No to O2

Jul 29 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Hot on the heals of a recent survey revealing that almost six out of 10 employees in the telecoms sector have experienced symptoms of over-work or burnout in the last six months, it seems that UK mobile telecoms company, O2, is doing its best to prove the grim findings right.

According to the Guardian, the company seems to have got itself into hot water with staff and shareholders alike after awarding its bosses big bonuses while freezing the pay of many of its other staff.

During the fractious two-and-a-half-hour meeting in Reading, Berkshire, O 2 board members were barracked by employee shareholders and union members furious at plans to freeze salaries for some of its 9,000 British staff while paying themselves bonuses.

"I honestly look at you guys and I think you look like pimps. You are prostituting us, the workers," said one employee shareholder, who said she had been with the business 14 years.

Another, Emma Forrest, painted a grim picture of life within the company's call centre in Bury, Greater Manchester, with bullying managers and staff made to work long, often unsociable hours.

"O 2 is not the great place to work that the board would make out," she said. "We cannot and will not put up with the way you treat us."

Throughout the meeting, the most combative seen in the telecoms sector for years, there were shouts of "you're fat cats" and "liars" from an increasingly angry crowd. On several occasions the chairman, Sir David Arculus, had to stand up and shout to be heard.

"We are serious about our commitment to be one of the best employers in our field in Europe," the firms claims on its website.

"We are investing developing our people so that they can lead the way during this communication revolution."

And most ironically: "Life in O2 Call Centres is not what some people might expect."

Does anybody still actually believe anything that firms put on their careers websites these days?

The Guardian | Employees vent anger at O2 annual meeting


Older Comments

I not surprised that the staff at O2 are demoralised. As a communications company, O2 offer the most appalling customer service. Premium rate number is offer under the banner 'Help is at hand' Prolonged & not helpful information with the 'UK based' automated answering service at the premium rate line.

They had technical problems today & could not recognise my number on heir system, in spite of my call direct from my O2 phone.

This is not a staff issue, the problem lies at management level.

I am deeply unhappy with the 'O2 experience'. It is fairly consistant so I can't believe that I am the only dissatisfied customer.

If I had shares, I would be pulling out ASAP.

Michael Bardenet CROYDON

If you are thinking about working for O2 - DON'T!!

I made the mistake of leaving a good job where I had been for 5 years to work at O2 in Leeds - I fell for the advert promising great development and career opportunities.

The training program lasts about 4 weeks - the final week is one that you spend taking live customer calls but still in the training environment. Sounds sensible until you get there on your first day and discover that they have adopted the most crazy training program ever.

I spent 3 weeks drawing pictures and making collages with felt tip pens and flip chart paper - and no, I'm not joking. The thinking behind it is that you are given a task and then have to interpret your answers, working as a group, using art work, poems and songs. I don't doubt that pre-schoolers would have a whale of a time but when there were 10 people with an average age of 28 in the training group, you couldn't help but think that the management were playing a practical joke.

By day 3 I was panicking and thinking that I had made a huge mistake by joining O2. Unfortunately although I shared my concerns with the trainer, and the head of customer service in an employee forum, nothing changed. Our system training consisted of being given a password and a page full of scenarios and told to figure out how to process on it in pairs. That would be fine if it was user friendly instead of an antiquated system with loads of esoteric commands and abbreviations.

By the time we got to the final week and having to take calls it was a nightmare. You were harassed by supervisors for leaving people on hold - O2 don't like you to leave someone holding for more than 60 seconds. The problem was that there were loads of people with customers hanging on, none of whom knew how to use the system or anything about the questions we were being asked, and only 2 supervisors to support us. Amusingly, O2 also use more than one system and people only tend to get trained on one or the other. Only one supervisor knew the system we were using.

Finally after 8 weeks, I had had enough and left. The final icing on the cake is that 3 months later I received a letter from O2 advising me that I had been overpaid and threatening me with court action if I didn't pay them the money owed within 7 days. 3 days later I received a months wages from them! It took them 11 months to send me my P45. In light of this it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that people complain about their customer service. Next time you have to endure a fruitless conversation with one of their staff - spare a thought for that person. It genuinely isn't their fault. Their only crime is to work for a company that thinks so little of it's staff that it can't even be bothered to teach them how to use it's computer systems, let alone train them properly to actually help people.

Half of the people that were in my training group left within 3 months of me going. Another 4 have been signed off with stress in the last 6 months. The management spend most of their time in meetings and have nothing to do with the actual running of teams on a day to day basis. One manager in my section used to slag other team members off in people's appraisals. It was after I was asked about what I thought of a colleague ( I said nothing), then being treated to an expletive laden rant about that person by my manager that I decided to leave.

The moral of this story is don't ever, ever, ever work there. I hated it with a passion. I can honestly say I would rather scrub public toilets for a living than work for O2 again. I wouldn't trust them to dig a hole in the ground.


Agreed with all of the above. Work ethics at O2 stink. Also added to the fact that they don't protect customers data as good as they should be doing. After 5 months I left my posistion last Friday and managed to take out 2 notepads that I had written customers names, mobile phone numbers, addresses and account numbers in. Did I get searched on the way out? NO! I am now reporting this to the ICO.

The union rep at Glasgow is a complete joke and is more interested in going for a cigarette every 5 minutes than helping the CWU's so called employee members.

The training course, well I would of been better off spending 4 weeks with my son at nursery. All we did was play games and draw pictures.

What a complete joke!!!!!!

CP Glasgow

I worked at the Pre-Pay call centre at Bury for 8 Months, I was refused several shift changes due to my partner being diagnosed with a severe illness resulting in me requesting to move from full-time to part-time, this request was met with the usual deaf-eared approach that the management seem to have. I ended up taking time off with stress then after 3 weeks they offered me a shift pattern that made any possibility of getting home in an emergency beyond any form of reasonable timescale, they came up with that offer after several 'Counceling' sessions whereby I stated my situation and what was needed for me to be able to return to work including timescales for getting home incase of emergency.

Like posted above, the training is like being in nursery school and its surprising how much corporate babble they try to feed you, I also was highly amused by how much the management try to hide behind acronyms, poorly formatted spreadsheets and erroneous data.

The company is great until you have a problem, aside from the fact that you have to do 3/4 of your managers admin for them such as overtime booking, holiday requests etc etc. Incidently the company provides ZERO training for the software used for overtime pay, that to me is indicative of the company's objectives and complete ignorance regarding staff.

Its always interesting when a company employee responsible for the welfare of the staff advises you to find another job on the basis that in their opinion - the job is best suited to younger people as they dont know any better (This happened to one of my collegues)

David Hanson Bury

Reading this article and the comments written about this made me laugh out loud. o2 is a great place to work and managers do not bully at all. I suggest that instead of looking at the negative side of things be positive once in a while. Just because an odd amount of people had bad experiences working at o2 does not mean that it's a crap place to work and does not give a reason to write an over exaggerated load of nonsense.


I've worked with O2 for nearly 4 happy years and whilst it hasn't been perfect throughout. My line manager (and higher up) have always tried to be helpful even when there are other issues that get in the way.

Baring in mind it is a massive blue chip company, there will always be extra processes and poor employees. That is not an excuse for a poor line management but if you hire over 10,000 people, not all of them will be good managers, irrespective of whether they are O2 staff or any other staff.


I have worked for o2 for 3 years now and it has been the best 3 years of my life. The one thing about o2 is you really do have to completly commit yourself to your job in every aspect of the word, but if you are willing to do so the rewards are amazing and opportunities seem to be never ending. Its people who dont work there back ends off are the ones who complain but they have no ground to stand on. I would be extremly suprised to see someone within o2 that is extremly hard working and committed that is not happy and does not feel valued.