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Friday, September 10, 2004

Open letter...

To the Management,
ABC Hellhole Inc.,

ABC Hellhole Inc.,


Sub: An open letter regarding what I truly feel

With reference to the above, I wish to say a few things that I have been bottling-up for six months now. It was exactly six months ago that I boarded a flight to come to Singapore. At that point in time, I had a great deal to look forward to. A good, writing job. Some great pay. And the promise of the one 'break' that had been eluding me for so long.

I joined ABC Hellhole Inc., with hope in my heart and dreams in my head. And with my eyes wide open I might add. When I did begin working here, I found some modes of operation very strange. But I adapted as quickly as I could. I found some of the rules and regulations pretty stifling. But I conformed to the best of my ability. I found some of the people strange, but I chose to work with them nevertheless. I even found myself doing everything but writing — something that I was specifically hired for — but I grinned and bore it.

Three months passed and there seemed to be no impact. Instead of getting to be easier, life here only became harder to handle. Strange new rules and regulations cropped up. People became stranger still. Colleagues were hired, fired and many others left on their own. Departments began to crumble. Newer departments rose from the ashes. Policies changed. People changed. Yet the chaos remained the same.

I'm not insinuating that this is peculiar to this company alone. I've had my fair share of places and I've seen other place go to pot. But the problem here, unlike in other places, is not the bottomline. ABC Hellhole has more money that it could ever need in the next decade. There is a well-established steady source of income and a fascinating, one-of-its-kind business model that will ensure it. Talented people have begun choosing to work here and Universities of repute are keen to tie-up with us.

But for unfathomable reasons, people here seem to thrive on illogicality and petty-mindedness. The top management may not be a part of this. I would like to believe that they are far too busy with bigger, more visionary decisions to take note of such petty politics. But it is the Managers and the leaders who are solely responsible.

Which is why, working here is a misery that I can no longer endure. But the anger at the system compels me to make this last-ditch attempt to make things better.

Hire with a cause
This is my number one grouse. Staff here is hired without any rhyme or reason. They are like standby jack-of-all-trades, ready to fill the slot of anyone who happens to leave or is fired. Which is why you have writers who don't write, media managers who don't get around to managing media, accountants who have practically nothing to do with accounts, qualified trade professionals who push paper and so on. All of them knowing that what they are doing today is not necessarily what they are trained for. And aware that the brief could push them to another, totally unrelated field tomorrow. Which brings me to the second grouse...

I've been told that this sort of a 'system' encourages adaptability and speed to market. I agree. The only speed to market that it has achieved is the exit of valuable employees to the job market. Ever wondered why so many people choose to leave, most of them, even without a job in hand? Well, have you heard the 'can't-take-this-shit-anymore' call that reverberates through the hallways? That is the attempt of the dour-faced, miserable employees who want to communicate with you.

I've always been told that Singapore is a nation that thrives on surveillance culture. But you don't have to be the shining star of this you know. For one thing, you are wasting good money on monitoring innocent activities. And for the other, you are creating an atmosphere of distrust among your employees. All the hallways have CCTV cameras. All the floors of access parameters. The top management is literally out-of-bounds for the others and you have a fabulous spy network that leads back to you. Do you still wonder why so many employees hate the sight of you?

This is a personal grouse. I'm convinced that despite all attempts to make us believe that it does not exist, racism is a reality in Singapore. Subtle yes, understated yes, but a living, thriving reality nevertheless. And this can be seen in the case of a majority of the expats. Oh! And I'm not talking about the over S$ 7000, expat-terms expats here. I'm talking about those who settle for full local terms or less, in order to build a career in Singapore.

Like the six-months-ago me, these people come with hope in their hearts and dreams in their head. They are well qualified, talented and have achieved some measure of success in their chosen professions in their home countries. They have enjoyed a decent standard of living and have accomplished much in their careers. When they applied for a job here however, little did they know they were going to be viewed as supplicants!

For that is what your 'system' makes them. Because they are new to the place, the people and the work ethic, they learn by observation. And the new convert to paranoia is the most paranoid one. Not just that, they are also the ones to be bullied into submission, as my own case will amply reveal.

to be continued...


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