The Team Rescues a Teammate
“I’d Give Anything for a Do-Over.”
By: Gordon Lawrence
It’s break time at the Call Center and the team heads to the cafeteria.
Sally opens her insulated lunch box and places fruit, cheese, carrots and a small piece of french bread on her plastic plate.
When she comes back from filling her water bottle, Sally finds Justin, Robert and Patricia at the table.
I pull up a chair and Sally looks up, scans the faces and asks, “So who called this meeting?”
Everyone looks at me as I smile and say, “Sally, it was me. You don’t seem yourself lately – you’re too quiet.”
Patricia smiles and adds, “And so we’re here to help.”
Sally growled, “So you’re here to help. All of you are here to help. I don’t need help. Why are you doing this?”
I pull my chair closer to the table, “Sally, we’re here because we’re your friends. We will always be your friends.”
Patricia jumps in “Sally, we love working with you. You make us laugh, you’re a great teammate and you have helped every one of us. Now we’re going to help you.”
Robert smiles, “Mama, please talk to us.”
Sally snaps at Robert, “I’m not your mama.”
Robert smiles and replies, “You’re not my mother but I’d be proud if you were. Please talk to us.”
Sally looks at Robert, at Patricia, at Justin, and at me.
“I’m so depressed. I can’t deal with the thought of doing this job forever. I could have been a teacher. I could have been a nurse. This was just something to make money to go to college. But I didn’t push. I was not ambitious. I had goals but never took action.”
I jumped in, “Sally, you are not doing this job forever. It’s just one day at a time. Just worry about today. And tomorrow, we’ll worry about tomorrow.”
Sally looked at me, “Gordon, is that the best you have.”
I smiled, Patricia smiled, Robert smiled, Justin started laughing and then we were all laughing – loud and long. Sally was laughing the loudest.
After a minute, Justin spoke up, “Sally, I think you want to tell us something.”
Sally smiled, “Justin you are so young and yet you are the smartest of all of us.”
“Yes, I do want to say something. It will mean the world to me, so listen closely.”
“I’m too old to change. I’m a Call Center lifer because of the decisions I made.”
“I dreamed of being a teacher or a nurse. I wanted to make a good living helping others and live in a home that I own. And I could have. I had the skill. I had the brains. But I didn’t have the drive. I dropped out of college. My dream slowly slipped away. A year in this godforsaken place has turned into a lifetime. I settled. And here I am.”
Sally looked around the table, “It’s my fault. It’s my goddamn fault. So in the last few months it hit me that this is it. I’m a call center rep for life. And I hate it. I hate my live. I would give anything for a do over.”
Justin spoke up. “Sally, you’re right. This is it. So here we are. What are we going to do about it? Depression is not an option. How can we help you make the best of this?”
Sally smiled, sadly, and said, “OK Justin. We need straight talk, not handholding and singing kumbaya. And you’re right, as always. Depression, or worse – and I’ve thought of worse, is not an option.”
Sally continued, “I know that you are doing this to help me. I appreciate it. And I do need the help; it’s wonderful that I’m not in this alone. Thank You. And there is one more thing you could do. Actually it’s a must. You must do it.”
Robert was first to answer, “Sally, anything, just say it.” We nodded.
Sally looked at us, person by person, right in the eye. And then she spoke; “I want each of you to promise me that you will work your ass off to get the hell out of here. And I will arrange the going away party.”
Sally continued; “Robert, you go first.”
Robert spoke up, “Sally, I promise you that I will work my ass off to get the hell out of here.” Sally smiled, “Robert, I believe you and I’m going to push you until you put your resignation right on the desk of Larry Randall. Now cross your heart.” Robert nodded and crossed his heart.
Patricia followed and then Justin, who added, “Sally, I will finish college and my MBA, then join a Private Equity Company and take over this place” to which Sally answered, “From your lips to God’s ears.”
Sally turned to me – I looked her right in the eye and spoke from my heart, “Sally, I promise you that I will work my ass off to get the hell out of here.” And I crossed my heart. “Oh, and you will arrange my wonderful going away party.”
Sally laughed, turned to everyone, and said, “Thank you. I feel so much better, so much stronger. I love you.”
After discussing crazy callers, great callers, money problems and weekend plans, we started to pack up to return to the phones.
Sally tuned to us, “Thank you. I could not get through this without you.”
Three minutes later, I heard the beep and said, “This is Gordon, how can I provide outstanding service to you today.” Sally looked over and smiled.
We truly are all in this together.
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