Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vignettes of life (part 1)

As you all know, life is made up of nice (and some not so nice) little pictures tucked neatly into the 2 albums called the Brain and the Heart. And as with all pictures, they fade and degrade and after a long time, we can no longer know what the pictures are trying to tell us -- these pictures are the ones stored in the Brain album. If you really want to preserve pictures (especially the most treasured ones), be sure to put them in the Heart album. They will always be there for you to remember and enjoy for the rest of your life.

I will share some of these vignettes from my recent life with you over the next few weeks. They are still fresh in the Brain album.

The Case of "The Irritating Colleague"

When I left my job in Singapore, the company was going through (and still is) a very common problem, that is the influx of cheaper (and more easily satisfied) foreign workers. The company can pay them less because they come from poorer countries and they are also willing to work harder for the same buck than their Singaporean counterparts (who have risen above the "poverty level"). This influx usually makes the workforce less cohesive, leads to anti-harmony in the workplace and saps the already-dwindling fun out of it. However this is inevitable as a country progresses and so its people must somehow find a way to swim or sink.

Under this umbrella term "foreign workers" are a few major sub-divisions which differ in notoriety. I have always heard complaints from friends (both from the engineering industry as well as others) that foreign workers from a particular country step on their toes especially hard. I have always reserved judgement because I have not worked with these people on an intimate level. But this global sweeping workforce-conversion phenomenon has finally gotten to me and now I know the basis of these complaints. I will not mention the country in context but I think many of you will be able to guess it anyhow.

Irritating colleague trait #1: Always trying to get his face into the picture
Example: The boss and I were talking about me completing all the required online training within a particular day. He was not even in the conversation but had to force his way into it by saying "I also completed the training". In actual fact, I did more online training than him on that day.

Irritating colleague trait #2: Being ultra-friendly to colleagues but totally foul-mouthed outside
Example: He would be all friendly and Westerner-like to the people working in the office but he would be very quick to swear at things like slow drivers, late trains, etc. If you are a friendly person by nature, you won't swear like that. That is simply what I am trying to say.

Irritating colleague trait #3: Not respecting the privacy of others and being very rude
Example #1: I am at my desk writing on my work journal and he would pop behind me and look over my shoulder at what I was writing and then ask me what I was writing. Is that any of his business?
Example #2: He had problems with his computer and wanted to try something on mine. I was not using my computer then but was just beside it reading. He simply walked over and started using my computer FIRST before asking. What is this? The stone age?
Example #3: During one of the training sessions, I placed my handphone face down on the table where he sat as well. Without asking, he just took it up and looked at it. My goodness! Need I continue? Of course Ision's face was my phone's wallpaper and he had to ask who that was. I simply said that he is my partner (my mini coming out story) and nothing more on that came from him. Thank God! I wouldn't want to educate a caveman on human sexuality.
Example #4: We were talking to the boss in his cubicle and he just proceeded to flip through my boss' documents laid out on the table. This is rather telling -- invading the privacy of others with his rudeness is simply his innate dysfunctional behaviour (and not even the boss can escape from his "wrath"). He really doesn't know it is something very rude!!

As all of you already know, I am a person who tries to avoid conflict and awkward situations as much and as best as I can. So I did not really express my disapproval to all the things I cannot stand about him. One might call me a doormat... But I know I have a breaking point like every one else and once that threshold is crossed, I will make myself heard. So far it is still bearable because unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary, I will not talk to him and distancing myself from him like that (and in the process identifying him as a bumpkin from a third world country) has helped to make me feel better in his presence. We started as new employees on the same day and I guess we still have a long way to go and that is yet another reason why I refuse to blow things up unnecessarily. It also doesn't help that we get to and from work on the same shuttle bus and train line. Sigh. Why can't he be a cute hunky Caucasian?

How would you deal with a person like that if you were in my shoes? And have you guessed which country he is from?


gabriel said...

i wanna work in a chinese-speaking country sometimes. i prefer annoying chinese anytime

Kim said...

Haha. But you are kind of biased in your current situation mah...

I know how you feel towards workers from the country as referred to in my post. We have all heard your remarks in gory detail.

Anyway, good luck in your goal of working in a Chinese-speaking country. *wink*

Roy Tan said...

Kim, you are too nice a guy.

Usually, I give these people a taste of their own medicine by doing exactly what they are doing to you, only worse! They get the message soon enough.

However, I guess it is not in your nature to do likewise.

That being the case, it is inevitable that you are going to explode one day when you've reached your absolute limit.

Kim said...

I think he is improving and my cold-shoulder treatment worked! I would rather describe it as a silent protest -- sounds more peaceful.

I just hate conflicts. If you want me to count the number of times I have scolded someone in my life before, I think I only need 1 hand.

Li Hui said...

You should post entries more often.

Kim said...

I have always known and I think I have mentioned somewhere in one of the posts that I'll definitely post less once I start work and that's exactly what happened. I started this blog when I was still jobless.

Still I know I should and I will posy more often if time permits.

Daniel said...

My goodness. I know that I'm a nosey parker at times and poke my nose into SMSs (esp those received by Peili ^_^). But to flip your boss's stuff in HIS office, this is way overboard.
Plain bad manners and unenlightened fool.

Well, as you may already know, I'm working with another terror collegue of epic proportions...and it's draining me out. Unfortunately, NO treatment so far works on this guy. Tell you the story on another day.

Kim said...

Hehe Daniel. You must bitch to me soon OK? I miss this a lot.

That colleague of mine just has rather low EQ but he is so fake all the time (ie. fake friendly) so he might be quite a shrewd person after all (and not so low EQ).

Well, can't stand him in any case. And he starts to smell a bit at the end of the day too...

Kim said...


He has done it again!~!~ Taking my handphone placed on the table during the department meeting WITHOUT ASKING and BROWSING THROUGH IT!~!~!~

I was SO F***ING uncomfortable with it and was almost at my breaking point!!~ I then just took it from him (after 30 seconds of unbearable torture) and said that I needed to send an SMS.

WHY AM I SUCH A WUSS?!~!? Why can't I just confront him in front of the whole department right there and then?!~? Sigh... Ision is right, I am such a doormat...

If we name the nationality of the person in context as X, the daily shuttle bus I take to and from work is slowing filling up with X people!!! Now it is like 4 or 5 Xs! I just hope they don't stink up the bus, especially at the end of the day.

F***! I need to vent!!!

Daniel said...

Well, a little bitching here for your entertainment:

Imagine a person who, in his analysis of a process upset, insists on a certain arcane theory which nobody else is remotely convinced of. The others believed in another theory which makes more sense.
And this "arcane theory" did not even originate from him - it was a guess from an operator. I personally asked him to show any kind of plant data to prove his claim and his response is "There is no need to prove. This is basic. There is no argument (against my proposition)." The whole conversation revolves around sentences implying "you don't know the process well enough"/"your engineering fundamentals are too weak to argue with me" and constant refusal to produce data to prove his argument. It is not the first time and I am not the first person whom he had insulted in this manner, but I let it go on the excuse of poor communication skills. Well, the jist is that there is absolutely no evidence to support his claim.

Though arcane, the theory is not impossible (after all, there is a of lack of data to prove or disprove it). Technical gave in by listing it as one of the possible root causes. End of story? No.

You see, the person in question sent a "Reply All" mail to the whole plant, including managers and all, questioning the other theory and trying to dismiss it. Then Technical answered. Then somehow all hell broke loose and he sent a very hostile mail with sweeping statements like "This is wrong. Why don't you go look at plant data?" and "Your theory is rubbish. Research shows that....[no quotation of what research paper is referenced]" (not the exact words but close enough). Later, I got to know that operator reported that he "gave consent" to make an abnormal process move is the basis of the other theory. So I gather that this is probably part of the reason why he was so eager to debunk it.

The email exchanges made the plant manager annoyed and he replied to this person: "I want you to personally tell me next week what the follow-up should be". And this guy didn't even realize it until I asked him the next working day what he was doing to do about the email.

This was a big matter, and it was not surprising that Boss caught wind of it. Boss wanted him to realign with Technical, and before that, first align with another collegue and me. Well, I wouldn't put it as "alignment" because he was really trying to force both of us to swallow his theory. You see, his so-called "proof" is really to find data to debunk the other theory rather than to support his, which really turned me off. A very basic logic fallacy which I am surprised someone of "such high intelligence" can still make. Oh well, in the end, he tried to peddle his wares to Boss. No prizes for getting the outcome: he immediately got whacked and grilled upside down on Technical questions which he can't answer. And the collegue and I did not even have to point out the other process-related flaws in his argument.

So this single person created so much trouble that it wasted almost a week of our (collegue and my) time doing damage control (eg. handling unhappiness in Technical, allaying anger from Operations, etc). And I had to sit through one whole painful afternoon of "coersion" from this guy. That was the most terrible week of my worklife...even worse than the day which I stayed for 23 hours in the plant doing troubleshooting and technical work.

Evidently, this person is too proud, too arrogant and has low EQ. Come to think of it, during the time of the plant upset, I found him staring at the Native Window schematic looking at spot plant data... Hmmm, somehow this reminds me of a certain "plant celebrity" fondly known as "my plant".

WHO is this marvelous person? All I can say is: the answer is in the question.

Kim said...

Ah... office politics. Gab is right. Office politics happen when people are not capable (technically or otherwise). Lies, cover-ups, curry-favour, putting down others, etc naturally ensue. I hope I don't get to experience this to much over here.

What an amusing read and thanks for sharing it here.

Of course I know who this guy is lah. I have always known that someday this might happen because he has such strong views of things. Not that I got to talk to him a lot but when he expressed his views, I could see rather strong conviction behind them (regrdless of the soundness of the basis).

I guess he has learnt his lesson (hopefully). I pity you, being the meat of this sandwich (him and the rest being the bread).

As for the "plant celebrity", I am not sure who you were referring to. I guess it's someone from Technica, isn't it?

Daniel said...

Nah, it's somebody from the group.

What are the two letters which represent the polymer plant? To me, it is "my plant" but I guess to others, it is "the polymers plant"... More importantly, who stares at schematics instead of looking at trends? Quick, think! Revive bad memories! XD

Kim said...

Has that person ever asked a very gross-sounding question to the EMMES boss?

Daniel said...

I have no idea... but the next hint is : JK.

Got it? =D

Kim said...

Supress!!!!! Bad memories go away!!!

She actually looks at trends too lah. Just don't know why she has to stay so late at work everyday -- perhaps she's not getting any back at home ("husband" is always away) and might as well use that chance to apper very hardworking to the others.

Many people have commented and wondered why she's always staying so late -- is there really so much work to do?

By the way, I was told she hd a little mishap with her pregnancy, perhaps a miscarriage? Any truth in that you know of?

Daniel said...

The "pregancy" rumor was spread by the main character in my post... I never did confirm it, so I take it that it never happened.
Not nice to speculate on that, esp on miscarriage...

Kim said...

I think he heard it from YYJ as his cubicle's location is so strategic.

Oh well... Not surprising too if there really was miscarriage -- she is not very young you know.

There is also a "rumour" that YYJ is leaving. I used quotation marks here because it is kind of official right?