Mixed Signals

This week is our shift bid at my day job. For those of you who have never worked in a call center, a shift bid is when everyone chooses the shift they’ll work for the next few months. In our call center, Agents are ranked by performance, so that the best performers get first choice and those who are not doing such a great job get what’s left. When we shift bid here, we do a “live” shift bid; Agents actually file through in order, and speak to us face-to-face to choose their shifts. This has the advantage of being completely transparent so that everyone knows what’s going on and no one can suspect that there are any shenanigans with assigning the shifts.

Moving a few hundred people through a room where they make their choices can be a bit of a logistical nightmare, especially when it comes to traffic flow. To make this more intuitive, we put arrows on the floor, showing everyone where they would go to select their shift after exiting the waiting area.


If you saw this on the floor in front of you…

…would you walk down that hallway against the arrows?


And if you saw this…

…would you ignore it and walk the opposite direction instead?


I did a little informal statistical analysis of the effectiveness of this:

  • 56% attempted to walk the wrong direction, against the arrows.
  • 37% attempted to walk the wrong direction even when a person stood at the entrance and pointed.
  • 8% joked that they were too stupid to follow the arrows.
  • 6% went the entire way down the hallway in the wrong direction, despite instruction to the contrary.
  • 4% made a joke that was some version of “Follow the yellow-brick road.”
  • <1% claimed that they only spoke Spanish and the arrows were in English.

I shudder for humanity.

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