The worst company I have worked for (Part 1)

I was reflecting on my journey and I realised that there are two companies which had left very bad memory in my professional history.

The first is one that has a rather toxic culture, and this was during the early phase of my professional career. Staff were told to not use their phones during working hours, especially for non-executives. There seems to be differential treatment for different class in the organisation, and staff are monitored for the time they scanned in the door in the morning. Although working hours is supposed to end around 6pm, there was an OT culture and you can commonly see people staying behind to finish work. In fact, one of the staff actually brought her husband to help with her work on a Sunday, without air-conditioning since the building does not operate during that time. Furthermore, despite that there are laws stating that one should be paid OT if they are under a certain amount of salary, the company seem to circumvent that requirement by using the term “executive” on staff’s title, even when they hardly take part in hiring decisions. There was also a severe lack in IT investment. There were dedicated roles to manage the movement of physical files and documents. The company, despite being one of the top in the industry, still relies on traditional methods of paper documentation. Processes were outdated and papers were constantly printed, rejected, amended and re-reprinted. There was seemingly a high turnover rate and this resulted in teams being understaffed. However, this seems not to be a problem as the company continues to attract fresh blood due to its brand name.

I was working under a supervisor who constantly gaslight me. She was someone who had work her way up the ranks after a decade or so, and when I came in, I was holding the same job title, though not the same appointment, as she was the team leader. She would constantly tell me that she had told me earlier to do things in a certain way when mistakes are made, though I clearly remember that she didn’t. Her behaviour made me doubt my own sanity after some time. As I was the only public university graduate (to be) in the team, I somehow felt that she had a chip over her shoulder towards public university graduates. In fact, I was going through quite a rough period, contrary to some beliefs that public university students always have everything laid out for them.

One day, I was called up to HR and was told that they will not be confirming my employment once my probational period is over. I enquired why, and I was told that I was not performing up to expectations, making mistakes and being rude to my superior. After I enquired further and explained the situation, the HR Head tried to close the matter up with the term “cultural misfit”. It seemed like an attempt to soften the situation. I asked if all the directors have been consulted, and I was told they all were. I concluded that if that’s the case, then probably it wasn’t a problem with a subset of individuals but the overall company culture. After all, this was the only time which I was spoken to, in regard to the “misalignment”. I felt that more effort could be taken to align expectations and behaviours as it is very common for friction at the onset of new working relationships. Judging from the entire experience, I requested to leave immediately.

I was told that my request will be put up, and the very next day, I was told to leave before noon. I rushed to pack, and I can’t help but to feel that I was treated very harshly. I struggled to keep my head held high, but it soon hit me emotionally. As shared, I was going through a rough patch and had initially thought that this would be an opportunity for me to prove myself as this is a rather reputable firm. This experience left an indelible impression and lessons which I carry till today and it also affected my next role as I had deep mistrust over the people I met. Thankfully, I had supportive colleagues and eventually healed.

Looking back, what I have learned is to be more tactful, especially with my immediate superior. Not everyone is open minded and kind. It was especially amusing because the day before I went up to HR, I was having a yoga session with my boss. Despite being resentful earlier, I have since put the matter behind me and had kept this experience as a positive learning chapter.

I would kindly request that for those who know which firm this is, please keep it private. Sharing these experiences is to promote learning, not to defame any organisation or individuals. Your cooperation will allow me to share more of my experiences freely without impacting others negatively.

<<To be continued>>





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