Category Archives: Work

Occupational hazard

bad boss

This past Christmas Eve, I received a WhatsApp message from someone I hadn’t seen or spoken to since 2011. It was the usual generic Christmas greeting, the kind that I would normally not bother to respond to if it came from someone I don’t even know well. But because I was alone at home and bored on Christmas Eve — and completely thrown by the randomness of the message — I replied, and that led to a brief conversation and accelerated catch-up for the next few minutes. And random awkward accelerated catch-ups being what they are, the conversation inevitably led to the subject of work.

ASIDE: There seems to be a curious perception and therefore stigma about doing freelance work. In certain cultures which I will not name here because I may be perceived as racist, freelancing is seen as being too lazy or too unqualified for a full-time job. In other cultures, freelancing is seen as being free to do whatever the hell you want. And as a freelancer, I can safely say that both perceptions are inaccurate. END ASIDE.

So when I told this long-lost WhatsApp sender that I’m freelancing now, her response went from “Oh, nice, you are free now” to “So when will you get a proper job again?” And because it was a question that nobody has ever actually asked me, my answer was a realization in and of itself.

I will (most probably) never take another full-time job.

Setting aside factors like working hours, office politics and dress codes, I now have an extreme aversion to bosses: I have never ever had a good boss. Ever. As regular human beings outside the workplace, they were normal enough people, and I’ve even stayed friends with a couple of them — but as authority figures whom I had to answer to on a daily basis and whose whims and fancies I had to cater to, they might as well not have existed at all. In the end, I realized that the only kind of growth I was ever going to see in any of those jobs was in my own waistline due to the emotional eating I eventually succumbed to.

So after six years of answering to people and occasionally having to supervise others, this is what most employees with brains are thinking but would die before saying it to their bosses’ faces:

Shut up and listen. A boss’s job is not to just give instructions and delegate tasks; it’s also to teach their employees to do what they themselves will eventually have to let go of as everyone moves up the food chain. And if their employees have it in them, there is absolutely no reason that they can’t learn well. But because a boss is, after all, only human and the course of time will always result in the evolution of professions and practices, there will always be new methods, new innovations and new information that someone else can provide to them. And more often than not, that someone else will be — quelle horreur! — an employee. So it never hurts the bosses to remove their ego from the equation every now and then if it means being able to learn something of value from someone who has something valuable to share. And if the bosses have it in them, there is absolutely no reason that they can’t learn well too.

Count those damned blessings. Bosses love to think that everyone is replaceable and indispensable; after all, if they hired you, they can hire someone else, n’est-ce pas? Tell that to all the bosses I’ve ever had, none of whom were ever able to find someone to fill my shoes, because there is a deceptively fine line between being indispensable and invaluable. Anyone can hold a job title and wield it to their advantage, but not everyone can — or is willing to — go beyond their job description and pay level to do what needs to be done in order to keep the level of efficiency going.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA fuck you. Again: fine line. And once an employee is pushed over that line, once they’ve reached their breaking point, there really is no going back, no matter how hard everyone tries to play nice with one another again. The long face, withdrawn behavior and occasional sudden spurt of cheerfulness are not the result of a bad day at work; it’s really just their way of saying, “I’ve had enough of your bullshit, so go fuck yourself.” It probably also means, “I’ve saved every scrap of work I’ve done over the last three years into five different flash drives and Dropbox accounts, so eventually you really will have to fuck yourself.”

Nice colors, motherfucker. I always use my last full-time job as a cautionary tale. When I was in Buffalo during the latter half of December, Shirley and I came to the conclusion that people never change; they just become very good and hiding their flaws; fittingly, it was also Shirley who told me years ago that people show their true colors in bad situations. My last job involved working for a boyfriend, who, among other things, is a sneaky, conniving, manipulative and malicious excuse of a human being (my friends loved to tell me it was because of his race, and I didn’t believe them until it was too late), much like his wife*. Our personal relationship was rocky at best, but I labored under the delusion that somehow, our professional relationship would survive it. Naturally, I was sorely mistaken, because as soon as we broke up, he became a worse boss than he had ever been a boyfriend, and he made it clear to everyone else who worked with us. I realized I had to leave that job the morning I discovered he had been snooping around on my computer (fortunately, he was not accustomed to using a MacBook Pro and did not know how to close applications or shut it down properly); I learned much later that even before we had broken up, he had already been going through my iPad and my cell phone when I left them unattended. Needless to say, it was this last job that scarred me for life, and made me swear off bad jobs, bad bosses, and bad boyfriends.

* For those of you who are suddenly scrambling to look through older posts, hang on to those panties: this is only the first time I am publicly acknowledging that my ex-boyfriend is, was and always has been married.

Transience

transience

My father has never really been the most emotional person. Growing up, I never quite knew whenever he was in a good mood, but nobody could miss it when he was in a temper (the same one I inherited, yes). We never knew if he was happy about something, but we always knew when he was unhappy, because the entire household would hear about it for days on end.

But every now and then, my father shows some glimmer of humanity in him — mostly when I’m in a rut that he’s heard about from my mother. So I shouldn’t have been too surprised when my father called me three times in less than two weeks just to see if I’ve hung myself from the rafters. And after establishing that I had not, in fact, attempted to dive off a certain 19th-floor balcony, he launched into one of his long, impassioned spiels of advice that included: “You see, the moral of the story is: never work for or with a boyfriend!” He did, however (and to my enormous surprise), tell me that I should continue my ‘job’ as a freelance writer and public relations consultant.

Oui mesdames et messieurs, I’ve somehow landed myself in that transient phase most adults who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing with their lives justify by saying they are ‘freelancing’. I call it a transient phase because it can only ever last so long, before I miraculously land a mundane full-time job or inevitably move out of this country. And I must say, it’s turning out to be much more faceted than I thought.

I am my own boss — sorta kinda. I’ve never taken very well to authority, mainly because the authorities I had to take to were really not the brightest stars in the sky, and rarely cared for anything I had to contribute. They were ignorant and unreasonable, and took too many things too personally, as I found out the hard way at my last job. So, having decided that I needed a break from working for someone whose every decision was based on how they felt about me, it now feels kind of nice to be able to get whatever work I have done almost entirely via email, without having to deal with red tape, green eyes and blue balls.

Spreading feelers. When I first came back to Malaysia, I was hired to do public relations for a bank. And for the next three years, that was all I did (naturally, battling office politics is included in the job scope). Then when I was hired to write for a magazine, I spent two years writing (and everything short of being the editor herself). And finally, when I took nobody’s advice and started working for a boyfriend, I was once again seconded to doing public relations for nearly a year. The only good thing that came out of that last gig was that I learned to do everything myself, and can therefore now do said things with my eyes closed. So freelancing now allows me to dabble in both writing and public relations for different industries, which is really easy as long as you can read and understand (or predict) exactly what the brief tells you.

Me time, all the time. This is perhaps the most oxymoronic part of freelancing. With the exception of my close friends, I’ve never been much of a people person, and I firmly believed in the whole “fake it till you make it” approach when it came to dealing with people. So it would make perfect sense for an introvert like me to absolutely revel in freelancing because that means I don’t have to interact with people whom I would most likely prefer to throw things at. However, the lack of human interaction occasionally does get to me, especially on a particularly low day when I’m sitting at home with nothing but my cats — and my thoughts, those damned thoughts — for company, at least until 8pm or 9pm every night. Which leads me to my next point.

Leaving the rabbit hole. Having been unemployed for the last two months, I’ve been able to catch up with a fair number of friends I had lost touch with in the past year or so. For a non-people person, this is extraordinary progress; to my surprise, it feels really nice, and it makes me wonder if my introversion is something I allowed to develop over the years because I just didn’t know how to function in social settings. Of course, this also means my coffee intake has increased exponentially.

How long will I be able to keep this up, you ask? God only knows. What I know is that I’m on the edge of both my twenties and my sanity, and it’s high damned time I start learning to make the most of whatever I have, as opposed to waiting for whatever I don’t have to come to me.

Caution to the wind

caution

Well. And I was just saying that I wasn’t a risk-taker. Now it appears that I may have just taken the biggest risk of all.

For the first time ever, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and resigned from my job — without the guarantee of a new one waiting for me when my notice term is up. It’s surprising and terrifying, but somehow completely liberating. It’s as if I’ve finally learned that some things, no matter how safe and secure they may seem, are simply not worth fighting for, being miserable for, and giving up one’s integrity and ideals for.

Yes, I’m still somewhat of an idealistic person. Surprise, surprise.

So in less than two months, I could very well be unemployed, especially if the job I’m gunning for falls through and no one else sees fit to hire me. But for some strange reason, I’m freaking out less over it this time than I did the last time. Whether it’s because I have yet to feel the real shock of quitting my job — something I haven’t felt in more than two years — or because being with the Miner has left a permanently calming effect on me (surprise, surprise!), I am significantly less neurotic about landing a new job. Which, I am well aware, could very well turn around and shoot me in the face, but not for another five or six weeks.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for everything this job has given me: the patience, a renewed sense of self-worth (if albeit a challenged one half the time), and — surprise, surprise — friends. I’ve met a few wonderful people and made a good set of friends through this job, so it’s something I can’t say I wish I’d never had. I loved the work I did, I loved watching myself grow into this profession, and I loved the small, fleeting moments of satisfaction I could take away from it. And now that I’ve been doing this for two years and have learned a little bit of what to expect from it, I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.