Friday, July 27, 2012

Why I Don't Have A Job

Today I  found out that I did not get a job that I was pretty sure I had in the bag. With every rejection (when the employer is courteous enough to send a letter or email)  I go through the same thought process, panic, blame. I fucked up, I think, I should never have gotten myself fired. I was so stupid. I usually snap out of that line of thought pretty damn quickly when I think back to my most recent employment. There is a bit of risk in explaining why I am currently unemployed, but I think it will help people to understand me, at least.

So the job I  got fired from was a customer care and technical care 1 call center job at a multi-million dollar telecommunications company that really really likes the color pink. Since I still have friends that work there, and am collecting unemployment, I'm not naming the company. I worked there for 6 years.

You put your phone where ma'am?, I'm sorry, that's not covered by your warranty.

In 2005 I left a low-level management position in fast food to work for The Company, and it was a great opportunity. My wages doubled, and I had health insurance. The training was intense, exhausting, but stimulating, and when it came time for me to graduate to the floor, I was scared, but I eventually made my way. As time passed, I gained the confidence of my supervisors, and was eventually allowed to come off the phones at times to provide semi-supervisory support to my team and surrounding teams, answering questions and taking escalated calls. Overall, the environment was fun. We had potlucks often, especially on the weekends when the cafeteria was closed, and there were often bowls of candy on supervisor's desks. It was a great environment.

Then, in the beginning of 2009, I experienced two life traumas in the same week that kind of broke me: my first very serious relationship ended (badly) and then a few days later, my dad had a heart attack (thankfully he's fine). I was distracted at work, crying at my corner desk where no one could see me. My boss at the time (we changed shifts every 6 months) knew what was happening and sympathetically scored calls from before my life crumbled. I struggled to focus on doing my job, moving back home with my parents, and dealing with my overwhelming grief.  That May I moved into my own apartment and over the course of the summer realized that something was very wrong, when I couldn't stop crying. That winter I went on antidepressants. I was off the phones for a week in a support role for my team, filling in for my senior representative who was on vacation when I started to itch uncontrollably. The bupropion (brand name Wellbutrin) my doctor had put me on I was allergic to. With the swollen throat from the early anaphylaxis, I plowed on and helped my team, and started a new medication, which made me overwhelmingly tired.

Around 2009 I started to notice a change in the atmosphere in the center. There were fewer activities, fewer incentives and the ones that were put forth were difficult to attain. We were expected to push services on customers, and all of a sudden, numbers mattered more than satisfaction. I took as much same-day PTO as I could just to get out of there. This was around the time that I started my first big manic phase, what I like to call my "slut phase," because that's what I did. I hunted and gathered men. Not pretty, I admit. Anyway, I realized this dark cloud was rolling in when members of management quietly started to disappear from the halls. The team next to us lost their direct supervisor, then they inherited our senior representative. Then our supervisor dropped the hammer: he had provided his 2-week notice. The company had denied his request to step down to a lower position in order to maintain a work-life balance so his only option was to quit. We all called bullshit. We were angry.

Then we punished him for leaving us
The end of 2010 saw me reach the maximum dosage of my antidepressant when I suddenly, during a brief team meeting before the start of day, freaked the fuck out and ended up having a 45 minute meeting in a huddle room with my supervisor (incidentally, I had the same supervisor this time around as I had had during my initial crisis). Not only was there pressure to sell, but my numbers had never been great when it came to call handle time. My quality was consistently good, but it wasn't good enough to get me off the phones, and I watched with resentment as the same person, time after time, was selected to support the team while we waited for our senior to come off leave. This was also the first time I'd ever been on a team that was outwardly hostile to me (including my supervisor) and openly ostracized me. This is also where I met John, my current ex. When it came time to change shifts, I couldn't wait.

Ahh, we are coming close to the end. By now, I was starting to feel the weight of inadequacy, working in a giant high school of gossiping harpies, seeing my numbers slip further and further. My final supervisor (I technically had one more, but never interacted with her, I'll get to that) ended up to be one of the most amazing people and I consider her my soul-sister and very, very good friend. And she helped me more than she can realize. Early in 2011, I  got my first migraine. I tried to write it off as a one-time thing, but they kept coming, getting worse. I got FMLA leave so that I could take a day when needed. However, the migraines were frequent, and I worked 4-day shifts and the migraines lasted 2 days; I had no way to salvage my stats and eventually ended up on an ROE, a "review of expectations" for a month. In addition to the migraines, something in me was changing, and I was getting very close to abusing my customers, to the point where my supervisor did pull me off the phones once to calm me down after a call.

Then one Monday I got up and got dressed but I could not leave my room. I sat on my bed and was pretty much catatonic. I texted John (who had accepted a job elsewhere at this point, but had the day off. We had started a sexual relationship at this point) in desperation. I didn't know what was happening. I couldn't move. In hindsight, I'd had my first panic attack. I sent a text to my boss and lied about having a migraine. Something had to change. John called me and told me about his friend Kevin, who used to work at The Company, went on a leave of absence and got fired, and was now on unemployment, and it was a solid thing. I arranged to meet them at the grocery store where they were going to pick up milk. I listened to his story, asked questions. Then I called out the rest of the week.

I went in that next Monday extra early. I had to control my breathing as I walked near the building so that I wouldn't hyperventilate because I was in panic attack mode, and waited for my supervisor to get in. When she sat down I slid into the chair opposite her and tried to talk without crying but that's pretty fucking impossible when you're losing it. I was hoping I was fired but she explained the process, that I was under an ROE for another month, then, the angel, suggested I file for a continuous leave of absence.

I filed the leave of absence, in that I called the HR Helpdesk and requested the paperwork, which made my absences excused in the interim. I didn't hand in  the paperwork and eventually it got declined. I filed again, at the suggestion of my local HR department. I the meanwhile, I filed for short term disability (which was a joke) that got denied. I ended up applying for food stamps and borrowing from my 401(k) and eventually my second unsubmitted LOA request was declined. Then I got the call from my local HR. I played dumb, pretended I didn't know what she was talking about, didn't know what "quit" and "terminate" meant until she said that The Company would have to sever my employment. The process took 3 months and was very, very lean times. They fired me exactly 1 month to the day of my 6 year anniversary on October 28, 2011. Unemployment saw in my favor,  but I never saw any benefits until December, because when you get fired versus laid off, there's a lot of red tape to go through.

So yes, I deliberately got myself fired. But I needed to, for my own sanity. I have friends that are still there and I don't know how they haven't been broken yet. I have heard the most horrible things about changes being made there and... I'm glad I left.

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