Temp Tales An Expose’!
Judy M. Crouse
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs you will be the perfect temp.
It was a dark and stormy morning. Oops, wrong story line. My coffee is getting cold. As I slide my cup into the microwave, the phone rings, I run to grab it before the second ring. It’s the temporary agency's representative. She is too excited. This is one person I must not alienate. She is in short, my pimp. I am NOT her equal. She is the happiest person this side of paradise, reason being, she has a job.
“Hi Judy,” Miss Bubbly gushes, “I have this absolutely wonderful position, at an absolutely wonderful company. And you’re going to be a “perfect fit.” I Love that term.
She even has the gall to say, “It might go full time.” Now this is a total lie, as I find out during the course of this job.
So, I listen and say, “Yes, when do I report?” I am sooooo excited too.
I make sure Miss Bubbly gives me all the information... parking, dress code and the contact person. She will not have any or at least not all of this on the first phone call to me. She will probably have to ring me back once, if not twice. She is just so busy!
I have decided, no matter what any one thinks, I am a very brave person. I get to go to the first day of middle school every time I start a new job! Remember that day; I have that old sinking feeling. “Will I fit in, will they like me, am I dressed right, and where is the bathroom?”
All those horrible misgivings I thought were left behind years ago. They are front and center this morning.
“I have to get this terrible attitude out of the way this morning.” I pry myself out of the car. I take a deep breath, walk towards the building, struggling with my coffee mug and tote bag, this should not be so hard. Here I go, another temp job, big sigh.
Something happened in America about 20 years ago, it was the emergence of the Temporary Staffing Agency. Someone in a Corporation decided that instead of hiring people out right, they could turn millions of people into indentured servants. The company would save all this time, no interviewing, no making decisions, and in turn hire people who would really grovel.
“Temporary employment has stripped the American worker of independence, pride and the ability to earn a decent wage.” Ugh.
O.K, I am in the reception area meeting Miss Wonderful, my guide to hell. She proceeds to trot me to the department I will be working in. I just try to keep up with her, she is so busy too.
Miss Wonderful introduces me to the department head or The Boss and vanishes down the hallway. Usually the boss is a woman. It is unlikely I will have any more contact with her. The Boss is very capable, or she would not BE THE BOSS. She is probably badly over worked and her department understaffed. Even though she is always the best dressed, there is always sadness surrounding her.
If you get in truly tight with your co-workers, you will find they have no respect for her. They all agree that she is both ineffectual and an idiot. Perhaps climbing that ladder has taken all the fun out of her? You may find yourself feeling sorry for her. Don’t get sucked in with that thinking. She will turn on you in a millisecond if you screw up. Don’t be caught up in her false friendliness. After all it is all about the “Act”.
I must explain the “Act.” This is the behavior everyone, including you, displays on the first day of an assignment. You are friendly, smiling, and will accomplish any task given to you in record time. In turn they are smiling, helpful and patient. This is only going to last at the utmost one week, your first week. After that, everyone is back to their back stabbing, sniping remarks, and foul deeds.
The boss in turn trots me to the person responsible for my training, and she too disappears. This over worked person doesn’t “feel” it is their job to train me. So, imagine what I’m going to learn today. Better figure it out for myself. But, what I am being given to do is not what I was told I would be doing by my cheerful temp agency Pimp. This is called the “bait and switch.” But, onward, after all I need to get though this and make some money.
I have been told that the dress code at the company I am going to is “Business Casual.” I am wearing my very sharp black silk cashmere blend suit with a crisp white blouse and great black shoes. My bulging ebony tote is of the best top grain cow hide. My idea of Business Casual and what I see at this place are two different things. I am dressed better than nearly everyone. The only exception being the Manager, she looks sharp in her knock off designer suit from Kohl’s. All the other women are attired in double knit pants, beautifully coordinated with a big sloppy top. Now I stick out like a sore thumb. I am not management and I am not support staff. I am myself, an all around original lost in the corporate world which demands that I conform to their standards. The cubicle I will be sitting in is interesting though. Here we have pictures of the absent person's ugly kids, husband, her pet guinea pig, and so on. The guinea pig is the cutest one in the photos. Maybe I should have temped for the guinea pig. Their cage was probably nicer. Well maybe when no one is looking I can turn the pictures over? But I better be
careful not move anything! Or if I do, I have to be sure to make a mental picture of this “bed room” style decor. Love the little bears.
There is a very good possibility she (I am going to use she, as I have never been a temp for a man) will return while I am still here. This is especially true if the person being replaced is out due to any type of surgery. Her return to work will be a big surprise for all, including the company’s human resource department.
If she was out to have a baby, you’re trapped in her cubical with no way out until the day she comes in with her bundle of joy to visit. Oh, the dear baby isn’t nearly as cute as that guinea pig! Everyone will hold the baby and the baby will cry and cry. Nothing much will get done in the department for hours.
In regards to the IT department and company preparedness for a temp, you can forget about any of that happening. Even though the IT department has known for at least a week that a temp was arriving, nothing is set up. So now, the manager, IT Tech and of course the cube neighbor all will get into the act. No one knows any of this person’s passwords, not for the computer or the phone. Voice mail is going to be a nightmare. If they are short a computer, guess what, you will get to stare at a lap top for weeks.
Now, it's “let’s meet everyone time.” This is fun, as if I’ll remember all of the names of this bunch of lard butts. Note here to self: make a map of the area. Nothing complicated, just some rectangles, and jot down associated names of the people around me. Say the one who is the department sex pot, Barbie, equals the B.T.P, Blonde with tummy piercing, the huge woman next to her, Vicky, equals V.C.K, “Vicious Cake Killer”. You get the idea. Smile so sweetly and be the good little temp. During these introductions you get to walk around the area for a while killing time and getting paid for it.
First and Primary Rule, “No one sees what “they” do, but everyone sees what YOU do.” The people in this office will consider you no more important than wallpaper. They will speak of you in the third person, so get used to hearing, her, she, and the temp. You have become a pronoun.
Hope you don’t smoke. If you do it is very possible you will meet one other smoker during this assignment. And she will be a sullen witch. If it is a man, you will be too “below” him to have a conversation with while you are freezing your buns off. The non-smokers will let you know, “smokers get to take breaks as I sit here and slave away.” I think, “How stupid are you? Get up and waddle to the snack machine, chill out for 15 minutes. Maybe you'll feel better and even be nicer with a wonderful sugar rush.” Of course I don’t say any of this, I am a sweet temp. Oh well, back to “Area 51.”
It is break time for the non smokers. If you’re an eater and not a smoker there's a good chance you may make a friend or two. And boy will they eat. But don’t go there unless you are
content with adding to your girth. There are bags and bags of salty, fatty snacks everywhere. If you’re watching your weight, good luck. This is what these people live for. Yet they drink diet coke; I have never been able to figure that one out.
When it is lunch your coworkers may invite you to join them the first day. They want to appear friendly to you. Don’t think this is going to continue. Since I usually pack well balanced stuff for lunch, after they see what I eat that usually ends the lunch invites. It is too intimidating for them.
The first lunch conversation usually goes like this, “...is that all you’re having?” Not a good sign, as your coworker stuffs a double burger, large fries, and a chocolate bar in her face at the speed of light, washing it all down with a diet coke. Then someone at the table will eventually remark, “I bet you love temping, you get to meet new people all the time and never have to be involved in office politics.” I stare in wonderment as to how anyone in their right mind would think this. “Yeah, I love it.”, I say with a beautiful toothy smile. Thanks goodness lunch torture is nearly over.
After lunch I am back training with the disgruntled employee. Take notes the best you can, she is going to “fly” though the system with the how to’s. It could be days before you get any hands on experience, she is not going to make this easy for you.
As she will tell you over and over, “I never got training; I had to pick this up the best I could.” Yep, she’s a genius. Hopefully she will not run to the Manager saying you’re not picking it up fast enough.
You’re going to very bored and very sleepy during these training periods. For this they have the coffee station, if you remember from the morning tour where it is. Be sure and get coffee in the afternoon, that way you don’t have to make any more. They just throw it out anyway. It’s good enough for you.
Believe it or not the day is finally coming to a conclusion. I am out the door. At least I know what tomorrow is going to be like.
If you have found yourself reflected in the people you have met here so far, then so be it. If you don’t see yourself, good for you. But don’t worry I have not forgotten the kind, appreciative, helpful, decent people. I will get to them later.
I have been subjected to degradations that a full time employee would never be expected to endure. Many of the people I have had to work for have been rude, unkind, and mean. I have had mangers make suggestive remarks, and a human resources vice president even stroked his private parts with a pencil as he gave me morning instructions. I wonder how often he needed to do that a day? Or was he just trying to tell me his is a pencil? I would cringe when he beeped me
on my intercom phone. The foulest language you can dream up has been spoken around me and to me, not to mention I've had to duck flying manuals.
Now, I need to take you back to the day I walked into the Placement Agency. The pecking order in a privately owned company is the following: There is the owner, various placement personnel, the receptionist, and the bookkeeper/accountant.
First impressions are lasting impressions. Your first impression does not matter. The lowly receptionist is the only one you’re really going to talk to on a regular basis, so be very nice to her. The Job Placement Person, i.e. the Pimp, will always be on another call. You will at least be put into your Pimp’s voice mail.
Let’s get back to the PIMP! After tons of paper work which covers everyone’s butt except yours, it is time for testing. I have lots of practical experience, but I don’t test well. If I can convince the Pimp of this I usually get an assignment. The Pimp is always a great dresser, fabulous hair; she is younger than you and pretty. These attributes are part of her job description.
The basic thing the Pimp is concerned about is keeping and increasing her client base. If things don’t go well on an assignment, this could mean the Pimp would lose an account. So, do not cause this. If you do, you will never work for them again. No matter what the reason, it will be your fault. You can circumvent this by keeping lines of communication open with the Pimp. Best let her know if something is amiss.
For the most part you will be able to do the job. Usually the company is happy with the outcome, and there is always the possibility you may even be hired. Pimps don’t get the list of the good jobs to fill and the low jobs you will get are full of bologna. Indeed you have never been given reason to think you’ll actually get hired full time, therefore don’t bother wishing and hoping.
When you work as a temp you not only represent yourself, you also represent the agency. As long as your work is of the highest quality that you can give and you live up to your own high standards, they will be impressed.
Next we have the Bookkeeper/Accounting Person at the Pimp House. This person, usually a woman, is very nice. All she is concerned about is whether or not your hours are correct and that you called in on time. It is unlikely you will have much contact with her.
Now we come to the wicked witch of the East Coast, THE OWNER, or Head Pimp. You may or may not meet this person. It will depend mostly if she is passing though a hallway or not. In some smaller Pimp Houses you could work directly with her along with your personal Pimp.
Head Pimp is usually very stylish, good looking and smart. Maybe she is a college graduate; maybe not. She will handle all the prime accounts and best placements. She will only
place her” favorites” in these positions. If she takes you under her wing don’t be mesmerized into thinking you’re a friend. She is a business person who got to where she is by using and manipulating people and situations to her advantage. She did not get to where she is by being nice. Don’t forget to send these lovely people a thank you note! Be sure your note conveys how appreciative you were of the time they spent with you and don’t forget to grovel. They love a brilliant groveler.
Class is now dismissed! You have successfully completed Temping 101. As I progress through my narrative I will have more details and personalities to hang out on the clothes line, so stay tuned. They have lots of dirty laundry.