Nov 19, 2012
Der Spiegel is out with an expose on the appalling working conditions at T-Mobile USA.
Europe’s leading newsmagazine reports that to attract a buyer for the troubled company, T-Mobile’s German parent company Deutsche Telekom has demanded that its 30,000 American call center workers meet an "extreme" and nearly unattainable set of performance metrics:
Whoever is not able to reach these high expectations is faced with disciplinary measures, harassment and threatened with termination or other professional consequences, workers explain in the interviews. If all that doesn’t help, workers are even being shamed in public. For example, call center employees in Chattanooga had to wear a dunce cap for hours to demonstrate their alleged failure, when they were not able to meet their numbers.
A 41 year old employee, who suffered under this measure several times, reports that the dunce cap was moved from desk to desk until it ended up at her desk. Never in her life, she says, did she feel so belittled and ridiculed.
The harassment doesn't end there:
In other call centers, coaches were made to wear ridiculous backpacks, if their team’s performance did not meet the numbers. Other workers are being sent home to write an extended essay. The topic of the unpaid homework: “Why T-Mobile should keep employing me”. The unionists document that if the result is not satisfying, continuous humiliation, discipline and even termination follow.
And the pressure to meet these impossible performance goals has only been hurting customers. Der Spiegel writes that to keep up with the competition, T-Mobile has resorted to unsavory business practices:
Trying to meet the performance goals, employees have taken to using dubious methods, which T-Mobile internally calls “slamming”. Slamming occurs when customers are buying a cellphone and costly features are being added to their account without their knowledge. That way, employees can improve their sales numbers temporarily.
In the words of ver.di, Germany's largest union representing telecommunications workers, the company “treats its employees with brutal psycho terror.”