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Confession of a call center agent: Better relationships, less attrition

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Workplace Wisdom

Confession of a call center agent: Better relationships, less attrition

With the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry encountering problems of high attrition rates, it is critical to explore ways to ensure employee retention. One approach is by developing positive work relationships.

How can this be achieved in the workplace?

Organization Psychology literature emphasizes that organizations benefit when employees experience positive interpersonal relationships in the workplace. These relationships are the key for effective job performance. Relationships like these provide social support and criterion for effective job performance.

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One important factor that influences the quality of workplace relationship is the employee’s willingness to self-disclose. Self-disclosure is revealing any information about one’s self that is unlikely to be discovered from other sources. One discloses to let authenticity enter into a social relationship, which is also linked to our well-being and self-concept development.

The nature of work in the fast growing contact call centers (the biggest sector within the BPO industry) industry is characterized by demanding and dynamic work shifts. Thus, there is moderate time spent on socializing with co-employees. However, the potential benefits of self-disclosure cannot be ignored.

According to a study conducted by Jamandre and Arce (2011) among 100 Filipino customer service representatives (CSRs), et al., self-disclosing promotes high morale. When morale is high, employees approach their work with energy, enthusiasm and increased willingness.

They are enthusiastic about work once they get there. Increasing morale makes good business sense. High morale in a contact center environment can lead to less job-related stress, increased job satisfaction, higher productivity, reduced absenteeism and higher ownership of customer concerns. It may eventually result in high customer satisfaction.

Findings suggest that the CSRs are more likely to disclose to their co-CSRs and immediate supervisors information on tastes and interest, as well as work and attitude more, than they did on topics about body, personality and money. Furthermore, the CSRs are more likely to disclose to their co-CSRs in general than in full details; and are more likely to not disclose to their immediate supervisors.

CSRs tend not to disclose during the first few months of their relationship. This may be due to Filipino’s concept of hiya.

In the Filipino culture, peer group acceptance is considered important to one’s professional and occupational growth. Our concept of hiya defines how we behave in public and in relation to others. Thus, familiarity and confidence is essential.

Confidence is the key to self disclosure. Revealing one’s self occurs not until one knows the attitudes and beliefs of one’s co-employees. Thus it takes time to reveal one’s self.

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Self-disclosure helps develop trust among employees and the feeling of belongingness in a group. Literature tells us that this positive perception of the organization and the people that they work with enhances the employees’ desire to stay.

Aside from benefits mentioned earlier, self disclosure may mean lower attrition rates. Since positive relationships are enhanced, thinking of moving out to another company may be lessened because employees are happy and would want to still be with the people they work with.

To facilitate self-disclosure, organizations may provide periodic team building activities and seminars that can enrich the interpersonal relationship among their employees. They can also provide a friendlier workplace where employees can interact more and allow them to be confident in sharing themselves with their work mates.

Innah Exequiela Anne Cruz is an incoming fourth year college student at Miriam College majoring in Psychology. She is also an intern at Ateneo CORD. This article was based on a study by Niel Kenneth F. Jamandre and Rex T. Arce of University of the Philippines, entitled “Self-disclosure and Work Relationship of Call Center Agents with Their Co-employees” published in Volume 8, no. 9, of the Journal of US-China Public Administration in September 2011. For comments or queries, contact ateneocord@admu.edu.ph.

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