Highest standards of quality and professionalism

An unsolicited email I received from a Dubai-based recruiter over the weekend speaks volumes about HR standards in the modern oil industry:

Dear Sir,


We are a human resource staffing agency providing highest standards of quality and professionalism. We pride ourselves on our efficient, professional and yet personal services both to our clients and applicants and our ability to supply the right staff complements the recruitment needs of our esteemed clients.
As per our discussion, please find below details:
Company: Qatar Petroleum
Position: Sr. Project Engineer
Location: Qatar
Status: Family Status

Because nothing says “personal service” like a mass-mailing where they don’t even bother to use your name. And highest standards of professionalism? Let’s see.

Interviews are at London, between 9th to 13th December, 2018.

Which is in 2-3 weeks’ time. Rather short notice for an international interview, no?

Please send us your updated CV in MS Word Format and the details below at the earliest.

Total experience:
Reporting to:
Current salary in USD per month (After Tax): (Basic)
Other Benefits:
Current salary in USD per month (After Tax): (Basic)
Notice period:
Date of birth:
Contact no:
Current Location:
Alternate Email:
Education: Degree / Completion year:

Because I can’t be bothered to take certain details from your CV, I’ll ask you to list them separately. And I’ll twice ask you your current salary even though, quite frankly, it’s none of my f*cking business.

Here’s a snapshot of the job description:

It’s well formatted, isn’t it? And this made me chuckle:

Good luck with that. For quite some time now, oil and gas recruitment has been farmed out to increasingly shoddier manpower agencies engaged in a race to the bottom. The above is typical, and indicative of the standards one finds across much of the industry. You can imagine the sort of candidate they’ll get.


Expats in Nigeria

In her article trying to convince Guardian readers that Lagos is a more desirable place to live than Vienna, that I wrote about here, Chibundu Onuzo says the following:

I’d just like to say that Lagos has enough expats. We see them, overpaid and overfed, establishing little colonies, disparaging the local culture, food and customs, and earning three times what they would at home.

The fact foreigners have to be paid three times as much to work in Nigeria as their home countries indicates conditions there are harsh; how much of an uplift on their salaries does Vienna represent? Other than a few die-hard fans and sex tourists masquerading as office workers, people’s only interest in going to Nigeria is for professional advancement and money. The reason expats show no interest in the local culture and don’t integrate is because they’re not there for that. You might as well complain that doctors don’t socialise with patients, or diplomats cheer the local sports team.

There are qualified Nigerians who know the terrain and can do their work just as well or even better.

As is often the case with such criticisms – environmental groups and oil companies spring to mind – she is broadly correct without realising why. The reason expats are brought to Nigeria is a lack of local competence. At first glance this might be interpreted as Nigeria having no civil engineers so foreign civil engineers must be hired from abroad, but it’s more complicated than that. Competence isn’t just about doing a technical job but also having the organisational and managerial skills to get a decent civil engineer hired and working. And that’s where Nigeria struggles: it doesn’t matter how many good civil engineers you can find in Nigeria if the prevailing culture allows managers to hire their relatives regardless of competence. This practice generates competence gaps in the organisation which cannot be filled by locals for two reasons: firstly a local already holds the position, but he’s the managing director’s idiot nephew. Secondly, they’re not even aware of what the position entails, nor where to find a competent local. So the cry goes up that they must hire a magic expat, and this is especially true when the organisation in question is partnered with a foreign entity.

Now they still don’t know what the position entails and even less of an idea of what a competent expat looks like, so they hire someone who is either cheap (and therefore  useless) or recommended by the foreign entity. In the latter case, the recommendation often comes not as a result of competence on the individual’s part, but because he or she has shown the deference towards the hierarchy necessary to advance in a modern corporation. In short, Nigerian companies lack the ability to recruit and retain competent Nigerians and when they turn to expats for help they hire charlatans or get fobbed off with an expensive corporate drone who adds no value. Meanwhile, as Onuzo says, there are qualified Nigerians who can do a better job that don’t get a look-in.

I’ve often said that rather than complaining about the numbers of expats working in Nigeria, people should concentrate on their quality. The trouble with that is you can’t impose quality standards on expats without doing the same for Nigerians. Only if you did that managers wouldn’t be able to hire their relatives, which is so hard-wired into the culture it’s practically an obligation. So really, the expats in Nigeria – their numbers, quality, and behaviour – are a symptom of the place and the culture. If Onuzo had realised this when she wrote that paragraph, she might have written a half-decent article.


The NYT and Sarah Jeong

A story doing the rounds over the last couple of days concerned the New York Times hiring an Asian-American woman by the name of Sarah Jeong to their editorial board. Jeong, who is usually pictured with bright red hair, is 30 years old and a graduate of both Berkeley and Harvard.

The trouble began when eagle-eyed Twitter users discovered Jeong had serious hang-ups about white people and wasn’t shy of airing them. For example:

And that’s just a tiny sample, her Twitter history going back years is littered with this stuff.

It wasn’t long before a mob formed demanding she be fired. However, a portion of this mob was made up of people who would ordinarily not want her sacked, but in a world where left-wing mobs can get people (e.g. Kevin Williamson) fired on what seems like a weekly basis, they decided to adopt their enemy’s tactics. The NYT was having none of it though, and issued this statement:

Now this is pretty pathetic: as the many examples of Jeong’s tweets show, she was not “responding to harassment” and it is doubtful she regrets her behaviour (as if that was enough to stop a right-winger being lynched). However, I believe the NYT was right to stand behind her, only not for the silly reasons they give in that statement. What they should have said was this:

“We were of course fully aware of Sarah Jeong’s opinions expressed on Twitter – we are not complete morons, we do check this stuff. However, we see no reason to believe why such opinions make her unfit to serve on our editorial board, indeed we think they’re a sign she’ll fit right in. Therefore, she will assume her post as intended.”

This would have the advantage of being absolutely true, and be a sign that the NYT management are at least prepared to stand by their decisions. Rather than howl with outrage at her appointment, people should just take it as a clear indication of what sort of outfit the NYT is and afford it a commensurate degree of respect. Firing Jeong won’t solve anything, the problem is she was hired in the first place; she’s merely a symptom of a much deeper malaise.

Sarah Jeong is an over-privileged idiot who sounds for all the world like she’s bitter over her high school crush taking a white girl to the prom instead of her. If she’s 30 now, I doubt she’ll ever grow up. But it was the NYT‘s decision to hire her in full knowledge of who she was, and they should either stand by that or the people responsible resign.


A Typical Job Advert

A reader sends me a job advert for an “HR Business Partner” which is worth fisking. For a start, what is a “business partner”? Is this a fancy title for someone working in what is often laughably called a support service?

Act as a Strategic Partner to 2 major portfolios with circa 200 staff

Act as a what? I think what they’re trying to say is they’ll provide HR services to about 200 staff working across 2 areas of operations.

Be a leader of HR Initiatives developed in conjunction with supporting Centre’s of Excellence

Provide HR services while taking into consideration other support services. “Centre’s of Excellence” indeed.

Opportunities for promotion and development within a company that is rapidly growing

Really? How high can an HR Business Partner rise?

As Senior HR Business Partner, you will be responsible for supporting, shaping and driving our ambitious organisational strategy through your business portfolios.

So now it’s a Senior HR Business Partner, so they weren’t lying about those promotions after all. And if this is the person’s role, it raises the question of what the managers of those business portfolios are doing. Isn’t it their job to implement company policy through their organisations?

You will act as a true strategic partner influencing and supporting leader’s decisions that have an impact on people, processes and business operations.

“True strategic partner”. Presumably there are false strategic partners on the loose in this outfit. Now meddling in leaders’ decisions might not be a bad idea from an HR perspective, but it has little to do with strategy.

We operate under a strong HR Framework, which encompasses being a strategic partner, a talent developer, employee advocate and an HR functional expert.

I can see what they’re trying to say here, but it’s written terribly. Who is we?

Across your two portfolios, Supply Chain and Quality you will be expected to;

Provide expertise to functional HR responsibilities. This includes ER, talent development, portfolio management and HR processes and procedures whilst managing day-to-day issues that arise.

Okay fine, but surely the candidate needs to know something about Supply Chain and Quality to properly deliver this service? How can they engage in talent management if they don’t know what the employees are doing? So far, there is nothing in the job description which even mentions the industry this job will be in. Presumably they don’t think it’s relevant.

Have a strong grasp on strategic consultation; ensuring leaders create and implement plans to improve organisational effectiveness and change management processes through our framework.

This is gobbledegook. Who are these “leaders”? Why not call them managers? And what change management processes are they on about? Are these leaders currently aware of them?

Drive the design of our current & future workforce that will ensure talent vitality and prosperity across your business portfolios.

You mean hire the right people?

You will be responsible for ensuring we have workforce plans in place that will enable us to achieve our growth aspirations and work with Centre of Excellence in the wider HR team to achieve optimal results.

And what, specifically, does that entail? What actual, measurable tasks is this person supposed to carry out? This is less a job description than a list of desirable outcomes.

Actively monitor, shape and drive a positive change through employee engagement. Coach leaders to develop their skills…

Okay, fine.

…and ensure you are advocating for diversity and inclusion within the workforce.

I’m sure the leaders will just love that.

You will be the SME and the leader’s advisor when it comes to dealing with discrimination, harassment, conflict and poor performance.

SME? Small-medium enterprise?

To set you up for success in this position we believe you need to have the following skills and experience;

A minimum of 5 years’ experience working in a Business Partner Position in a large complex organisation

Note there is no requirement to have any industry knowledge whatsoever.

Able to think critically and use diagnostic & Intervention tools to assess & achieve higher organisational performance

I assume they mean poring over diversity statistics and sending out endless employee surveys.

Strong business acumen, understands how businesses, teams and individuals operate

How are they going to do that if all they’ve ever done is HR?

Have an undergraduate degree in Human Resources Management / Organisational Development / Psychology or business related subjects


Quickly able to establish rapport and credibility amongst the business leaders

Despite having no knowledge of the operations or even the industry.

I’ve read this job description several times and I’m still none the wiser what the person is actually supposed to do. Will they be conducting interviews, writing procedures, drawing up organisation charts, creating skills matrices, developing training programmes, and participating in the operational decision-making? I have no idea, and nor does the person who wrote the advert. This is normal.


Time for a Change

As of today I am effectively no longer working in the oil industry, although in the strictest sense I still am as I’m on gardening leave. That said, in an even stricter sense, I’ve not been working in the oil industry for quite some time. After something like fifteen years it’s time to call it quits, and for two reasons.

The first is that there is simply no work around. Back when I started out in 2003 there was a mountain of work and it picked up exponentially as the oil price rose. My biggest problem back then was a lack of experience, but once I’d got a few years under my belt I landed some half-decent positions with exposure to serious, major projects. But when the oil price crashed in 2015 the entire industry came to a screeching halt with projects being cancelled en masse and thousands of people fired. Since then, from what I can tell, the industry has adopted a holding pattern until the oil price picks up and things return to how they were in the boom years. This is a bit like the dinosaurs waiting for the meteor dust to settle down so the climate goes back to how it was.

From where I’m standing the oil price didn’t so much crash into a trough than return to normal from a ludicrous high; the lowest it got was around $36 per barrel, higher than it was when I joined the industry, and soon stabilised around $50. The problem was the oil industry had forgotten how to function at such prices, and if they’ve since remembered they’re keeping it secret. The other issue is that even when prices eventually rise the oil industry will look very different than in previous eras. National governments will enjoy the majority stake in any sizeable future development, with private oil companies being lucky to retain operatorship and not reduced to a partner in an operating consortium or simply paid a service fee much like any other contractor. in addition, the competency gaps between locals, low-cost engineering centres abroad, and western expats are closing rapidly, and even if they’re not the industry is happy to accept lower standards. Looking down the road, I simply don’t see much opportunity for well-paid western-expat positions on oil and gas projects. There will be some for sure, but nothing like how it was, and with nothing like the pay either.

The second reason is even if major projects were being sanctioned and positions created, I have reached the conclusion there’s no place for someone like me in the modern oil industry. This isn’t just my opinion: I’ve had various managers tell me they’d made a mistake in employing me, and they’d probably be surprised to hear I couldn’t agree more. I’ve worked for several companies right through the oil and gas industry’s contracting chain and on many occasions I’ve wondered why they hired me. If I’d lied on my CV and claimed a competence I didn’t have, the fault would be mine. But it was more a case of the interview process selecting someone who is task-orientated, responsible, reliable, and can work independently then putting him in a role consisting of menial admin work micromanaged to a degree you’d not think possible. Like many industries with too much money, the oil business recruits for brains and character then put them in positions where the former is not required and the latter a severe handicap. I have no objection to the oil industry creating process-driven roles that serve little purpose other than to keep people employed, but they ought not to fill them with people who are manifestly unsuitable. I’ve been around long enough, and seen enough outfits big, small, and in between to know the part of the oil industry which employs western expats places a high value on keeping your mouth shut and showing blind obedience to the immediate hierarchy and not much on anything else. Why the hell anyone would think I’d fit in there I don’t know, myself included, and after 15 years of trying it’s time to chuck in the towel and do something else.

What that will be is a subject for another post; you’ll find out soon enough.


Employment and Free Speech

A few months ago I wrote about the case of Juli Briskman, who was fired by her employer over a photo of her raising a middle finger to Donald Trump’s motorcade. Even though I thought Briskman was rather juvenile, and also rather dim for making the photo her profile picture on social media, I believed it was nothing to do with her employer and she’d been dismissed unfairly. Most of my commenters disagreed, either on the grounds that employers have, or should have, the right to fire anyone for any reason (or none), or that the photo could have cost the company future business.

I saw in the news last week that Briskman intends to sue her employer for wrongful dismissal:

A US cyclist who was sacked over a viral photo of her making an obscene gesture to President Donald Trump’s motorcade is suing her former employer.

Juli Briskman was fired by government contractor Akima LLC in November 2017 after a press photographer travelling with the president captured the image.

“Americans should not be forced to choose between their principles and their paychecks,” her lawsuit states.

Her lawyers argue her right to free speech was violated by the firing.

I think she should and I hope she wins. I understand people will disagree with me, but I don’t believe companies have a right to dictate your behaviour outside of working hours, with obvious exceptions for criminal behaviour. That the work contract is drawn up between two free and consenting parties doesn’t change that, unless specific behaviours which could lead to dismissal are identified. Most employers use the vague catch-all of “bringing the company into disrepute”, but I believe the onus should be on employers to demonstrate disrepute has been brought and damage has been done.

Now I understand the principle that any employee is free to refuse a contract which allows for their dismissal should their political opinions fall foul of the HR department, just the same as I understood The Atlantic had every right to fire Kevin Williamson. The problem I have is only one section of society is expected to abide by these principles while the other has none whatsoever. Many government workers – teachers, police, doctors, nurses, council members, BBC employees – frequently engage in politics, often of the extremist variety, at events and rallies which are fully endorsed by their management. I have seen videos from NUT conferences, and reports from the junior doctors’ revolt. I have seen profiles of the sort of people who turn up to anti-government protests, Antifa and BLM rallies, anti-Israel marches, and other events organised by the professionally aggrieved; a lot of them draw their salary from the taxpayer, and feel no reason to refrain from expressing their political views, with many even doing so in their professional capacity. Academia is another area chock-full of people who routinely express extremist political views safe in the knowledge they won’t even raise an eyebrow with their employers, let get alone hauled in front of management and fired.

So we have a situation where hardcore rabble-rousers on the left are free to spout their opinions and attack their political opponents from a safe position of lifelong job security, while everyone else should keep their mouths shut or risk being fired. Because principles. And the right wonders why it’s been utterly defeated in the culture wars.

Unless there is some serious pushback, and companies are required to demonstrate actual disrepute and damages (or at least a credible mechanism for the same, not hypotheticals along the lines of “if a defence worker had seen it, it could have cost us a contract”), political tests in the private, commercial sector will become the norm for all employees. They already exist in academia: ask Streetwise Professor how many Republicans can be found working in American universities. It will also become extremely risky to engage in any sort of political activity that doesn’t align with that of the HR department. I’d not be surprised in the next few years to hear of an employee being fired for admitting he voted for Brexit (or similar), along with a bland statement from the company spokesperson about how his behaviour “didn’t reflect the values of the company”.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that being an employee is no longer about fulfilling what’s in your job description, but adhering to a vague set of moral values which are policed inconsistently by the sort of people who’d dob you in to the council for putting out the wrong bin. So-called conservatives seem to have nothing to say about this, other than to speak of lofty principles which bear little relation to reality. “HSBC closed your account? Barclays too? Well, that’s their right, you can always go and open your own bank.” Now principles are good; I generally don’t think we should kick in the doors of our enemies’ houses and slit their throats, for example. But if the other side has been slitting throats for some time and they’ve reached the next street, principles of non-violence aren’t going to help very much.

I have no time for companies that think they have a right to police employee’s behaviours and opinions outside of work, nor HR departments who scour social media looking for examples of wrongthink they can use to threaten underlings. People join companies to be compensated for the work they perform and the time they put in, not to have their political opinions suppressed and wholly unrelated aspects of their lives regulated. If this isn’t nipped in the bud now, it will get much worse. So far, it is mainly politics, but how long before being a Christian, or a smoker, or enjoying a drink, or mocking polyamory is enough to get you fired? And let’s be quite clear, these things are applied retroactively, as we saw with Toby Young.

Juli Briskman excepted, the political left will be only too happy with this state of affairs, meaning it falls to the right to put a stop to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean government intervention, just a more sensible interpretation of contract law. If I hire a builder for a house extension, and he turns up with the expectation of 3 months work, and a month in I fire him because I find out he supports the wrong football team, I believe he has grounds to be compensated for the entire job. He has been put to huge inconvenience and lost out on work of equivalent value he could have taken instead, because he didn’t meet criteria he was unaware of when he entered the contract.

Similarly, if an employee is fired for something wholly unrelated to their work (and the onus should be on the employer to prove any connection), they should sue for compensation on the grounds they were unaware of this specific criteria, they could not have reasonably foreseen it, and they could have taken a job they were more suited to had the employer not kept this criteria secret. The way I see it is this: if an employer hires somebody who’s personal behaviour and political opinions don’t match those of the company management, it is their mistake, not the employee’s.

Leaving aside the suggestion that Briskman’s photo might have cost her employer work, if “not disrespecting Trump’s motorcade” was a requirement of her employment they should have made this clear during the hiring process. If they didn’t, she has the right to engage in any legal activity outside her working hours that she pleases, including flipping off Trump’s limo and posting the photo on social media. I’m glad she’s suing, and I hope she wins.


Surprising results fail to surprise

An article on incivility at work:

Women report more incivility experiences at work than men, but who is at fault for instigating these mildly deviant behaviors? One UA researcher set out to answer that question, with surprising results.

Surprising for whom?

“Across the three studies, we found consistent evidence that women reported higher levels of incivility from other women than their male counterparts,” Gabriel said. “In other words, women are ruder to each other than they are to men, or than men are to women.

“This isn’t to say men were off the hook or they weren’t engaging in these behaviors,” she noted. “But when we compared the average levels of incivility reported, female-instigated incivility was reported more often than male-instigated incivility by women in our three studies.”

This will only be surprising to those who have never observed women sharing a workplace.

Participants also were asked to complete trait inventories of their personalities and behaviors to determine if there were any factors that contributed to women being treated uncivilly. The research showed that women who defied gender norms by being more assertive and dominant at work were more likely to be targeted by their female counterparts, compared to women who exhibited fewer of those traits.

I understand there are entire programs devoted to encouraging women to be more assertive in the workplace. Now we find this serves to attract the ire of other women. Meanwhile, men are busy getting on with the job, and their lives.

The researchers also found that when men acted assertive and warm — in general, not considered the norm for male behavior — they reported lower incivility from their male counterparts. This suggests men actually get a social credit for partially deviating from their gender stereotypes, a benefit that women are not afforded.

Hang on. Men acted assertive and warm. The previous paragraph said nothing about assertive women displaying warmth. Probably because they’d not found a single example of it across all three studies.

Evidence emerged in the three studies that companies may face a greater risk of losing female employees who experience female-instigated incivility, as they reported less satisfaction at work and increased intentions to quit their current jobs in response to these unpleasant experiences.

Yet we need to increase female participation in the workforce.

Organizations should make sure they also send signals that the ideas and opinions of all employees are valued, and that supporting others is crucial for business success — that is, acting assertively should not be viewed negatively, but as a positive way for employees to voice concerns and speak up.

Acting assertively isn’t viewed negatively if the person in question – either male or female – retains some form of humanity and doesn’t come across as a nasty, vindictive, petty individual bent on settling personal scores. Perhaps the best solution all around is not to employ assholes of either sex? Sadly, most modern corporations seem to recruit their management teams primarily for that characteristic.


Ambition and Mediocrity

Via the ZMan, I found this article by Theodore Dalrymple, a section of which resonated with me:

Ambition is likewise a quality that is excellent when it attaches to something worthwhile in itself, but which is dreadful when it does not. And the rapid and phenomenal spread of education has increased the spread of ambition with it, much of it inevitably of the apparatchik type, that is to say the determination to climb some bureaucratic career ladder detached from any purpose except survival and, if possible, self-aggrandizement. To climb such a ladder you have to be both ruthless and submissive at the same time. You have to be egotistically prepared to stab people in the back in the scramble for advancement, while at the same time being prepared to suppress your own personality by uttering other people’s clichés at the expense of your own thoughts. Unpreparedness to do this, either through lack of training or moral scruple, unfits you for a career in the organization, any organization. You have to learn to lie with clichés, and do so with a straight face.

This is one of the reasons why I think bright young men will avoid working in large organisations in future. They will simply cease to become places where anything tangible gets done. I liked this, too:

There is much to be said in favor of mediocrity, of course. Without mediocrity, there could be no excellence. We cannot always be living on the heights of Mount Olympus, and surely even the most fastidiously intellectual person has found pleasure or relief in curling up with a second-rate detective story (Wittgenstein did so, besides which there is something to be learned from every book ever written). I have derived much comfort from mediocrity, my own included, and it is my experience that, for a variety of reasons, the greatest experts in their field may make poor witnesses. A person of mediocre accomplishment is often better.

Mediocrity is not a problem in itself; it is inevitable. Indeed the world needs many mediocrities, that is to say mediocrities who know themselves, and are perfectly content, to be such (complacency is as much an underestimated quality as rebelliousness is an overestimated one).

Almost 7 years ago I wrote something similar:

Far too much recruitment of youngsters by certain oil majors is done on personality instead of competence (whereas the older guys are recruited on length of tooth alone).  If they see you are a super-bright born leader who speaks four languages and played hockey for your country at university level, you’re in.  If you’re a plodder who has found himself in unglamorous, shit locations on shit projects but hung in there and made the best of it, they don’t want to know. I’m a plodder, who has been in many an unglamorous, shit location on a shit project. In fact, that’s pretty much all I’ve known.  I’m no high-flyer and I’ll not reach the top in any organisation. I gob-off too much for that, and am pretty skilled in saying things to people which are wholly inappropriate (in my defence, this is always when faced with blinding incompetence, laziness, dishonesty, or any combination thereof). But I can dig out blind and get stuff done in pretty much any circumstances, and that – as I am proving now – is of considerable value to an oil company.

Not much has changed, has it? If anything, it’s got a whole lot worse. Now they’re not even interested in the super-bright person who can speak four languages, all they want to know is you’ll be 100% on-message and you tick the right diversity boxes.


You’re through to a feminist, how may I lecture you today?

An article on sexism, from the BBC:

Although you are likely to have dealt with both male and female call centre agents, the fact is that 71% of workers in the global call centre industry are female. Dubbed the “female ghetto” or, more positively, “female-friendly workplaces”, women are significantly over-represented in call centres.

My initial, gut-instinct response is that, with women now pouring into the workplace by the million, someone needed to find something for them to do. Hence the growth of HR departments, process-driven bureaucracies, NGOs, and – for the dimmer women out there – call centres.

With the closure of factories, automation, and a shrinking army the options for dim young men are narrowing, but they can still work as security guards or lug stuff around on a building site. But what are the dim women supposed to do, now they’ve been encouraged (or forced, due to house prices) to enter into the workforce? Cashiers are dwindling thanks to automation brought about in part by the minimum wage, leaving them with few options outside a call centre. The author has other ideas, though:

My research sheds light on this phenomenon. After extensive interviews with call centre managers and agents, as well as an investigation into the industry’s working culture and practices in Scotland and Denmark, it became clear that call centres are built on the sexist attitudes embedded in society.

Of course. What else could it be?

Call centres are intensely regulated and target-driven work places. Agents are instructed to speak to customers in certain ways. The extent to which they follow these instructions is monitored by managers, and their salaries and career advancement can depend upon it.

Agents may be told to use the customer’s name, create small talk and interject with prescribed “listening sounds” such as “aha”, “OK” and “I see”. The purpose is to ensure that agents keep the call on track and also give the impression of a personalised service.

Call centre employees need to be agreeable? I’m not sure this required much research to figure out, but okay.

When I compared male and female call centre agents’ compliance with the language prescriptions, an interesting pattern emerged: it was invariably the female agents who complied more. This was the case for both the Scottish and the Danish women.

Women are more agreeable than men, on average, so tend to do well in customer service roles. Who knew?

Why would female agents comply more than their male colleagues with the linguistic prescriptions?

Because their natural behaviours are more in line with what their managers are asking them to do? Apparently not:

There is evidence from child development and schooling research that girls are rewarded for complying with the rules and sanctioned more severely than boys for breaking them – such as messing around or shouting out in class.

Women working in call-centres are more agreeable than men because when they were at school they were cowed into submission by sexist teachers. Like many profound revelations, it’s obvious once pointed out.

It is conceivable that these socialised differences carry over into the workplace. These differences then show up particularly clearly in highly regimented workplaces, where following instructions and meeting targets is how your performance is measured.

Note that none of these differences are natural; they’re purely socialised.

Greater female rule keeping would explain both these phenomena. But while rule compliance is valued and rewarded in schools, by the time young women enter the professional arena it may start to work against them.

On the contrary, the plethora of process-driven corporate and government departments seems to have sprung up at precisely the time women entered the professional workplace en masse.

It keeps them in highly regimented jobs with low prestige and little influence.

This will come as a surprise to anyone who’s worked in a modern corporation.

Interviews with call centre managers and recruiters suggest that female workers are preferred over males because they stick to the rules.

Women being preferred over men is an example of revolting sexism against women, is it?

Of course, greater female rule compliance is just one among several explanations for why women are disproportionately represented in call centre jobs. Some women may choose themselves to work in call centres. Call centre work is often amenable to flexible working, which makes it attractive to women of child-rearing age. And, of course, there are deep-rooted beliefs in society about the different strengths of each gender. Service jobs require emotional labour, which women are believed to be particularly good at.

And just like that, the premise of the entire article disappears in a puff of smoke. But the author being a senior lecturer in English Language and applied linguistics, from the Open University no less, soldiers on:

Call centres have opened up new opportunities for women in the UK and across the world. However, in the longer term, the over-recruitment of women to the industry could be detrimental to gender equality.

Translation: women deserve better jobs than working in nasty call centres. Because, wimminz.

Call centre jobs are notorious worldwide for their high levels of turnover, absenteeism, employee burnout and emotional exhaustion. Agents are at constant risk of angry outbursts from customers, sexual harassment and outright abuse.

As if men don’t find themselves working dirty, dangerous, poorly-paid, and soul-destroying jobs.

If women are driven into these low-paid and stressful jobs, where they have little influence and low status, talent will be lost.

Just think of all those potential power-skirts wasting away in a cubicle under the colossal weight of a headset.

It also potentially discriminates against men who could and would want to do the job.

Heh! I like this: men shouldn’t be discriminated against for jobs we feminists think are beneath us. For the good jobs, we need quotas and diversity targets.

If we want to have a more diverse workforce and exploit everyone’s talent to its full potential, it is time to start challenging call centre recruitment practices.

And there’s the gender equality movement in a nutshell: we want women to have all the well-paid, cushy jobs in air-conditioned offices; the men can do all the shit we don’t want to.



Never let it be said that LinkedIn doesn’t provide an essential service in putting me in touch with like-minded professionals who can take my career to the next level:

Honestly, other than satisfying mild curiosity as to what your former colleagues are now up to, what purpose does LinkedIn serve?