Friday, May 6, 2016

Call Centers in Bulgaria: Favoritism and Bullying on High Heels


A little excursion into a world of incompetence, ignorance and annoyance.

The Bulgarian capital Sofia is the most important outsourcing location in Europe. That is because salaries are chronically low. Even cheaper locations in the Far East, such as India, are not able to offer services in all languages required for European or e.g. South American customers.
A monthly salary amounting to 1,600 Leva, the equivalent of approximately 800 Euro, is considered high in Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union. While energy costs and living expenses in general are close to those in Western Europe, the modest salaries for tens of thousands of customer support agents, SEO and IT experts do not even grow along with the inflation.
But it is easy to exploit a work force in a country in which pensioners receive 200 Euro a month, if they are lucky, in which nurses, doing night shifts all week long, do not earn much more than that either. Even though the pay is scandalously low, many call center agents become members of the small middle class in this country on the Balkans. Without the call centers, there would hardly be something like a Bulgarian middle class.
Quite a few Western Europeans, who ended up in Sofia, mostly due to relationships or marriages with Bulgarians, enter call centers as agents. In these cases, their income depends on their negotiation skills and the languages they speak, but it will seldomly exceed 1,200 Euro, including bonuses for native language speakers.
Apart from the exploitation, hidden behind the wide-spread poverty in Bulgaria, the treatment of employees is scandalous as well, in many cases. An estimated half of all supervisors and team leaders would make "excellent" prison guards, since they are good at bullying team members, rather than treating employees properly. Of course, the latter would actually benefit their companies.


Dimitar (name changed) was only 19 years old, when he started his career at one of Bulgaria's largest employers, the Sofia division of a global IT company. About a decade later, this gifted, young gentleman became a high-ranking manager. He is now responsible for several departments with hundreds of employees. As a customer support agent, Dimitar proved to be technically very knowledgeable. As a teamleader and supervisor, he demonstrated excellent inter-personal and organisational skills. All of this has led to a stunning career, which is far from over. Within a few years, Dimitar might be one of the highest-ranking managers in his company.
So, what is the problem then? In Dimitar's case, there is absolutely none. He is hopefully the future. Under his direct watch, nobody will be bullied by superiors or become the victim of similar nuisances. But the general issue is that Dimitar is an exception in a world of incompetence, ignorance and annoyance.
At Dimitar's company, new hires were trained in a bad, unprofessional way just a few years ago. Training, which was supposed to done in English, since it was for foreigners as well, was provided in Bulgarian half the time. Technical questions, asked by new hires, were officially encouraged, but treated as unwelcome interruptions of the workflow, depending on which of the available specialists was asked. These issues at the Sofia division of an American company, would definitely not be accepted at the same company's headquarters in the U.S., but this is Bulgaria, a country with a questionable working culture, to say the least.
In early 2011, a young lady from the city of Blagoevgrad was promoted to a team leader position at an Indian-owned call center. Whether she was beaten as a child is unknown, but something in her life must have gone very wrong. That is because her approach to most of her team members consisted of giving them the feeling they were inferior and dumb, while she was the majesty, who was solely responsible for all successes the team came up with.
She would shout at people she did not like or whose sympathy was not regarded existential for her career development. With a lot of mean ideas, she worked on excluding employees, trying to teach them their own native language, while her language skills were below average, in spite of her philology studies in that language. The latter aspect was the reason for embarrassing e-mails, with tons of mistakes, being sent out to customers as well as the client this team worked for.
Only after a huge scandal was raised, her majesty was finally fired in 2012, which was another exception. In most cases, companies in the call center world would promote mean, bullying employees, rather than warning them or letting them go.
At the same facility, a support agent got very ill. Since his girlfriend had just left him with all the funds he possessed, some colleagues thought it would be a good idea to start a collection for him, because he needed expensive medical devices. The person who had come up with the idea of that collection, which had been approved by a kind HR lady, was approached by the ill colleague's team leader. He suggested, the guy who wanted to help "should pay for the medical stuff out of his own pocket" and "stop creating a mess". Threats were vocalised. In the end, the collection did not happen.
In 2013, the Bulgarian division of a multi-national human resources company was running a project for a global tech company. The project was managed by a young, smart and tolerant gentleman, who had inhaled inter-personal and management skills during extended stays in the United States and who was basically a kind human being. In 2014, he was suddenly replaced by a lady, who grew up in Bulgaria's Socialist times and who obviously felt the urge to give back the raisins of her early work experience.
The day she arrived, she got stuck on the muddy parking lot with her high heels. That sight already suggested trouble ahead. Whoever expected problems, would not be disappointed. Systematically, the new project manager would bully anyone she did not like in this very international team. She would complain about employees from abroad in Bulgarian. People who were not eager to give in to her bullshit would be given tasks which could not be successful, and then fired. At the same time, she would protect team members who were friends with the regional manager of the company which employed her. If there had been a competition for screwing up the work atmosphere, favoritism and degrading those who were not impressed by her tantrums and aggression, she would have won the first prize. Her terrible language skills did not turn out to be an advantage either.
At yet another call center in Sofia, which specializes in support for professionals in a certain field on three continents, things are pretty similar: The treatment is scandalous, while the training provided to new hires is simply useless, which is another chronic symptom of the Bulgarian working culture at call centers. At this company, wrongdoings by obedient career seekers are being ignored, while those who report them, since they were taught to do so, are being made responsible.
Here, like at so many other work places of this kind, the management supports bullying supervisors (the higher the heels and the thicker the makeup, the worse it gets, but this is not limited to women), who would unnerve young new hires until they sweat, shiver and even cry. A compliance manager was either not willing or simply incapable of changing things. A minority of supervisors here was opposed to the kind of treatment provided by colleagues, but afraid of attempting to change things, since they would have gotten in trouble from above as well.
Training sessions on rather complex software programs lasted 20 minutes. Those who were supposed to provide support on those programs, were basically unable to do so on their own. When they asked questions, they were bullied. As a result of those practices, this call center recently lost entire language teams to a competitor, while the management was wondering why. 
The Bulgarian working culture, at the many call centers and elsewhere, has quite a few problems, reaching from exploitation to bullying and an alarming lack of interpersonal, training and other skills. There are exceptions. But, generally, accepting offers in this world of arrogance, malice and old-school approaches is not recommended to those who find alternatives.
Dealing with bullying supervisors and not being intimidated by their crap might not be easy for many 20-year-olds, who just left their universities. Those who accept their daily portion of bullying, might keep their jobs, but they will feel bad every morning, while approaching their workplace. Those who show the slightest opposition to the meanness, will be bullied even more, until they go.
The reason for the kind of treatment might partially be found in the past. People who were bullied at their workplace in Socialist Bulgaria, might think of it as a normal approach and pass it on to their employees decades later. That way, they become role models to younger supervisors, who will behave that way as well. But the issue is also caused by incompetence, arrogance and meanness. In a Facebook group called "Foreigners in Sofia & Friends", many members (mostly Bulgarians) agreed with most of the content of this blog. Others suggested, the author should "stop whining", and "return to his home country". One lady wrote, educated people would not mention issues, but rather look for another job. But ignoring the problems mentioned here is actually part of the problem. 
So, where does the unacceptable treatment of decent people in Bulgarian call centers come from? I don't have the slightest clue, apart from some possible reasons mentioned above. But I'm glad I got out of this shit.








47 comments:

  1. I worked at a call center for 3 years. It was an IBM call center and I can assure you that those were nightmarous years there. Never in my life have I been more discriminated against. There I got a professional disease and I am a handicapped now. After struggles with the management they finally informed us of the risks of the job position and made us sign an informed declaration. It was too late...I already got damaged. Something more, they persecuted the trade unionists and fired most of them. No help from the Labour Inspection Agency and when it came to inspect, however, and made prescriptions IBM management screw up everything and did not bother to change the situation within the articles of the Labour Code. All that happened in a EU member state. I was even not allowed to speak my mother tongue during my breaks. ..Those were my worse years in my labour life. 98% of the employees were young graduates from EU universities. Aweful! They hires guards during the selebration of IBM anniversary and were were merely arrested with no possibility to get out of the office during the break as the Management feared we protested.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Vladislav! I am sorry this happened to you. All the best!

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    2. What professional disease?

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    3. Thanks for your feel baks guys ! Your article is very interesting and pertinent. I would like know if it's possible to enter in contact with you Vladislav. I would like have more informations on the work, your feedback and have tips for survive in this wild. Thanks per advance

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  2. I am ready to witness together with Jean-Pierre Garrido who is a survivor from Ibm call center in Sofia, Bulgaria.

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    1. Sorry for that what happened to you, Vladislav! We from the Center of Human Rights would like to hear from you further and organise proper action. Could you, please, get in touch via email with me at emaildeyan@gmail.com, thank you!

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  3. I have been in Bulgaria (sofia) now for some years, and havent felt discriminated at all! Back where i came from i was without a job for for over 2 years! Here i got a new chance and havent felt more happy! People here are very hospital! In the call center i am working people treat each other with the respect everyone deserves, apart from work i have made allot of friends here aswell from all over the world including allot Bulgarians!

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  4. Thanks for your comment, kastor! I am glad your experience seems to be very positive.

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    1. c'e di peggio?
      http://www.castedduonline.it/cagliari/centro-storico/19557/call-center-non-solo-sfruttamento-c-e-chi-viene-pagato-mille-euro.html

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. I have worked in an outsourced operations office of an American company (not a call center but an FX broker) with a pay similar to the described in the article. However, apart from the rather low pay, I found the working environment to be quite nice and professional. The stress was little and pretty manageable, the colleagues were nice and the training was on a very good level. I am really sorry about your experience, but it seems it is quite different from company to company. I assure you there are companies in Bulgaria that treat their employees much more adequately. I wish you the best of luck in finding one in case you are looking for it.

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    1. Thank you, Dimitur! Yes, I there are good places and managers with a good attitude.

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  8. I managed a call center for complex software in Sofia for more than 5 years. The talent in Sofia is strong, the price good, the intelligence unequalled and the language skills are superior. The article above points out some cultural difference between the sensitive author's experience and BG culture. Yes, there are differences, but that does not mean that the the BG practices are wrong. Different in many cases but not wrong. BTW our attrition rate was < 5 % annually... People were happy but treated firmly and fairly...

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    1. Thanks, Rich. Yes, not all places or supervisors are bad. These are the impressions I have after quite a bit of work at a few places.

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  9. Fist and foremost, let me say I totally disagree with the part that has to deal with salaries. If it wasn't for the cheap workforce, those companies would've never picked Bulgaria as a location, and the people who received €800 a month would had settled for €500.

    The problem you are addressing is definitely not limited to the call centre culture. I suppose that as a foreigner this is what you have most experience with, but as a person who was a part both of an SEO department and a “customer support” centre, my worst experience was working for a 7-member family business in the sphere of outdoor advertising, print, vehicle branding and luminous signs. As you can see, this is as removed from a call centre as you could get, yet the constant yelling, lack of desire to train people, and extremely low salary, were all part of the “job”. Outbof the 7 people who worked there, only 2 were employees, the other five being the owner, his wife, his sister-in-law, his father-in-law, and his sister-in-laws’s husband. Now, as far as expertise regarding the business itself goes, those folks were quite professional, and the product they delivered was always of top quality. But they expected somebody with their level of expertise, willing to work for €150 a month, 9 to 19 every workday, sometimes on Saturdays, and they were extremely disappointed when things didn't work out for me.

    I am giving this example just to underline the main issue at hand—even people who know how to do their job extremely well have no business expertise and deal with people the same way they would deal with materials or equipment.

    To put it in simpler words, there are just too few folks who know how to manage subordinates, and too often who was part of the company for a longer time is the primary criteria by which team leaders are appointed.

    That's not to say my experience in the customer service/SEO fields have been great. In fact, I just left my job because the lack of communication between HR, the higher management, and me (and my supervisor) meant that I had no control over my free time. But that's another topic which you might want to address in another blog post.

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    1. Thank you for this comment! Much appreciated.

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  10. Allow me to share my opinion from 8 years working experience and 10 years total living in Bulgaria. First of all I find Bulgarians much more descent than the people of my own Country. The isolation of Communist years, besides other disadvantages, kept society in a more descent shape than in other Countries. "Political" games in companies are usually in a very childish level, far away from the intrigues in other Countries. Yes, there are certain problems in business understanding, but mostly in managing. Both lead them to repeat what they have been taught from Communists regime, the authoritarian management style. Communists management style. And this comes automatically up in their behavior. The responsible should be someone else, as long as , during the Communists regime, the one mistaken should be punished. Totalitarian approach. We should not forget also that democracy was introdiced in Bulgaria for the first time after 1989. Because of the previously mentioned, fear is the dominant feeling when a mistake,or a damage takes place. If we finally consider the lack of understanding business, consequently the lack of flexibility, we can easily understand the reason of such kind of fear: what they mostly consider and concern is to avoid any mistake, both management and employees. It will take years to be able to feel free to take risks, witout being scared from a probable mistake. It is obvious also that the companies referred as problematic they don't pay attention to HR issues, they treat people as "things", but the question that comes up is: what these, international, companies do? nothing! They continue as such with a colonial attitude. It is IBM, mother company, responsibility to correct it, but they will never do it....if big international companies do not pay attention in such issues, locals will continue acting as they know and no improvement will take place instead locals will behave even worse in order to show obedience to foreign management. Unfortunately, Balkans as a whole, being under slavery for half millennium, will never raise up head unless big Countries change their approach and consider them first as humans and second as equals in professional level. The problem of training mentioned is real, but again is happening just because of this colonial behavior. Ignorance and all the rest mentioned, I find them very hard; if someone is not really trained we should not requested them to perform instead locals will understand that the hat only changed; the essence remained the same: totalitarian regime before, totalitarian regime now, this time from private sector. And this is valid for almost the entire former Eastern Block. So, let the foreigners change their approach, by first understanding the local culture. This is the key. Then the rest will come, gradually and after years of working together.

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    1. Thank you! I really appreciate this input, which sounds pretty convincing to me.

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  11. Dear Mr Marcus,
    I can confirm all of your observations as a researcher of the matter. Typical for Bulgarian cultural environment in general is the so called High Power Distance, which means that social relations are determined by innate inequality between people of different levels of society/ professional hierarchy. Hierarchy is everything that matters, not quality of work. This means that a boss/ manager can do whatever humiliating practice to make their subordinates do their job. That's because the subordinates accept this as a norm, therefore do not feel motivated to counteract it. It's solely a cultural trait but it leads to very bad results in terms of economic accomplishments. This trait has been well documented by Bulgarian reserachers in the fields of societal and cultural values, as well as organizational culture and business studies.

    Another typical trait of Bulgarian culture is its so called "Femininity" which means that conformism and obedience are more important than competitiveness in order to achieve a goal. In this case, subordinates will conform to any non-working rule just to avoid problems, while managers will require total compliance without argument to do so.

    These norms in organizational culture are taught to kids since kindergarten - teachers are the "bosses", children do whatever they are ordered no matter the point. I have been bullied by teachers simply because I wasn't "likable" (i was a very shy kid and this made no sense because there were agressive kids who did not get any regulation for their behaviour simply because they had "powerful" parents). Generally, Bulgarian kids are taught since very early age to be compliant with adults' rules without discussion. This is how upbringing goes. New generations of parents have different approaches and this clashes severely with old teaching practices at school and university. Speaking of universities, the same thing applies - higher education "exists for the professors not the students", that's why the environment is (used to be) highly hostile. The problem is that the country has severe demografic deficit, so all univesities are already struggling for students, so they had to adapt. Now things are changing rapidly and these relations are questioned.

    ...

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  12. ....
    In my opinion, this huge issue could be solved with educational courses in organizational communication and management since primary school (like simple games and tasks) and that every university major should train students how to work in a team and in positions of superiority/subordination. This is crucial for establishing fruitful teamwork and professional success! Main problem of Bulgarian entrepreneurs and managers is that they think they now it all about management simply because they own a family company (i.e. they know their "team" well), or because they have been put to a higher position by their own superior because of compliance(i.e. that's enough to think you are always right). Typical example is WallTopia's* CEO , Ivaylo Penchev, who claims to be a great entrepreneur and manager but former employees state in internet forums (because they can't do it legally) and anonymous comments that he uses the same "techniques" you described. I know a lot of people (all my friends) who experinece the same toxic environment at their workplace literally EVERYWHERE. I have experienced the same thing as a student at various jobs. And unfortunately, employees have NO legal protection at all.

    You can read scientific papers about organizational culture in Bulgaria in e-library databases in any university in Sofia. I recommend Sofia University - you can get a library subscription as a non-student. Also, you can visit this website about organizational cultures: https://geert-hofstede.com/countries.html You will learn a lot and hopefully find the answers to your questions!!! :D

    Thank you for your detailed description and opinion on this topic! I thought it was just me and several scientific circles that notice this issue.

    Best wishes,

    Hristina

    *A company which claims high reputation in making climbing walls, advertised in Bulgarian media as a number one producer in the world and a true success story of Bulgarian entrepreneurship and innovation.

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  13. Thank you so much, Hristina! This is really interesting. It reminds me of stuff I read years ago about the kind of approach shown in the eastern part of my home country, before the reunification.
    I appreciate your in-depth input a lot! Pozdravi!

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  14. I would like to read your opinion about your homeland.
    Danke im Voraus ;-)

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    1. I hardly spend time there. But, at some point in the foreseeable future, it will happen. :)

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  15. I also worked for IBM for almost 3 years between 2008-2010 and I can confirm management was terrible in the Spanish team.People were treated as lower level ones, the salaries were not changed and the employees hired from the beginning of the project were worse paid than the new hires. The work environment was just unsupportable due to the manager and team leaders' treatment.I can only assume that those people simply lacked interpersonal and just common sense behavior.No need to say nepotism was also very common. My next work stop was Sutherland, also people with questionable professional and leader skills were the ones occupying the upper positions. It was also vital who you know and who you protects you to get promoted into some position. There were also good examples of heard-working people getting into leadership position but it was mostly exception cases.

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    1. My name is Gergana Dimova and my e-mail is ggdimova@abv.bg

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  16. Hi,
    I am curious why you have used a picture from Philippines call center (I guess) as an illustration to an article about Bulgaria?

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    1. Because I did not want to get into trouble. I am actually not sure where that pic is from.

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    2. I want to mention that the picture you added from your article has nothing to do with the Bulgarian offices. I am sure that you can`t find such crowded places. I want to add that your comment about the average salaries and the prices doesn`t correspond to the reality because of the prices of flats and services. For instance in London or Berlin you have to pay 400-600 Euro for one room, it is impossible to take a taxi or to drink 2-3 cocktails at the night, or to go to theater. Here one room per month costs 100-150 Euro, to take a taxi costs approximately 3-4 Euro, the ticket for theater is 5 Euro, one cocktail 3 Euro, one beer in the bar 1-2 Euro and I can continue with the price- list.

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  17. Thank you for your comment. I already knew it is not from Bulgaria, because I chose it. I know about London and Berlin prices as well. Beer is even more expensive than that.

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  18. Hi, I just wanted to share these two entries of my blog "Bulgaria Observed" on outsourcing. They do not enter that much detailed on the work ethics inside, but they might be of your interest. My blog has been a bit to a halt due to finishing my dissertation, but if you're up to it, I'd love to publish a short article of yours with your view on outsourcing in the outsourcing section. All best, Marije
    https://bulgariaobserved.wordpress.com/category/outsourcing/

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  19. Bulgaria produce too many and too deeply traumatized people.May be the answers are there....
    “Whether she was beaten as a child is unknown, but something in her life must have gone very wrong. “

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  20. I worked for HP and it was rather pleasant. Relatively good money (for the country's standard, of course), and a fine team. Well, it wasn't exactly a dream job but still not a bad time. I learned much there.
    I realize people working in different call centers have different experience.

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    1. Yes, absolutely. I am not saying it's all shit. But I am saying that there is a huge problem. Thanks, Manol!

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  21. Mr. Marcus, while your stay and your experience may have been toxic, perhaps the process of turning personal experience and feelings into competent appraisal and labeling of "the Bulgarian working culture at call centers" is a bit of an overreaction.

    I have spent the last 14 years working as a support engineer and the last 8 as part of the branch that had the pleasure until recently of working under Mr Bowman who commented above.

    Everything you wrote is entirely against my personal experience and I can state, having a large number of colleagues and contacts in the field in Bulgaria, that what you say is the minority report.

    While I would not pry to the cause of the strong emotion behind those statements, I do hope it rather comes from compassion to the people you worked with who decided to slave under those bad conditions.

    If that is the case, while it is important to state the problems in order to solve them, please refrain from labeling, especially on the national level. It is impractical, it is damaging and it is always wrong.

    P.S. The photo you used is from the book "Labor in the Global Digital Economy: The Cybertariat Comes of Age"

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    1. You are mistaken my friend. This is overall working culture in Bulgaria, Welcome!

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    2. Of course, he is mistaken. As many of the comments already stated, the problem with the working culture in Bulgaria is strongly related to the Bulgarian culture in general. Also, as much as it pains me to claim this, there is a certain trend to get very sensitive on a national level (as seen above). The author of this entry has predicted suggestions that his account is biased, and perhaps this is why he has included more than one case of the problem. Surely Mr Rupev has noticed this but has chosen to ignore it in order to follow through with what is a lovely defence against an attack that is not an attack. In actuality, it is more likely that Mr Rupev's experience is an exception rather than the other way around. The Bulgarian employer relies almost entirely on the financial situation of the country which brings the common worker to a state of desperation: if you open your mouth, you lose your job; if you lose your job, who knows when you'll get another one; if you don't have a job, you don't have money to pay for your already shitty rented flat an hour away from your work... So you better shut it! Because you need this job more than your employer needs you, and not because you're not good at it but because there are plenty of qualified people who sooner or later enter this realm of desperation and are ready to agree to any terms of employment in order to pay for their shitty cars and kids' textbooks. So, Mr Rupev, congratulations! I am genuinely glad there are people like you but I am also far less naïve because the majority of people I know working in the field (and that is the shocking amount of more than 70% of my friends - because apparently there's really not that much variety...) have expressed their lack of motivation and genuine concerns. To sum up: financial pressure causes employees to allow unprofessionalism, while unemployment ensures employers get away with it :)

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  22. Thank you for this comment. We both know what we saw and experienced. When you go through the comments, you will find comments by people who agree with me and by those who would agree with you. Also, you will find some info about scientific research, which was done. The latter tends to support the notion that there is a big issue. I will change the picture. Thank you again.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Thank you for your reply.
      I intended to wait until I hear back from Hristina Sokolova, whom I've asked for some publications related to her interpretation, however there is a simple point I would really like you to clarify and since my previous post suggesting the problem with generalizations may have been vague, here is put in simple terms the essence of the problem with that statement:

      In your post you make this statement "but this is Bulgaria, a country with a questionable working culture, to say the least."

      I am a Bulgarian and I do work in a call center. As you can imagine I would appreciate it if you to clear the ambiguity. Either there are no exceptions and you are calling my work culture and that of my teammates and colleagues questionable according to the nationality-based generalization or there are exceptions to your generalizing statement and as suggested it is perhaps biased as it is based on your personal painful experience and the negative feedback of your peers (which is not uncommon).

      I would like to assume the later is implied, but as the text makes these statements so boldly I would really appreciate it if you would state it for the record.

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  23. I fight those bastards and its fun. But no career can be made this way, that is why i turned to freelancing. What I can say to my fellow Bulgarian is "fight them, nobody will do it for you or run fast" - You decide!

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  24. Hey Imanuel,

    I work in IT but we have a serious problem here with Bulgarian managers. I though I was just imagining it - bad luck, maybe I am in the wrong, etc, but in several companies I here more and more of the same - bulgarian 'managers' are utterly terrible, lack the simplest of human qualities, let alone 'advanced' stuff like 'motivation', 'lead by example', etc.

    There is a cultural problem. And it's not just in call centers!

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    1. That's *some* of them, of course - I 've worked with very qualified and good ones, which usually have a lot of international experience...

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    2. Sure. There are excellent ones. at the same time, there is a grave issue. Also I am sure this applies not only to Bulgaria, but rather the entire region.

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    3. I can't agree more. There are many managers lacking the necessary qualities for their positions but they are promoted by someone higher in the hierarchy and don't get fired, instead talented people are leaving their jobs and moving to other companies. Several times I had negative experience with such type of "managers" and later they wonder why people are leaving and why they can't retain them for long time.

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  25. Hi there! :) I worked in Mtel (Mobiltel) for three years. At the beginning I came accross very nice colleagues and supervisors. We had fun we joked and we worked well. After these people taught me the basics I became one of the best and was congratulated more than once. I was always moved to the flagship office and was given the very important customers. Unfortunately I was moved to an office with an awful manager. My stress rised sharply and my selес dropped. I was not happy with what they tried to force me to do (against my moral). This comes to say things can be different even in one and the same company. At the summers I have worked in France. Same experience, but they respect the (Labor) law! :)

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