employee handbook

Why they play annoying, aggressive, repetitive music while you’re on hold to talk to a human at a large corporation, ten minutes into this latest wait, finally makes sense to me.  If annoying and aggressive enough, many of the callers will give up and go to the website where a human will not have to be paid to deal with a customer.  Logical, really, and good for the bottom line, if also frustrating for the customer.

In the old days the customer was always right– nowadays we are presumed to be powerless assholes, thanked for continuing to hold and told by cheerful robots that our business is very, very important to them.

As I continue to hold I am thinking about compiling a short employee handbook, perhaps an employee e-book.  This handbook would be illustrated by children’s drawings, cut-outs and claymation– if an e-book it could be animated.  Colors, flavors and sounds of creative play could be incorporated as we describe the philosophy of the organization: a place for children to make and share discoveries, creative and technical, supported by adults who listen carefully and encouragingly to their ideas.  It would outline and explain the three rules the adult must impart:  have fun, work together, be quiet and listen when asked to listen.

“Have fun” sounds simple for kids unleashed in a room full of art supplies, but it incorporates another key aspect: you can’t have fun if people are bothering or excluding you.  Which leads to rule two: work together, and its unspoken side rule– if you don’t want to work with someone, don’t bother them.   Without rule three it all falls apart– there are times when kids get out of control and have to simply be quiet and listen for a moment.  Sometimes a particularly out of control kid needs to be made an example of, given an immediate time out until the next time.

I will be asked: what are your credentials for writing an employee handbook?  Fortunately for me, that is not a question I will have to answer.

This world is a place of zooming competition where either we leverage, revamp, brand, rebrand and strategically partner or, my friends, we disappear, unable to compete with outfits who can do all these things, who never stop doing these things.  Outfits to whom a $20,000,000 federal grant is nothing more than a good start.  I spoke to a woman from an organization that got a $20,000,000 federal grant recently, and she was not snoozing as she generously gave me more than a half hour of her busy day.  Sympathetic sounding, and making a series of helpful-sounding suggestions, as well as a small promise she hasn’t yet kept a week later, I’m sure she wondered by the end how someone as ignorant of the language of marketing and sales could think total candor and frankness might be called for in a business conversation.  She’d thought she was getting a call from a man representing an innovative organization hers could partner with.

Turns out the guy was drowning, desperate, working alone from the Book Depository window, madly thinking, out of the blue, of an illustrated employee handbook he might one day write and finally turning dispiritedly away from a menu of distasteful and so far futile tasks he’d set himself for the day.  But not before he reminded callers that their business is very, very important to him and that he appreciated their patience as they continue to hold.

 

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