It was one of those really worrying situations where you’re not sure if you’re watching a comedy, a spoof or a real life documentary. Yes people, on Tuesday evening we sat down to ‘The Call Centre’ and I am SO pleased that we did.
Firstly this is car crash TV at its very best but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be watched and enjoyed – just be warned, if you or your other half work in HR you may need a stiff drink to get you through.
For those of you who have not had the absolute pleasure, The Call Centre is real life business based in Swansea. As the name would suggest, it is a call centre employing hundreds of staff from the local area.
As you would imagine from an office of this size, there are more than your average number of characters – as if this alone wasn’t a recipe for TV documentary success, enter stage left, the owner, ‘uncle’ Nev.
We watched this programme for half an hour still debating if it was in fact real or if it was one of those strange programmes we now get where half of it is made up and half of it is ‘kind of’ realish’. As I never watch programmes that can’t make up their mind what they want to be, I was considering turning over when we ‘Googled’ (because Google is the fountain of all knowledge) and realised, despite our absolute horror and amazement, it is in fact real – every last comedy gold part of it.
So, anyway, here’s the thing. Nev clearly doesn’t go by the book. He tells his staff to shut up, throws things at them and screams ‘GET OUT’ at the top of his voice to those he has just interviewed – better still, they are the poor individuals that got the job! He also engages in conversations that in any normal office environment would be an absolute NO GO!
As an example, one of his staff was feeling particularly down after being dumped (it happens to us all), so Nev says ‘You’ve been a right miserable b*stard for the last month and we all know why’. As if this wasn’t bad enough he then parades this poor girl around the office asking anyone if they want to take her out on a date.
It doesn’t even stop there… he then sets up a speed dating event, yes an arranged function with hundreds of people, just to get this girl a date. He then sends her home with ‘said match’ and makes them bake cakes!
Then we move on to the recently appointed tea lady. Having tried to work in the call centre this young girl realises it’s just not for her but rather than get rid, Nev decides there is a role for her to make tea and coffee for everyone. What was astounding and heart-warming was that this girl takes this job really seriously. It’s apparent if she’s going to be a tea lady she is clearly going to be the best tea lady.
When her delightful co-workers decide to hide her tea bags and teaspoons all hell breaks loose and there are tears, tantrums and warnings – I kid you not, you couldn’t make it up!
What was amazing about this programme was that although there must have been at least 20 scenarios where we turned to each other and said ‘He can’t do that’, ‘You can’t say that’, ‘He is going to end up in a tribunal’, surprisingly I think there’s a lot that we can all learn from Nev.
He has a happy workforce for a start and people who are committed to his business. Ok, they know he’s nuts and openly admit that he is one-of-a-kind but that’s no bad thing. As a result of Nev and his attitude (his team meetings are called a s*it sandwich because you have a sandwich and he gives you s*it) people respect and to some degree appreciate him and his straight forward and no nonsense style.
Move over Sir Alan Sugar, Nev is in town and as far as the Davies’ household goes, he’s leaps and bounds in front of any car crash TV that you can produce and after the most recent series of The Unemployable – sorry I mean Apprentice – I didn’t think I would be saying that.
At the very least you can have some sympathy, empathy and dare I add respect for these people. They are real and perhaps we all need a Nev in our lives to remind us of what ‘being yourself’ can achieve. There are definite lessons I’m taking from Nev and perhaps we need to stop looking for reasons to criticise employers and employees. May be what we need to do instead is get some personality back to the workplace and god forbid have some fun!
I don’t think we will be throwing things at people in Open any time soon or screaming at the top of our lungs but we just may think more about how we can inject some of Nevs better ideas into the agency.
Anyone for a s*it sandwich?