Attention, Attention Must Finally Be Paid

“Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.” ― Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

I was angry to read this from CBC News on November 25, 2017: “Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign rings hollow for employees suffering panic attacks, vomiting and anxiety”:

“Current and former Bell employees have written CBC’s Go Public to describe the toll that aggressive sales targets have had on their health at a company well known for its “Let’s Talk” campaign — a massive initiative to improve mental health.

“More than 600 people contacted the CBC after the investigation was published earlier this week. In email after email, current and former employees describe panic attacks in the workplace, stress-induced vomiting and diarrhea. Some reported crying before starting call-centre shifts and said taking stress leave is “common.”

“And although many of the employees applaud Bell’s mental health program, they say it’s ironic that so many of the company’s employees are suffering physically and mentally from pressure “created by the top, down.”

“There wasn’t an hour in the day where I wasn’t worrying about how I was going to meet all the expectations at work.” – Bell Employee

“None of the allegations you make is true.” – Bell spokesperson Mark Langton

So which is it? Are 600 workers lying about the stress they experience on the job?

Of course not.

Is Bell hypocritical for supporting mental health initiatives with its Let’s Talk campaign while at the same time driving its own employees to the brink of mental illness and beyond?

Of course it is.

The last time I had the misfortune of experiencing a Bell sales attempt, I actually felt sorry for the man on the other end of the line. I had learned the hard way about aggressive and deceptive sales techniques when I was a member of GoodLife Fitness (I will spare you the details), so I was on to this poor soul before he could say “free” for the fifth or sixth time. When I just wouldn’t take the bait, the salesman actually sighed like it was the end of the line for him. What could I do? I didn’t need or want what he was selling, as much as I wanted him to make the sale. He did nothing wrong (since the aggressiveness was not his fault, but Bell’s). I just declined the offer. Thanks anyway.

That’s apparently not acceptable to Bell. I should be made to buy their product, no matter what.

“A longtime Bell Canada employee describes working in the company’s Scarborough, Ont., call centre as “a non-stop nightmare,” where she says she is forced to sell customers products they don’t need, don’t want, and may not understand, to hit sales targets and keep her job…. She says employees are expected to make a sale on every call.” – CBC

Stop and think about this for one moment.

Make a sale on every call? Crying before a shift? Stress induced vomiting and diarrhea?

Why should anyone be so stressed that they are crying before a shift at a call centre? Why should anyone be experiencing stress induced vomiting and diarrhea due to intense pressure to sell something?

We are not talking about deep mining or combat soldiering or trauma surgery. We are talking about sales. We are talking about an office job.

Selling phone and internet service is not a life and death matter. And a call centre should not be a toxic environment.

This is about money. This is about fierce competition between telecommunication giants that have literally turned themselves into quasi criminal organizations. This is about simple-minded managers who forget that productivity is not best achieved by extortion. Happy healthy workers are more productive than unhappy sick workers. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.

Perhaps Bell’s managers should visit Bell’s Let’s Talk website where we are encouraged to do the following:

Start a conversation in your school, workplace or community. Get all the information you need to lead a conversation about mental health and help spread the word.

OK. Good idea.

Dear Bell, those of us who are struggling with mental illness can “read a book” or “go for a jog” as you advise. Thanks. But you as an employer also have a responsibility. You owe it to your workers to treat them with dignity and respect. To not abuse them. To not work them to death.

Disgusting.

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