Being treated like a child at work

(27 Posts)
Charlene1 Tue 10-Oct-06 01:01:23

I have a job that I have started recently. It is making me really unhappy. I got it through an agency and it was supposed to last until March to cover maternity leave. I was nervous when I first started as I hadn't worked in an office for 4 years. I have been there 2 months. The other people are all the same "grade", the boss doesn't take any interest in the office - as long as the phone is answered in set times, he's happy. These other women are all over 50 and have worked there for years. We are all employed through an agency.
Basically, I have to sit and answer the phone, find the ext no. of who they want, dial it and put the phone down. I have done it before, done helpdesk, telesales etc, been a manager and always got on with most people, especially older ones.
This job is different. They are rude and patronising, demand to know my personal circumstances regarding housing, childcare arrangements, what I do at weekends etc. Fair enough, I thought they were trying to get to know me, but now I am faced with them TELLING me where I should live, WHAT I should do in my spare time, WHERE I should go, prying into my personal life in a big way, ORDERING me to buy a house as I "shouldn't be renting", telling me they will "find me somewhere to live, anywhere will do - bad area/falling down etc" as they think it's "disgusting I don't own a house" like them and have loads of money to spend on home improvements. I told them I am perfectly happy in my house and have no wish to bring up my children in the "bad area" of town, nor subject them to living in a building site for years, as we have no money or skills to buy a cheap house and renovate it.
One of the women insists on telling me how to use basics on a computer e.g. ctrl-alt-del and put a password in (wtf??), and continually butts in when I am trying to speak to customers - it is very hard to hear in a noisy office, and if I have to ask them to repeat a name, or can't spell the name cos it's "foreign" etc, she is on me like a ton of bricks: "who do they want, what are they saying" etc. It makes me look stupid, I can't hear the customers as she is shouting over at me and drowning them out, and it pisses them off, as I have to keep putting them on hold to tell HER what they want, when I've already got it sorted and helped them. I have been there long enough to know what the job involves, and I do NOT need this. If I DO need help, she is SO smug that I've had to ask, I want to slap her. In between calls, if they're not grilling me about personal things, they totally ignore me and tell me to sit there and read a magazine as I am "not allowed" to do any other work in the office as it's "too complicated". All they do is data entry and send emails - I have done that for years at far greater levels than the work there. It is so patronising, and I hate sitting around doing nothing in silence between calls.

I answer the calls very quickly and nearly always beat the targets. They sit there talking and tut loudly if they have to stop to answer calls. We can get 5 calls at once - I can only answer one at a time or we go 10 mins with nothing. They whinge if I have to go the loo, because they have to cover the calls then. They refuse to tell me where the canteen or snack machine is as "they don't see why I shouldn't bring my own food and make my own tea" - and then I'd have to make them one as well. I do take my own food but have to take tiny bites and eat quickly as they glare at me if the phone goes and they have to answer it because I'm eating - so I end up answering it with my cheeks stuffed with sandwiches/grapes etc and trying to sound professional/clear/not choke etc. as they will just leave it and make my targets look bad.

I was going to complain to the agency, until I went on Jobcentreplus today and saw MY job being advertised there. So I don't know if these women have stabbed me in the back and told the agency they want me out - one told me to go and apply for other jobs, and got me an application form for Boots xmas jobs - I don't know if they see me as a threat as I am younger and have faster reflexes on the switchboard/computer, or if it is just that I AM really a totally horrible person and don't deserve to be treated with respect and left to do my job.
I told the "cow" I will ask for help if I need it, but to stop interrupting as I couldn't hear the callers. She ignores me. I am told conflicting things to say on the phone on different days e.g "put calls through to X immediately" then "don't ever put through calls to X". I am told to be cold and abrupt if someone tries to pass the time of day on the phone - sorry, but I had "important royal customers from abroad" on the phone, and there was no way I was going to be rude to them and just ignore the "small talk". They all shouted and cackled by my desk on purpose whilst I did the call to show me up - I am talking about a big customer who was not impressed that I had to ask him to repeat things as I couldn't hear. If someone says "good morning, how are you?", naturally I say "fine thank you, how can I help?" This is a "no-no" as well - I'm supposed to be abrupt and say "what/who do you want" and then just put it through without even acknowledging them. They also tell me to just cut people off if they need too much help as they "don't want the calls backing up" - yet they won't answer it themselves as they're doing their nails or talking.
DP says I should tell them to eff off and ignore them, but I hate working in atmospheres and don't see why they should drive me out. Ok, they have all the names and extensions memorised because they've been there a long time, but surely they should not behave like this towards me and the customers. The woman who's job I am covering was really nice, but obviously she's gone now. Oh, they've also refused to give me a reference when I leave, saying "they don't know me, and couldn't say anything about my work performance". I doubt the agency would give me one either if they've been badmouthing me.
What do I do??? This is making me really depressed as we need the money, so I can't leave without getting another job - which will be impossible without a reference.

God, I think that's the longest post I've ever done!! Sorry all, but I feel better just getting it all out.

HauntedsandCastle Tue 10-Oct-06 01:35:52

They are busybodies who think they can boss you around. As for the canteen/snack machine a little rekky of the area should help you find that. You are entitled to a break, surely? eat your lunch away from the phones so they can't MAKE you answer.

If anyone talks at you while you are on the phone and you can't hear that caller I would just say "I am sorry, somebody this end is being very rude and taking to me while I am trying to help you, could you please repeat what you said"

I helped out a friend in a dental practice who thought it was great fun to make the other girls laugh when they answered the phones, but hated it done to her. I After asking her nicely to stop, I simply refused to answer the phone. She soon changed her tune!

Think you need to move on from this job. Give them something to really winge about! If you have seen the job advertised I would go in to the job centre and ask what is going on. Don't et wakled all over. And as an aside, why would you want a reference from people like this?

saadia Tue 10-Oct-06 05:03:45

this sounds awful, they are bullies. Could you complain to their superiors or to HR. I'm thinking that the best thing is to stand up to them as your dh says but as you do need the job you don't want it to all go wrong. They do not sound like reasonable people so I don't think that asking them nicely to stop interrupting would work. I think you should look for another job, even though it's not fair.

WideWebWitch Tue 10-Oct-06 06:11:30

They won't be responsbile for giving you a ref, the agency will.

Ignore them and keep looking for another temp booking.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee Tue 10-Oct-06 19:00:51

Excuse me for what I am about to say but if you make them a cup of tea piss in it . You are lovely and they are horrible . repeat after me ,they are horrible and I am lovely .

mummyscaryhouseonthehill Tue 10-Oct-06 20:11:12

Have you contacted the agency about what is happening and asked them to find you a new position?

I very rarely had a bad placement when I temped but as soon as there was a problem I let the agency know and asked to be moved. Most of the time the agency were fine with this.

As others have said the agency are responsible for references however they go on information supplied by the clients you work for.

Good lucl in getting out of there sounds like a very unhealthy atmosphere to work in.

boogiewoogie Tue 10-Oct-06 22:01:18

Charlene, that is absolutely appalling! I know what it feels like when you're there as a temp and everyone else thinks that you don't know much because temps have no status whatsoever.

I believe that they probably are threatened by you being younger and better qualified etc and that you are stepping on their toes.

I concur with everyone else here who have suggested that you look for another job whilst you're in one. DO NOT put up with this appalling behaviour. No job is worth you being miserable.

Charlene1 Mon 16-Oct-06 23:33:35

Hi, sorry I took so long to get back to this, was hoping things would get better. It hasn't.
Jobcentre told me advert was placed last Monday and it's not a mistake. I think someone was interviewed last Friday, as my "colleague" slipped up saying a girl had come to see them, then stuttered and said it was a friend of my other colleague who she hadn't seen for ages. That is crap, as it is so difficult to get on site, they could only be there for a meeting with managers/be existing staff/or be potential staff. I asked if she had "anything she thought I should know" and she nearly choked, so I know I'm not paranoid. I then pretended I was referring to new extension no's/messages etc.

I am being constantly patronised e.g having to put up with them "logging me in", as they think I'm not capable of doing it.
They ignored me for over 2 hours this morning, so I was sat reading a magazine. The boss walked in and completely blanked me. I have no idea what I've done to deserve this.

Haunted - I'm only there for 4 hrs a day and I can't sit away from the phones. I emphasised before I accepted the job, that I would need to eat lunch before I finish, as I have to go straight to my other job when I leave and don't get time for a proper lunch break. They said it was fine, so did the agency, and I could take off my headset whilst I did so. In reality, that is b**llocks.

I am "scared" to tell the agency, as I don't want to look like I'm whinging and ruin my chances of a reference/other job with them. Before I got this one, they decided I was "not suitable for permanent work as I had been a sahm too long", so by doing this assignment, I was hoping to "prove them wrong". If I phoned and asked what the problem was, I am scared of the answer, as I would have to defend myself against whatever it is, and they could decide to fire me on the spot for ringing up and challenging them.

Do I have a right to know why they have advertised my job behind my back? I seriously think they will just use me until they get someone else and then just fire me. If I kick up a fuss, or ruin the targets on purpose or something, it will only look bad on me, not them.

I have an interview for a similar job with our council on Wednesday, but I don't know how to explain that my colleagues will not allow me to do things like: send an email or a fax. When a borrowed phone is returned, you have to rub a name off a whiteboard and cross the name off the corresponding list in a book e.g Mr x had phone 34, cross his name off next to 34, put phone on shelf, write in date returned in book. My 4 yr old could do it. I'm "not allowed".

I also don't know what to say when interviewers ask for a reference from my present employer, as I tried to say on the application that I would only let them get one if they offer me the job, but they insist on refs for everyone being interviewed. So the agency could refuse/say something bad - and I have no idea what, if anything I have done wrong - and I don't get the job. Then the agency will know I AM looking elsewhere and will definitely replace me with anyone who's replied to the advert. I'm stuck - they obviously want rid of me, but I can't get a job unless they say "nice things" - which they won't do as my colleagues have obviously stabbed me. What the hell do I do? By the way, wakeup - I love the "piss in tea idea" - I did think of replacing the tea bags with blue mouth joke ones or something, but I'm too well "guarded". They've taken to not leaving me in the office alone now and take it in turns to go the toilet, so the other one can "watch me". It's so offensive - you can understand it if I was surrounded by diamonds and they didn't know me or something, but I'm literally attached to a phone by a headset and sat at a desk. I have no interest in nicking the post-it notes or a phone or anything. If I snap and tell them to eff off, then they will have grounds to get rid of me.
Any more thoughts on what to do??

wakeupandsmellthecoffee Tue 17-Oct-06 06:53:59

I still say P in her coffee.

ProfYaffle Tue 17-Oct-06 07:19:59

Oh God Charlene, I totallly sympathise. I spent 2 years as a temp in various assignments and have been in very similar situations, had my job advertised behind my back etc.

I've also been on the employers side, in my previous job I used to manage our (large) agency account and employed lots of people through agencies.

tbh, from what you say, the Agency sound crap. If I were you I'd go and register with another one. It is totally normal to swap between Agencies or to be registered with a few and pick and choose assignments. It sounds like they know they've given you a crappy assignment and have put you on it because you're new to the Agency and they think you're desperate.

In my experience of agencies, they are keen to put bums on seats because that way they earn their cut. If you pull out of this one I'm sure they will find you another one because that way you are earning money for them.

Re the council job, my old employer was a County Council. We used to asked for references prior to interview but used to give interviewees the option to not allow us to approach the referee until after interview. Ring up their HR Dept and confirm that they do this. They will need the reference before they actually offer you the job though. Also many agencies these days will only supply a factual reference, ie confirm job title and dates employed and that's it. You could check with your agency what they supply.

My experience is that good temps are hard to come by and (depending on the employment rates in your area) good ones are in a strong negotiating position with their Agency but the Agency will try very hard to let them know that this is the case!

PS, re the 'not suitable for perm work', sounds like bllcks to me! I think they just didn't have any perm jobs on their books at that point or want you in a difficult to fill (due to sh!tty colleagues) booking which will probably earn them more money in the long run.

CarolinahowlingattheMoon Tue 17-Oct-06 08:05:56

Charlene, ProfYaffle has some excellent advice, but I just wanted to say these women sound totally inadequate and obviously feel very threatened by the fact that you're so much better at it than they are.

Best of luck with the council interview. I wouldn't say anything negative about the current job - just reinvent it as if it's all going the way it should. You've got all the experience they need.

ProfYaffle Tue 17-Oct-06 08:29:36

oops, meant to say the Agency will try very hard not to let them know that this is the case!


speedymama Tue 17-Oct-06 09:13:13

Charlene, you might find this website here useful. It provides advice about interviews and references (providing a reference with the intention of maliciously defaming the character of an individual is illegal btw and your agency will not do this - ultimately they earn their fee by placing people).

If at the interview, they ask about your working relationship with your current colleagues, tell them that your colleagues provided invaluable guidance which encouraged you to take on work which built on your strengths and allowed you to develop beyond the immediate needs of the job. Also, tell them them that the current job was a great opportunity that helped you to re-enter the work place, that you have developed your skills with respect to dealing with a variety of customers, planning your time, meeting and exceeding targets, working as part of a team and enhancing your IT skills. You are now ready for new challenges and feel that the job with the council will help you develop professionally as well as broaden your skill base in terms of working as part of a motivated workforce as well as developing ........skills.

These women are indequate bullies and are preying on you like vultures. Whatver happens, you cannot stay your current position.

Good luck!

mummyscaryhouseonthehill Tue 17-Oct-06 09:39:24

I agree with profyaffle. Go register with a couple of agencies not just one that way you can pick and choose your jobs. You need to let the agency know that you are unhappy and let them know that if they don't find you an alternative you will register else where and walk. I did this a couple of times and was allways found a better asignment. I temped for 5 years and was never out of work durring that time.

Charlene1 Sat 04-Nov-06 13:38:03

Well, I tried to get other jobs and failed. Went in work Thursday, found the "training phone" plugged in. Asked if "someone had been interviewed", they denied it. Have asked them if they have a problem with me or my work, they said no. Got call from agency late Friday afternoon telling me my contract is finished, I am NOT to go back there on Monday. The reason given was that "I don't answer the phone how they want me to" (that was because I refused to be offhand to staff phoning or be racist and put the phone down on people struggling to speak English, like they do - I tried to help them get to the right department), "I have had 2 complaints from customers about me and my manner", and "I have had ample opportunity to put this right but have failed to do so". I pointed out that a staff member had been abusive, so I had reported him to the manager twice, and I have NEVER been rude on the phone in my life, and had repeatedly asked the others if they had a problem and they had said no. I also told the agency how they had been constantly "humiliating" me.

All to no avail, as I'm still sacked. I did not let on I knew they had advertised my job anyway, but I made sure that they knew I was NOT "bad on the phone" etc.
The agency will also not give me any more work unless I or my other employer can "provide hard evidence that I can follow instructions and do whatever I'm told". I pointed out that answering very intrusive personal questions is unreasonable and expecting me to put up with being patronised and not say anything to them is also unreasonable. So in a nutshell, they hated me because I wouldn't let them walk on me, the agency has believed every word they've said as the've "been there for years", and I can't pay my bills now. I also have the situation again of having to pay for full time child care when I will only work pt next week and having to put my daughter in when I go for interviews etc, until I get something else. There is a permanent job that the agency have, not sure where yet, but I don't think they will even put me in for it now. There is nothing else anywhere, even xmas shop work for min wage, as I need to fit in with the other job. Scoured internet and papers, exhausted all contacts - nothing.

I hated the job and my partner is pleased I'm not going back, but I hate the fact they've lied to me and the agency. Why the hell do people have to stab you in the back?? They had "ample opportunity" to tell me if they hated me and wanted me out. I even felt bad about planning to leave because I did sort of get on with one of them - but now I realise I was stupid, as she's as bad as the rest, and they've all had the satisfaction of getting me sacked before I could walk out. Wish I had "accidentally" left kippers between the desk and radiator now...

Mud Sat 04-Nov-06 13:46:28

i am shocked by this thread - but not thwe way you think i am - i think you are putitng your own viewpoint avross very clearly but i think you have made no allowance fo rothers . it seems to me like you have a huge victim mentality - if they are employing a temp they want you to fit in with the way they do things they don't want you going tin there thining you know better - you obviously didn't fit in and made the office uncomfortable and a whole range of people wanted you out

you need to learn from this to judge a situation and play along the way they want you to - you don't walk out thinkng your in the right all times - you learn and move on - you hvae an 'i'm right, they're wrong i'm a total victim' mentlaity and maybe they were bullyign you but somethign somewhere started it off -and i would hazard a gues if you can't find one person you would count as a colleague that the initial blame lies with you not a bunch of them

i comment because you have given your side and nobody has given there's but it costs money to replace a staff memeber and it isn't done lightly - i think you miught need to take a look at yourself and see how you can make it easier fo ryourself to fit in at your next job -

threelittlebangers Sat 04-Nov-06 13:55:09

Charlene I only have a minute, and will try and come back to this thread tonight, but I would seek legal advice if I were you- temporary workers still have rights! Either CAB or an employment law line, which your local law centre may operate. Back later...

ProfYaffle Sat 04-Nov-06 14:17:55

tbh i think you need to draw a line under this one, register with another agency and get work through them. From what you say I don't think the company has done anything illegal per se, they decided you weren't suitable for a booking and terminated it. I'm afraid you don't have an automatic right to be eligible to apply for the permanent position. It's possible the Agency charges a placing fee for staff located in perm positions and the company wanted to avoid paying this.

You say you're struggling to find another job, have you tried another Agency?

threelittlebangers Sat 04-Nov-06 15:23:30

Was thinking possible victimisation/bullying/harassment- but not sure that's why I suggested seeking advice, even from CAB. However, I do take ProfYaffle and Mud's comments on board, and maybe it would be best to put it down to experience. Hope you get another job soon

Charlene1 Sat 04-Nov-06 19:30:15

Mud, you obviously didn't read the whole thread properly. I said I had tried to "fit in" and get on with them. I got on fine with them until they found out I don't own a big house/car/expensive clothes etc. and I refused to answer their very personal questions. I also asked them to stop butting in on calls and undermining me - in a nice way. I don't see how that makes me the problem. They sit there and bitch about how much someone's jumper cost or boast about how much they've spent on posh food from M&S (I shop at Tesco). They sat and slagged off the woman I'm covering for, and she's been there 3 years. They are shallow and materialistic. God help the new person. I get on with EVERYONE in my other job - they don't pry, don't stand over me, nor insist on logging in or wanting to know what I am doing every second. They tell me if I have done anything wrong, and I certainly don't have a problem with that.
I think you are unfair to say I have a "victim mentality" / I have made no allowance for others. Of course I know that you are supposed to mould to someone else's rules at work, but that was my whole point - they treated me like an idiot to make themselves look good and score points over each other by giving me contradictory instructions. Obviously if your boss says e.g. we use yellow highlighters, you don't decide yourself to use pink etc. I don't think I "know better" - I just know I shouldn't have to take crap like that - it was a job a 4 yr old could do as I said, their over supervision was completely ridiculous. It was 3 people that I had a problem with, not a "whole range".

Yes, my mistake was to keep my mouth shut and not get in first and report them in the first place - but as I said, I have no problems in my current job because they are honest, decent people - and yes, that job involves working in a small team who have been there for years, all different lifestyles/backgrounds. They tell me what to do, I do it. I ask if I'm not sure of anything, they help me. They leave me to get on with it. We have jobs where we have to work completely together and communicate constantly to get it right - again no problem. And some of it is difficult to take in - not something simple like saying "good morning" on a phone.

I'd like to know how you think I can stop it happening again - maybe I should tell new colleagues how much I have in the bank and my medical history, how much our bills are etc. Should I not speak to anyone to avoid them finding out any personal information?

Seriously though, I am very upset at this, as I did my best to get on with them, tried to make conversation about their interests, answered the phone politely and quickly, was never rude or cut anyone off, even when they were off hand or abusive to me, did my best to help people with enquiries. Tell me how on earth that is wrong?? If you think I am being a "victim" and it's all my fault, then please tell me how not to let it happen again. I want to get on with people and enjoy work, I don't like backstabbing and office politics.

Pro and Three , yep still scouring all avenues - will hit the town Mon am with my CV and try and get shop work or something. I am supposed to ring the agency on Tues am to further defend myself and beg them for another job, but whatever I say about how I've been treated will sound like sour grapes now, so any ideas on how to convince the agency I'm not crap would be welcome.

ProfYaffle Sun 05-Nov-06 09:55:12

Try not to let it get it you, as I said in an earlier post, I've been on your side of the fence as well and been in exactly the same position. just be thankful you're out of it.

The thing to remember is that the Agency are your employer and they have a duty of care to you, not the company you are placed with. Maybe you could speak to them along those lines, say you're disappointed they're not prepared to protect their employees from harassment and as such you're not prepared to fulfil any more bookings for them.

As for 'beg for another job', wtf? Don't forget you're making money for the Agency when you're placed in a booking, they need your bum on a seat somewhere! Forget this Agency and go for another one, they sound useless.

msrlmoss Sun 05-Nov-06 19:34:45

I work as a Consultant at an Agency and the best advice I could give you would be that all agencies compete with each other to be given assignments to which they can send temps. Therefore, I would find out who your agencies main competitors are (if you let me know who they are I could probably give you an idea) and register with them. Tell them about the bad experience you had with your agency - they'll be delighted to hear bed press about their competitors!

However, be careful. If the agency is vindictive, as some of them are, if they find out you're going for an assignment through a different agency they may ring up that company and rubbish you (verbally of course; no proof) and try and get one of their temps in instead. So don't totally p--s them off, just tell them you weren't happy with your assignment.

Oh, and by the way, I would only ever advise someone that they "had to take a temp job and prove themselves before we gave them a perm job" if they had just walked out of a perm job and the reference was a bit suspect.

The only reason I'd advice a previously SAHM to temp is if SHE felt unsure about going back into an office job and wanted to try it out first, not if WE felt unsure! How rude of them!!

And really, don't worry about references. I think you mentioned your last office job was a number of years ago, but if anyone there still remembers you fondly, even if it's not your boss, you can use them as a referee.

helenhismadwife Sun 05-Nov-06 20:30:30

Hi Charlene

I have read your thread and got very on your behalf. The only thing I can think to suggest is to contact acas for advice and support explain the situation to them and see if they have any suggestions. They will be able to tell you if you have any comeback either against the agency or the company you worked for because basically you were bullied, also I would make a point of telling the useless bunch of t@ssers at the agency you have contacted acas about the bullying!!

Acas have a website its; telephone number for helpline is 08457 47 47 47 there are local numbers on the site.

Good luck

Charlene1 Mon 06-Nov-06 10:48:37

Hi, thanks all, I feel much better today. I had a lie in until 7am!! Didn't have to stress about having to endure 4 hours of hell at work. Don't think I can do anything legally though, as I didn't get in first to complain - the agency's attitude is "they've been there years, why would we believe you?".
Back to the jobsearch...

ProfYaffle Mon 06-Nov-06 11:05:03

That's just another sign of a bad Agency imho. I've had experience of Agencies coming to me to say temps are having problems with a particular manager and I've had to have words with the manager in question. it's in the Agency's interest to handle things this way as their temps are likely to be happier, stay long term and make more money for them.

Was it a big, national Agency or a small local independent job?

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