tomorrow then...” I shook his head and walked back to my office on the second floor trying my best to hide my dumb grind. Management worked on the second floor and the call agents were on the first. I swore to myself that I would rather die than ever go back down. I’m sure prisoners had better working conditions than I ever did when I worked the phones. I am talking about prisoners of war, of course.
I spent the rest of the day wondering what the news was about. It could not be a promotion since I was the second in command. It could not involve money because Donald was Scrooge dressed as a businessman. It took him everything last year to accept paying me more money for my new position managing the call centre and it was worse when we dickered about my performance bonuses. Yet, he had no issues adding new limited car editions to his collection or spending thousands of dollars a week playing golf in the fanciest clubs. Ironically, I liked my job although I did not like people very much. Finalizing and putting my signature at the bottom of a new contract always gave me a shot of adrenalin. I fell asleep with after finishing a bottle of gin to clear my mind and calm my nerves.
As I opened the door to our office the next morning, something felt strange and different like the furniture had been replaced. My colleagues were staring at me observing my every move which I found odd. I heard Ronald’s laughter from five offices away so I knew something was off. I had never heard him laugh at work so I had to find out the reason of his amusement. The door of his office was open so I decided to step in.
“Oh! Good morning Ben.”
“Good morning Ron.”
“Come and greet my new assistant Cory.”
“Welcome Cory!” I presented my hand as he shook it.
“Nice to meet you Benjamin. Ron told me a lot of good things about you! I am looking forward to working with you.” He winked at me with his soft green eyes.
How could he dare addressing Ronald by his first syllable? I thought this was reserved for the lucky few who Ronald would stop for to talk about silly things like the weather and the Formula 1 drivers. Cory looked like he came straight out of high school with his bleached blond hair, perfect skin and a voice that sounded like the last moments before departing adolescence. I was boiling inside with anger. How could this kid without any working experience earn such a prestigious position in this company?
“I have to get back to work but welcome again Cory. Ron, could I talk to you in an hour?”
“Sure. I’ll be in my office all morning after introducing Cory to the team.”
I went back to my office and played solitary on my computer as I drank two cups of coffee in a matter of minutes. I could not believe what had just happened. I was not sure if I had been stabbed in the back or shot in the face. I spent the hour sorting out my thoughts trying my best to understand this nonsensical decision. I struggled heavily. The phone rang:
“Hi Benjamin, Ronald is ready to see you.” Stacey’s voice was soothing which led me to believe she was ignorant of the fact that I had been bypassed by a scoundrel.
I slowly walked towards Ronald’s office and closed the door.
“What the hell is this Ron?”
“Calm down. What is the problem? Cory is my nephew and you kept telling me that we need to modernize to stay relevant. I decided to hire him for those reasons. I listened to you and you’re still angry...
“What is the problem? Really? You hire some punk who must have graduated from high school a few months ago. You don’t tell me anything about his addition and you don’t ask for my opinion... I thought I was the next in line once you leave. What is my role if you can’t fucking tell me anything?”
“You don’t tell me to fucking tone down. I made you what you are. I made this company what it is. Synergy One was becoming a traYou are the laziest son of a bitch I ever met. I brought hundreds of millions to this company. You would have ruined your daddy’s company if not for me!”
“You know what? Pack up your things... You’re fired!”
“What? You can’t fire me!”
“And why the hell not?” He punched his desk heavily.
“You fire me and I tell everyone you harassed me sexually. Trust me the media will be the first informed. Think of all your clients and investors. Your empire will crumble faster than Enron did.”
“What? What are you talking about? I never did anything like that. I love women.”
“Let’s see who they’ll believe, a rich old man who spent his life alone or a good-looking ambitious man?”
“Fuck... What’s gotten into you? You are not the Ben I know.”
“I am like you... Remember you even told me so. You find ways to get what you want no matter if some blood need to be spilled along the way. I want ten million dollars by midnight tonight or I will come out in the media.”
“Pfff... I never put those words in your mouth.”
“Like I said, you choose not to pay and I will say that more than words were put in my mouth. It’s up to you. You pay and you’ll never hear from me again. You don’t and you will lose much more than the few millions I am asking for.”
I got up, opened the door, and told my team that something came up then drove home. It must have been the longest day I had ever lived. I spend the afternoon pondering. I was either going to retire in the Bahamas or become the main actor in a media frenzy starving for white collar scandals.
I spent the evening with my eyes glued to the computer staring at my bank account refreshing the page every ten second or so. It was 9 PM and still no sign. I had the phone in my hands about to call the local newspaper and then I saw it. One followed by seven zeros. I bought the first flight to the Bahamas available which was about fifteen hours later. I turned off the light and slept like a baby. I have been living like a king ever since reminiscing about what got me here. If I had to do it again, I most certainly would.