29 May 2008

Practical jokes

I've mentioned in a previous post about some of the practical jokes I've played in my younger days, charged up capacitors and that sort of thing.

Chatting to some of the the new operators today (the ones that are taking my job), we got talking about practical jokes and the sort of things you can do with phones in a call centre, or office situation. I mentioned some of the practical jokes I've played in the past, including one that really impressed the new guys.

You know those party popper things that look like plastic champagne bottles, where you pull the string and it goes bang and shoots streamers all over the place? Well, you sticky tape one of them under someones desk and tie the string to their seat. It's so simple and so effective. I may have to warn some of the other trainees, because the ones I was talking to seemed really keen to try it out.

Anyway, I got thinking later about practical jokes. I've read stuff where so-called experts reckon that people playing practical jokes in the workplace are either attempting to get attention, or it's just workplace harassment. I seriously think that the people that come up with that sort of rubbish got picked on (bullied) at school and never learnt to deal with it.

I was skinny, spotty and painfully shy when I was at school. I now have a pot belly, decent complection and joke confidently with complete strangers. I dealt with it.

I will never play a practical joke on someone that I think would feel victimised as a result. To put that another way, part of the fun of playing practical jokes on someone is the chance that they'll try and get you back. I haven't played a practical joke on someone for ages, but I tend to target people that I know will try and get me back. It's a game and it certainly makes the work day a bit more bearable.

I suspect that most practical jokers are the same. We don't do it to pick on someone, we do it for entertainment, with the hope it'll be on-going. If you've ever done any kind of apprenticeship, you will have had a practical joke played on you. As you've got older you've probably played a practical joke on an apprentice too. I bet you've got some stories to tell Dave in fact, I bet you could do a few blog entries yourself on the subject.

Anyway, to my way of thinking, practical jokes in the workplace are a good way of building a team. They're definitely a way of relieving the tedium of a boring job, and they don't need to be un-productive either.

What do other people think? Caramaena you work in a call centre in the same industry as me, what are some of the practical jokes that you seen played, especailly phone related? Don't tell me it hasn't happend. Treat it as one of those Meme things that you pass on to other bloggers. I'm curious to know what other people do to ammuse themselves and their coleagues at work.

23 May 2008

Waiting, waiting

I wrote the other day about my upcoming redundancy.

Today was the day we were hoping we'd get our form A, the official notification that we're no longer required. Because of problems getting access to certain computer systems for our replacements, we knew by about Wednesday that we probably weren't going to get our forms today.

I'm on RDO today, so I wouldn't have got mine anyway, but I just got a call from a colleague to tell me we'll probably get them next Friday now... maybe. We're pretty used to this kind of thing by now, in fact we've come to expect it. We're not complaining too loudly though, as I wrote in my previous post, if we go in the new financial year we end up paying less income tax on the leave that's paid out. To put it another way, the longer we stay, the more money we get.

In the mean time, some of us are training our replacements. I've been sitting with them for the past week and a bit, helping them get the hang of our databases. I've been doing the job for eight years now and I can complete most simple orders in under a minute. Watching a new operator, especially one who's keyboard skills aren't very good, can be really tiring. I sit there willing the cursor to move to the right place on the screen and willing the operator to ask the tech the right question. The sound of relief in the tech's voices when I drop into a call to help out is really noticeable. The relief when I get to take a couple of calls myself and do it at full speed is also noticeable.

The new operators will mostly handle the job okay I think. Some are already doing pretty well and are ready to fly solo so to speak. They'll be calling for help a lot, but they won't be tying up an experienced operator all the time. I know from experience that they'll all be calling for help occasionally, for months to come. I've trained people that have come to me for help a couple of years after they started. Unfortunately, the help won't be there for the IBM people, because we'll all be gone.

I could always give them my mobile number and charge a consultancy fee every time they ring I suppose. When it comes right down to it though, I learnt the job from scratch without any training. We made it up as we went along in the early days of our department. There's no reason the new people can't do the same. They'll make mistakes, we did, as long as they learn from them.

18 May 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

I wrote a few months ago that my department at work was being taken over by IBM.

For the past month or so, we've been waiting to find out exactly when we would no longer be needed and would be redeployed or made redundant.

Well, this week we finally found out. As IBM will officially be doing our job starting the 2nd June, most of us will be surplus to requirements, so to speak. There is still a knowledge transfer going on at the moment. Some of us have been helping to train our replacements and that will probably continue until the end of the month. There are a couple of people that will be required to stay on until the end of June, but most of us have only two weeks left in the job.

Under the terms of our redundancy agreement, we have several different options as to when we actually finish. If we opt to go early we could be out within seven days of being given our form A (which will probably happen this coming Friday), and there are generous enticements to get us to do that. There is also the option of a cooling off period while we decide and a jobs program to help us write our resumes and apply for jobs before we go. Basically, we could be out seven days after the form A, right up to eight weeks after, depending on which option we chose.

The question for me is how much better off will I be if I opt to stay until the new financial year, as I will pay less tax then. The longer I stay, the less of those financial enticements I get, but it's swings and roundabouts.

I've worked for this company for twenty four years now, and for the last few all I've wanted to do was get out and do something different, that's why I'm studying for a degree. I could have just resigned and got a job elsewhere, but wouldn't have been able to afford it. A redundancy makes it affordable and our company has one of the most generous redundancy packages of any company in Australia. Now that the time has come though, reality hits and you start to think, shit, I need to find another job.

Because I need to be able to get time off for exams and residentials, I don't want to get a full time job just yet. My first choice is going to be to get on the casual register with CSIRO. If nothing comes up there I'll be heading down to the local bus depot and offering my services.

One thing I won't be doing is wasting my time going for entry level jobs on the same kind of money that I get at the moment. I know of one guy that I used to work with and is finishing at the end of the month. He's apparently applied for about eighty jobs already and hasn't been offered a single interview. He's just aiming way too high. Most of us have vegetated in our jobs over the past few years, so it'll be an uphill battle for some.

I'm glad I've been preparing for my departure for a while and already had a bit of a direction long before the news came.

It's a whole new era for me and I'm looking forward to it, no matter what happens.

Wish me luck.

06 May 2008

Don't let go

I wasn't sure where to put this blog entry, here or in our carer's blog, but I thought I'd put it here so more people would see it.

It's a story about a possum, hence the temptation to put it on the carer's blog.

Donna and I like to sit out on the back verandah in the evenings and have a glass or two of fermented grape juice. Quite often while we're out here (I'm typing this from the verandah right now), we'll hear the patter of tiny feet running across the awning.

That happened tonight. We heard the patter and had already seen a ringtail possum and her little one walking along the fence, so we assumed this was one of the resident brushtails. The footsteps moved across the awning ready to jump into the nearby tree where we have a couple of feeders.

I stood up, leaned over the railing, and when I saw a little nose appear over the edge I said, "helloooo".

The owner of the little nose, a young brushtail possum, looked down at me. I waved. I think the possum must have tried to wave back, because the next thing that happened was, it fell off the roof.

Luckily it didn't fall far. Those young, highly tuned reflexes stopped it going too far and it managed to hang on and get back on the roof. Five seconds later it jumped into the tree and it's now feeding on a mix of birdseed and apple.

That young possum learned several lessons tonight. 1) It's not rude if you don't wave back. 2) the old sailor's rule of one hand for yourself and one for the ship, i.e. hang on. 3) The most important rule, never trust a human.

04 May 2008

No, no, no, no, yes

Donna and I were watching Big Brother tonight.

During the ads, a cry came from Sarah's room. "Nooooooo", or something like that. Nothing bad had happened on BB, but I had an idea what she was crying about. I grabbed the remote (being a guy, it was close by), and changed the channels. The Logies were on.

Now, if you don't live in Australia, you won't know what the Logies are. John Logie Baird basically invented TV. In Australia we have a yearly TV awards thingy that is named after him. Why it wasn't called the Bairds or even the Johns I don't know, but we have the Logies, a bit like the BAFTAs or the Oscars, but not in the same league.

Anyway, a "nooooo" came from Sarah's room during the ads while we were watching BB. I straight away knew she wasn't upset about Terri going back into the house. I looked at Donna and she said something about Sarah watching the Logies. Then I knew what she was upset about.

One of the nominees for this year's best new male talent was Lincoln Lewis, of Home and Away fame. I've blogged about him before. I grabbed the remote, changed the channel, there was Lincoln making his acceptance speech.

Now, I hate H&A (home and as far away as possible), but from what I've seen of Lincoln when I've been in the room while Sarah's watching it, he's not a bad actor. I think he deserved the award and I suspect Sarah did really. The only reason she was pissed off was because she went to school with him and didn't like him because he wasn't in her group of friends.

I don't know if Sarah heard the "Yaaaay" from the living room when I changed the channel and heard he'd won, but I'd like to congratulate him. I'm not saying that to piss Sarah off, he was better than the competition, most of whom I'd never heard of. It's always good to see someone from the Redlands doing well, like Marty from Biggest Loser last year. You always get the feeling you might bump into them in Coles and get the opportunity to ignore them. I've seen Ian McFadyen a few times, despite the disguise and I didn't yell out and ask him to do his David Attenborough impersonation.

Anyway, congratulations Lincoln, and next time someone does a search on Google to find out if you're gay and they come across my blog, I'm here to tell them you're not. You're not are you?