December 13, 2006 1:58am CST
In the year of 2004, many things happened that would change the course of my life, as I knew it. The beginning of the year started normal enough. I was employed at a local call center as a Quality Assurance Representative. The call center focused on technical support of a very popular dial up internet service provider. I would arrive at work each day with much anticipation as I thoroughly enjoyed my job. Each day, the Quality Assurance Team was responsible for monitoring the calls of the agents on the floor. We would grade each call and then provide feedback to the agent and management team. We identified learning gaps, technical ability, and customer service skills as they were displayed in each call. It was a very challenging job, but also extremely rewarding. As the year progressed, things seemed to change in the call center. We started receiving less calls than usual. Management teams seemed to be less motivated and more laid back. The feedback that we were giving to upper management seemed to literally go in one ear and out the other. Motivation among employees was down, and it seemed to not matter to anyone. I finally decided to take a day off to just get away from the general gloom that seemed to be hanging over each and very cubicle in the center. I was never much on taking days off from work – even when they were scheduled days off. I would always show up to work and do as much as I could while there. In fact, nearly three months prior to this, I had been given two weeks vacation time and still had not taken any time of it. Management had approached me numerous times and suggested that I take a day off to avoid burnout. However, my work brought me so much enjoyment, that I simply would not agree to take a day off of work. After many months of working every single day, I felt that day had come that I needed some time to myself. The date was February 21 2004. I do not remember much of what I did that day. I do remember calling into work just to make sure that I was not needed, but that is all. Later that evening, I decided to get on my computer and play around on the internet for a little while. I signed on to MSN Messenger as I always did, just to see who was online. Nearly everyone who was working was online, and those not scheduled to work at that time was online as well. Almost instantly, I started receiving instant messages from a wide array of my contacts asking if I had heard the news yet. I was caught by surprise, and my curiosity quickly beckoned me. I would reply to these messages and state “apparently not”. Then, one of my contacts responded. I will never forget the words that came across the screen: “We are all going to be laid off soon because they are closing our account and sending it to Manilla, Philippines”. I sat, in total shock, as I read the message repeatedly. Immediately following the initial message, came the second, which stated, “the account will only be taking calls for the next two weeks, and then it will be discontinued”. My heart began to sink. I stood up from my desk chair, just to help myself take in what I had just read. As I stood up, another message came through which read “they are going to help us acquire Unemployment”. Another message then followed: “we only have two weeks before we will be unemployed”. At reading this last message, the reality sank in and I literally fell to my knees in complete tears. I was completely devastated. My job meant the world to me, and I made sure that my world revolved around my job. Now, seeing that it was ending overwhelmed me and I was an emotional wreck. The reality of what was being messaged to me seemed anything but real. I was the sole provider for my family, which consisted of my two children, husband, and a live-in nanny. I had to support five people, pay the bills, and feed everyone. What would I do? Why would they discontinue our local account and send it overseas? Could it be a joke that someone is playing on me because they know my dedication and I took a day off of work? I went to work the next day with a small glimmer of hope that the messages were, in fact, just a joke. Upon my arrival, I saw that the messages were fact. People had already started to quit and clean out their cubicles. I arrived at work to find that many people were carrying their belongings from the building, and others were packing their vehicles up with the items they had already collected. I could see a variety of emotions in the parking lot. Many people were angry, other people were hurt, and many were silent. As I entered the actual building, I learned that the entire facility would be closing and the account would, in fact, be transferred to a center that was in Manilla, Philippines. The reason that the account would be transferred is that it was a new center and the employees could do the same work that we did for a lot less than our center was paying us. In addition, when the center had arrived in our community, they were given the incentives of 21 acres of land, building materials, and finances. These incentives were tax-free for the first five years. The center was coming up on their five-year mark. With a little research on the particular company that I worked for, I learned that most of the centers that they had always closed right before the five year mark. Outsourcing had become quite a big deal to many companies that year. Ultimately, outsourcing was intended to bring a lot more for American workers than it did did did. Though I can understand the whole process of outsourcing and how it can be beneficial, I did not find it as such when our company would be next. The final day of work had arrived. There were very few people left in the center. The process of monitoring calls had been lenient on one end, strict on the other. Anyone found to abuse the system while on a call was to be turned over to management immediately. Of course, these people were immediately terminated. The characteristics that would once earn someone a low score on their monitor, would now lead to their termination. This was extremely uncalled for in my opinion. Once a person was terminated, they would not be eligible for unemployment compensation. I found it very hard to participate in these activities. I monitored live calls all day long that day. I had a total of thirty minutes left before I would clock out for the very last time with that company. I choose to log out of my computer for the last time, and unplug my headset for the last time. I maintained my composure despite I was about to walk away from the best and most rewarding job I ever had. Though my heart was broken, I had a job to do – even if it was about to end. Many agents had asked if I was going to opt out early prior to this point, and I had promised them that I would stay until the very end and that is what I did. As I logged out of my system and prepared the rest of my belongings, a consideration came upon me. The agents that were out on the floor, still waiting for their last call, should be shown some sort of appreciation. They had made my job the most rewarding. They had contributed their time and effort to making the company what it was. They were experiencing the same thing that I was experiencing too. I walked out onto the floor of the center and walked down every row of occupied cubicles. I stopped at each agent and shook their hand, thanked them, and wished them luck on their endeavors. I told them just how important that they were to the company, the client, and to me. It was a sad, but decent closure for everyone.