I work with the archetypal bad service worker

She finally did it. She finally completely failed to work for an entire day.

I’ve seen it coming for a while. When we sat down on the first day of work, she confided in me that she has been fired from all her previous jobs- unfairly of course. Warning bells went off, but she seemed to do her job and I figured that my boss must have had a good reason to hire her. For background, we are tag-team receptionists/assistants at a rather expensive very customer oriented business. Think along the lines of a doctor’s office front desk. We deal with the customers so the pros can do their job.

At first she was merely annoying. I endured for weeks the endless banal talk about her pet collection- fifty geckos, a few snakes, cats, dogs, chinchillas, rabbits, guniea pigs and god knows what else. Every death. Every birth. Every time it’s a fucking hamster’s birthday, I get to hear the painful details. And when it’s not small animals, it’s her boyfriend. All about how they love each other so much and they are going to get married and as soon as they save some cash they can move out from his mother’s house etc. Annoying, but hey, it beats her other favorite subjects (high school, what she thinks her personality traits are, how much she thinks her parents are “assholes” and “bitches”) and definitely beats listening to her sing tunelessly along to old school R&B the radio. Whatever, right? She’s twenty years old. I was probably really annoying then, too.

I never grumbled when I come in to work every day to find her three (!) bags of makeup, precariously perched bottle of water, MP3 Player, purse, pile of sandwich-crusts, etc. on my chair and workspace. I just push them over to her side of the desk, turn the fan so that it blows on her instead of me and turn down the awful radio station that plays “I want to sex you up” at least ten times a day. It’s not worth trying to teach manners to someone you are only going to know for a couple months, I figured.

Then, as the weeks on the project started to count down, the working started to slow. She stopped doing any tasks that involved standing up. Thats okay, I prefer those tasks to dealing with the phones and computers. It was mildly annoying to come back from tasks to find the customers backed up as she blithely sat reading magazines, but usually I could catch things up pretty quick. Then she started to wait a few rings before picking up the phones…just in case someone besides the secretary/receptionist (us) decided to pick it up, I guess. That pissed me off. What is the point of going to elaborate lengths to avoid your job?

This progressed in to resolutely hunching over magazines, refusing to even look at the customers until they are at the front desk and vocally asking for assistance. This would be greeted with some top-speed muttering. Usually she didn’t bother to look up- even getting a customer on the other side of the room’s attention is achieved by muttering in to the fold of the magazine she’s reading and then loudly grumbling “pay attention, people”. Sometimes, she’d use these opportunities to berate the customers- a favorite is to hand incomplete forms back with a terse “read the instructions and try again.” Occasionally she’d lie to them to punish them- saying that we were no longer accepting appointments or that they couldn’t turn in important forms because they were late. She often complains about our inability to fine customers for changing appointments or turning in forms mildly late.

Once they have endured this treatment, she’d proceed to talk about the customer’s flaws (everything from their behavior to their make-up is up for discussion) loudly while they sat in full earshot in the waiting room. No waiting to go to the back room and vent for her. Everyone and anyone gets to know when the woman on the phone is a “bitch who deserved to be hung up on” or a “pushy rich asshole”. I spend a lot of time cringing. Sometimes she sides with the customer and badmouths our business, or workers, and our products.

I do my best to smile and thank people and try to smooth things over, but it’s hard because I’m often doing the work of two people. She’s taken our casual “you can take a paid lunch if it’s slow and you just dash out for food you can eat in the back” to mean “you can take off without telling anyone the moment your unemployed slacker boyfriend comes over to feel you up in the parking lot for forty minutes at a time on company time.” More than once I’ve walked in to an empty front desk, a gaggle of confused customers (she seems to time her absenses for the busy times) and no idea who needs what done.

But we’ve reached the end. A couple phone calls a day to her horny cling-wrap like boyfriend has transformed in to day long gecko-talk-filled sagas over the phone. She no longer hangs up on him when customers call- she just puts him on hold, trys to get the person on the phone to hang up as soon as possible, and resumes her murmered reptile love whispers. She no longer puts down the phone when she mutters at the customers. In fact, they often have to reach over the front desk and tap her to get her attention. Every transaction is completed with the phone glued to her hand, line one perpetually lit up on the switchboard. Everything now is just an inturruption in her eight-hour love talks. It’s over. There is no more work- positive or negative- being done.

I’m sorry folks. I’m sorry if you ever run in to this girl. I’m sorry if you ever hire her. It kills me to know there are so many hard-working unemployed folks out there, and it’s just too late in the season to get rid of her. It kills me that she is just going to go work somewhere else, and ruin someone else’s business for a while. If there was anything right in the world this girl would be unemployed forever- or at least until she is forced to kill and eat her gecko collection for food. This job ends too soon to do much about it at this point. I only regret that I didn’t talk to my bosses early on.

An excellent low-key rant…congrats.

Sorry to hear that you have to put up with this colleague from hell, sven. If she’s truly that bad, I imagine that the back-office professionals are at least somewhat aware of the situation, which means that I’m sure that they realize what a valuable worker you are, in comparison to Her Slackness.

Are you both replacing employees who are on leave? If there’s any chance that an opening will remain after your initial “term of employment” is finished, you might need to start maneuvering yourself into position (assuming that you want to stay there). Do your customers fill out satisfaction surveys? If so, I would imagine that it’s very clear to your employers that one of his receptionists is on the ball and the other is rude and ineffective.

Even if you don’t want to try staying there, you want to be sure that the boss knows the full story when it comes time to write you a letter of recommendation. There are ways of getting the word out without it being obvious that that’s what you’re doing…

Fifty geckos!?

You don’t mention if anybody has ever talked to her about her work ethic. It’s not exactly sporting to let her get away with ever-increasing malfeasance and then blame her for not knowing better.

I’m not defending her, mind you. But what’s obvious to us is clearly not obvious to her.

This phrase needs to be used by Orson Wells.

Assuming the OP is an accurate description of what is happening, I completely disagree with this. This person should be fired. Her behaviour is truly horrible and any self respecting human being should know this. I would agree that it is not exactly sporting to let her get away with it (other people who would do a better job deserve the position). But blaming her for not knowing better? Sure, completely appropriate. She sounds like scum.

I have to disagree with this as well - she was working more or less “okay” at the start, and she’s gradually slid down as she’s figured out what she can get away with without the bosses cottoning on and firing her ass. She knows full well what she’s doing, and needs to be canned ASAP.

I concur.

Exactly. Why has she been able to get away with this all summer? Who’s in charge? Why is **even sven ** sitting back and watching this without ever piping up? If it’s not even sven’s place to say or do anything, then whose place is it? And why isn’t that person doing it?

And yes, she needs to be fired. But what a stupid system, to let someone run lose for a few months, overburdening your other workers and alienating your customers, without whom you can’t stay in business, and then only fire the @#$% at the end of the summer? Stupid.

I pit the management, if there actually is any in this enterprise.

Sven hasn’t come back to clarify, but if they’re both temps then there may be a reason why the bosses haven’t come to have a talk, and why she’s still there even though she’s a lazy-ass ho. This is all a WAG, but some employers don’t think it’s their business to discipline a temp - they just send a negative report back to the agency and refuse to do business with them again. And to fire a temp and find another one often incurs another fee from the agency, or a fee to sign up with a different agency if they have a contract with the first. If it’s a short term thing, it’s often cheaper to keep the one person on than fire them halfway through and have to pay the agency to source another employee. That’s happened in a couple of workplaces that I’ve been at when temping, and I’m sure it happens more often than people think.

It’s a short-term project. We have been working on different days (and I have no idea how she acts when I’m not there to pick up the slack) and we’ve only both been in the office at the same time for a couple weeks.

It’s a job with a fair amount of down-time, so at first her actions seemed like she was merely filling in the gaps with magazines, phone calls, etc. It’s only in the last week or two that she’s stopped working to devote herself full-time to her reading, drawing, and phone calls.

At this point we are embarking on a new part of the project that is of quite different quality (less customer oriented, more pressure filled, in the field) and it’s just too late to train someone new and we can’t be physically short one warm body. The bosses have mentioned that “we” are some of the best employees they’ve had, and they’ve had a lot of trouble in the past with employees slacking off towards the end of the summer, since they know the job is just going to end. I think they just feel lucky that it’s taken this long for that to happen…