To think this isn't on and I have no choice but to leave
CakeAndTea1 · 16/10/2018 07:49
I work in a firm of a solicitors handling conveyancing matters.
My company around a year ago introduced a phone system which to me is just completely ridiculous.
Essentially they have scrapped direct dials and put us all in a pool where all calls just bounce to various people in the office.
Very rarely these calls relate to a matter you are personally dealing with however we are expected to assist by looking on the system at whichever matter the caller is asking about which interrupts your own matters.
At first it was manageable. However, they have expanded so rapidly that I am taking nearly 70 calls a day on matters which have nothing to do with me.
It's not about feeling that this is below me or anything like that. But I find it really hard to work on my own things whilst being constantly interrupted to deal with other people's matters. Add to that the fact we are now absolutely berated if we don't answer all calls to our phone and have even started receiving emails to say 'CakeandTea you have been away from your desk for 15 minutes can you explain why and go back in the phone pool please'.
I am trying to run my own cases and manage my own clients expectations and do actual legal work which takes concentration. I'm making mistakes and missing things because of this and it's causing me stress.
However, they will not see it. There has been a surge of people handing in their notices recently and one of the management essentially told another member of staff that they will happily 'manage people out if they don't like how we do things'.
AIBU to think this is not an efficient way to run a business or a fair way to treat your staff. I've been loyal to this place for a long time but I feel like they have changed their attitude towards us so drastically recently.
Livingtothefull · 16/10/2018 11:09
You could consider raising a formal grievance against this...could even be a collective grievance if enough colleagues are willing to be involved in this.
Do they have a policy for handling grievances? They should do...if not ACAS have information on this: www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3728
Yes you may get grief for doing this (although you shouldn't) but if you are considering leaving anyway, do you have anything to lose?
CakeAndTea1 · 16/10/2018 12:09
Livingtothefull I have thought of this. What would my grievance be do you think? That I can't do my job efficiently? Honestly I feel harassed with the emails we receive questioning where we've been etc... But I'm not sure they'd take that seriously
Yes we do get complaints and I never try to deal anymore. Just pass them straight to Management.
Livingtothefull · 16/10/2018 12:45
CakeAndTea1, you have explained very clearly here what your issues are with handling the phones and they are nothing to do with not being able to do your job efficiently but wider issues including reputational risk as it is frustrating for clients to have their calls picked up by random colleagues etc. as well as their policy itself causing you to be less efficient in your role. You could really use this post as the basis for a grievance if you chose to raise one.
You describe being 'berated' if you don't answer the phone or are away from your desk any length of time.....sounds like potential institutionalised bullying to me. And I might be clutching at straws but it could be construed as sex discrimination (this policy being likely to impact on women who may need more time for comfort breaks, to deal with periods etc)?
You say you have 'been loyal to this place for a long time'; if you have at least 2 years service you have a lot more employee rights, if you leave you have to start in a new company without those rights. One right you would have is not to have your job role unilaterally changed without consultation (does your job description include any reference to handling all incoming calls? If so what is the exact wording?)
I want to be clear that I am not trying to tell you what you should do, just point out some potential options for you so you can make the choice that is in your best long term interest. In the meantime maybe you could keep a log of the number/duration of calls you deal with & work out what proportion of your working day is spent dealing with these instead of your actual job. It may come in useful further down the line?
CakeAndTea1 · 16/10/2018 13:15
Livingtothefull thank you so much that's a really helpful post and definitely gives me some pointers to consider.
I wasn't sure whether an official complaint had to meet certain criteria in that management have done something specifically wrong i.e. harassment /bullying iyswim.
I've questioned them changing my job role & they state that they are allowed to do so if required by the 'business' needs'. I've been here for 5 years.
CakeAndTea1 · 16/10/2018 13:56
Candlelights2345 they did hire a few people to just answer the phones but then took it as an opportunity to expand again meaning an increase in work and calls putting us right back in this position. Now they are just hiring to replace the people that are leaving so staff levels seem to just be staying the same.
CakeAndTea1 · 16/10/2018 13:58
CSIblonde apparently reception (on a different floor in the building) were told to not transfer directly but to put people through to the pool instead. I assume it's so that the person being called directly can't just ignore it.
You never know when a call is coming from reception though until the angry person on the other side tells you they've just given all their info to the lady on reception.
Livingtothefull · 16/10/2018 17:41
Hi CakeAndTea1, no you can raise a grievance about any aspect of work and workplace you are unhappy about and have tried unsuccessfully to resolve informally, there aren't any limits about the subject of the grievance.
It is true that it is possible for employers to vary your contract due to changing business needs, however they are supposed to behave reasonably when doing this and not leave you unable to perform the contract - which they seem potentially to have done if this is making you unable to do your actual job role properly.
Your employment contract is a legal document so any one-sided variation by them would potentially be a breach of contract.
Did they consult with you at all about this change, or did they just say 'this is what we are doing from now on'? Did they actually vary your contract or refer to a clause in there which allows them to insist you do this job? Eg there is often a clause in a contract which states that the employee may be asked to do additional ad hoc tasks, which they may be relying on...whereas you can argue that imposing this has fundamentally changed the nature of your work.
If the change is fundamental enough then a resignation in response to this may even be deemed a 'constructive dismissal'. Don't rely on this though . I really think you should get some legal advice (maybe through your union if you are a member?) and ensure that any decision you make is an informed one as you may have a lot more rights than you realise.
CakeAndTea1 · 16/10/2018 18:48
Livingtothefull thank you again for another helpful post. I need to find a copy of my contract and see what it says though I imagine it likely will mention the requirement to do ad hoc tasks etc... As you mentioned.
In answer to a couple of your questions
No there was no consultation, just a 'this is the new system and this is how you use it'. A colleague emailed small arrogant boss with a suggestion on how to improve it and was told not to tell him how to run his department.
I'm not a member of a union but perhaps I should look into it.
It's really tough to know where to start. Small arrogant boss is an equity partner of the firm and so the only person above is the managing director who happens to be very friendly with him so I wouldn't feel comfortable taking it to them. With no HR it's hard to know who to go to.
I did rebel slightly though today and only answered 30 calls. Go me
niccyb · 16/10/2018 19:03
If they plan to do this, they should give you some protected time. For example on Monday you may be listed for unscheduled calls but on Monday afternoon, you have protected time to deal with the clients and legal work that you are expected to do.
It certainly doesn’t sound good and I’m sure it won’t be long before clients are complaining x
Livingtothefull · 16/10/2018 19:23
It does sound extremely poor. How utterly stupid of them to upset their loyal staff that way...before you even get on to the negative consequences for their clients.
I appreciate you may feel that a grievance may get you nowhere CakeAndTea - suggest though that you get clarification of your legal position and rights and decide from there what to do. In the meantime you could keep logs & records of these calls & any evidence you have indicating a bullying environment (emails etc), on the basis that these might come in useful later on.
One way or another this situation needs to end and soon - it sounds intolerable to me.
CakeAndTea1 · 17/10/2018 07:54
Thank you. I have began sending the emails to my personal email account so I can save them up. He's very sneaky in that most of the worst comments are made face to face rather than email which is infuriating. I was thinking of recording any meeting I have with him in future.
Thanks for your comments, I updated my CV last night so first steps!
Oscarsdaddy · 17/10/2018 17:29
If I call a law firm about a case, no matter what it is then I hate having to start explaining things again and again because you never speak to the same person more than once
Sounds to me like they’ve ulterior motives for any person answering the phone to have a hands on answer for the client. Streamlining the operation sounds like what they may be up to, I’d jump ASAP
LeftRightCentre · 17/10/2018 18:05
Fuck that for a game of soldiers! You'll never change them. You need to leave.
Are you actually a professional conveyancer or solicitor, or working there in an admin capacity? If it's the latter then, not being rude but you are really just an office worker so answering calls will be part of your work.
Even 'just an office worker' is not a call centre rep unless hired to be one . Some calls, sure, but unless the role is advertised as call centre rep or receptionist then it's reasonable to expect to not spend your entire day answering calls
Volant · 17/10/2018 18:10
This is utterly ridiculous and the worst of all possible worlds. As you say, clients want to talk to the person actually dealing with their case and will be deeply pissed off it they're given inaccurate information because the person they do speak to knows nothing more than they read of a screen and can't sensibly give them any promises as to future action etc.
It's extremely inefficient - if a client talks to the person actually dealing with their case, it stands to reason that that person will be able to respond much more quickly than someone who's never heard of them and who has to bring up their file on screen, read the notes, and try to work out what's going on given that notes may be incomplete or ambiguous and they won't have seen any of the documents.
I also suspect that your employers' insurers wouldn't be too happy: this looks suspiciously like several negligence claims waiting to happen. It might be worth making a seemingly innocent inquiry as to whether these systems have been run past the insurance company.
I don't see what's so dreadful about things going through to voicemail anyway, if you are conscientious about returning calls. If I need to talk to someone professional and they're not immediately available to answer my call, I'm not in the least offended - why would anyone be?
Jimdandy · 17/10/2018 18:11
If you’re in Leicestershire and the initials are PPL I feel for you a lot!
My colleagues hearts sink when they hear this kind of set up is on the other side.
If you are where I say You shouldn’t have a problem getting another job. All the jobs I see are for Conveyancing assistants or Paralegals always that or private client.
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