Dealing with a boss who won't take no for an answer
June 29, 2012 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm being asked to engage in business practices that are probably bad for my company in the long run and driving me nuts personally. I'm also a new temp and not in a great position to rock the boat. Is there any way to make this situation more bearable?

I'm working as a temp at a referral agency which contracts with schools to provide speech, occupational, and physical therapists. They have a contract to provide a number of speech language pathologists to a large school district in a mid-sized urban area.

Myself and one other temp have been tasked with calling a list of speech therapists in the area near the school district, asking them if they'd be interested in our openings. Problem is, there are only so many speech therapists around. Between the two of us, we've called the same list of maybe 100-some people three or four times each over the past two days.

Needless to say, the people who aren't interested in the positions are getting pissed off at being harassed by phone. We'll take anyone who asks off our to-call list, but that still leaves a bunch of people getting 2 and 3 voicemails a day from us. The account manager who's filling the positions (call her Amy) , has gotten several angry messages from people who've been contacted again and again.

The problem is, we have a supervisor (call her Beth) who oversees me, the other temp, and Amy. Beth is insisting that both of us temps keep calling everybody on the list, even though they've probably already gotten the message a million times. I think it's crazy, Amy thinks it's crazy, but she won't back down.

I don't want Amy to have to field nasty messages. I feel guilty about leaving the same message for clearly uninterested people over and over. Most of all, though, it seems like bad business practice; if you want therapists to come through for you when they do need work, don't hound them over and over when they're clearly not interested.

If I have to call this same list of people over the next few days I will hit my breaking point. I know Beth is probably stressed at trying to fill her contract obligation, but the way we're going about trying to contact people now seems all wrong.

Is there any way to try to tell her to back off or consider other approaches? Keep in mind that as a temp I am totally expendable if I suggest anything too radical. (Not that I'd mind being asked to leave this organization, I just like paying my bills and all.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total)
Beth either knows what she's doing is crazy, and has no choice, or doesn't know and won't be convinced by a temp. Advice from a recently former temp: Contact your temp agency. Tell them you don't think this place is a good fit for you and if they can start looking for something else for you. If you're not already signed up with every temp agency in your area, get on that.
posted by bleep at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

So fake the calls--are your outgoing calls monitored? Hang up before the answering machine picks up and just keep making your little speech to the dial tone.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:27 AM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Is there any way to try to tell her to back off or consider other approaches?

The sheer amount of desperation you need to try this strategy means Beth is either completely aware of how it's working, or so confident in her godawful business acumen than damn if some new person is going to correct her.

I used to work for a temp agency -- as in, the actual agency, not as a temp -- and I wouldn't suggest trying to get re-assigned because you're tasked with doing something annoying. There's a lot more temps than there are clients, and at the end of the day, they're paying and you're getting paid. Last thing you need is for the placement people at the agency to have you on their shit list; clients hate having to be assigned new temps in the middle of an order.

As far as advice that may work but can possibly get you fired? You can surreptitiously ask if the therapists want to be put on the do-not-call list. If you get caught, you'll be in deep shit, however.
posted by griphus at 9:38 AM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Someone else has given Beth the instruction to do this stupid thing, and she's doing it because she wants to keep her job. You aren't going to be able to reason her out of it.

Eventually all of the speech therapists who aren't interested will ask to be put on the do-not-call list.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 AM on June 29, 2012

Have you thought about asking, in your message, that the therapists respond back if they'd prefer not to be called? Would Beth be onboard with that?

My husband used to be an RN, and we'd get these calls all the time! I'd just delete. People gotta do what people gotta do.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:00 AM on June 29, 2012

Don't call them.Meanwhile, asked to be reassigned
posted by KogeLiz at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2012

Speech Therapist: "You folks called me three times last week! This is ridiculous!"

You: "Are you saying you want to be put on our do-not-call list?"

This depends on how closely the calls are monitored, of course.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:07 AM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

With all due respect, seriously: you're a temp. Your job is to do the boring, mundane, repetitive and occasionally monumentally-stupid thing your employers ask you to do.

Make the phone calls. The health of their business is Not Your Problem.
posted by downing street memo at 10:29 AM on June 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

I have total sympathy for you at how horrible the task of calling annoyed people who have clearly said "No" several times before must be. Alas, you're not going to be able to reason your boss out of this ridiculous strategy, so that isn't a way out of the horrible task for you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:33 AM on June 29, 2012

If you know they're not really monitoring your calls, I'd see no problem at all in asking them to please call back whether or not they're interested. Using those words. Because this is the easiest and least risky set of words you can use to indicate that they have the power to get off your list. Only do this if you know they're not monitoring your calls. If there's any chance they are monitoring you, stick to your script. This is not the economy in which to be screwing around with a temp gig's rules.

By the way, it seems to me that your temporary client here knows a lot about what they're doing - they're not using a (MUCH MUCH CHEAPER) robocall service, which gets them out of a lot of the Do Not Call type provisions. This suggests to me that they know they're going to get a relatively small yield and they still don't care, because the profit from the few takers will be worth the cost (which is really just money to them - the account manager's mental anguish presumably costs your client very little, because this is sales, and sales is full of mental anguish.)

Amy is in a much stronger position than you are. If anyone's going to stop this, it's going to be her, not you or the agency. She doesn't have much power, though, and until Beth's method gets very negative consequences (such as a contact calling and making a huge fuss at a higher level - and do not try to convince or hint at anyone doing such a thing) it's unlikely anyone in authority is going to insist this method stops.

Are you doing any other tasks for this client? If not, you may want to let the agency know that the task you've been assigned seems like it's not going to last very long (and why.) This will only work if they don't seem to have anything else for you to do, though - agencies really want to know if you're suddenly not going to be working, but that's pretty much the limits of their caring (unless, like, you're being abused or they're having you do something much more complex than what you were originally hired to do or they start hinting about a full-time gig.)
posted by SMPA at 10:42 AM on June 29, 2012

I would politely, and with a slight higher voice inflection *wink*wink, mention to the person that they can be put on the new call list. Then you will have no list to call
posted by couchdive at 10:42 AM on June 29, 2012

Can you add a line to the end of your script, saying "We apologize if you have received multiple messages; at Acme Staffing we respect your expertise, so we are eager to speak with you whether or not you are available at this time" or similar? Or even more directly, "If you wish to stop receiving these messages, please call xxx-xxx-xxxx"?
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2012

You may be right. But keep in mind all of the context that you do not have. Because you have direct experience, it's easy to think that you know what is best. But unless you've recently completed an analysis of their recruitment techniques informed by the latest research about recruitment success rates, the practices of their competitors, and other relevant factors, you may not have all the information you need to evaluate which strategy is best. It may be that calling someone three times increases the success rate from 2% to 7%, and that the success of direct mail is more like 0.02%. From your point of view, 93 "no"s feels like "this is not working," but it may still be the best approach.
posted by slidell at 3:23 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You are not in control of this situation, and have no leverage. Don't disobey assignment orders. I'm sorry to say that it's not worth it, not even based on common sense. I used to temp, a lot. YOU have no power in this position, but your temp company does. Amy is one avenue, the temp company is another, let them both handle this on your behalf.
posted by desuetude at 11:53 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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