Note: This is a long and complicated story… go ahead, skip reading this post.. I’m just writing for cathartic purposes to make peace with my past… But for the sake of those reading, I’ll be presenting the “meat” of the story, and then the background and context of it all so you won’t be bored…
Bullied - The prequel
So I had already tendered my resignation, but in the first/week of my resignation something happened:
My colleague and my team head (team lead’s leader let’s call her BLAH) were gossipping about me, and my colleague did a print screen of her conversation and wanted to send it on to another team mate, but alas, she sent it to me through the company’s skype chat.
My notification popped out and when I was about to click it, my colleague ran and snatched my mouse from my hand (rude), and said so sorry I made a mistake and she went to close it. Out of respect - I actually hadn’t suspected anything yet, I turned away as she took over my laptop to close and delete it..
She didn’t know that Skype would send me an email of the messages I missed reading.
So there it was, the gossip in all its glory in my inbox.
Here it goes:
BLAH: Clarice tendered… she wanted to discuss last date but I told her to wait til (team lead) is back from leave……..
Colleague: good riddance
Boom. I was upset, (that’s still not the point stay with me here) but instead of moping around, I eventually mustered the courage to talk to the Head of Business Banking about it, and to ask him to let me leave earlier rather than serve my full one month notice, since I no longer had the heart to work any further.
We met up for lunch, I told him everything and he had me email him the conversation. He seemed to be already aware of the failings of his subordinates (read BLAH and team lead) before I even had the conversation with him. He agreed that upon my handing over, I would no longer need to serve my notice since there was no point anyways.
Bullied - The Action Starts Here
So with the Head’s blessing, I went back to the office to inform my team lead that I had been given the green lights to complete the handover and leave. BUT I did not tell my team lead about that gossip email coz it involved his boss (BLAH) and they were close, they were basically one. I simply told him, “I have personal reasons which I don’t feel comfortable telling you/team head, so I went straight to the Head, I apologize that I am unable to disclose my personal reasons, but the Head has agreed that I could leave right after I finish my handover".
My team lead, let’s name him “123” became furious and was incredulous. He said he couldn’t think of a reason good enough that warranted my early release. He started to pick on why I took a long lunch. I told him I was with the Head and if 123 needed an email from the Head to confirm that I indeed had his blessings to leave straight after handover, I could provide it for 123. 123 told me he didn’t need it.
I think what I did made a huge blow to his ego.
The next four days would form the worst days of my entire career.
I never had anyone acting so hatefully towards me as did this guy. It was intentional, deliberate, and a personal attack in every sense.
123 had set his mind to sabotage my early release and delay it as much as he knew how.
I was under the understanding that I would finish the handover list, furnish the necessary documents so that a team mate could take over, and I would scoot off ASAP, as agreed with the Head.
So in my sincere and truthful handover list, I had included the “To-dos” which I missed out and needed to be followed up upon. My mistake.
In the next four days, he would also alternate with the soft-handed approach “this isn’t so hard to do, is it? just finish this item” and then pick on the uncompleted things on my handover list, tearing hard into me, shame me, pick on me, threaten to report me to “regulatory authorities” (whut’s that?). Everyday I complied, and when I wanted to meet him to finalize the handover, he would say he was busy and drag it past 6pm, and then tell me he would do it the next day. But, the next day would be another round of his “antics”.
So here’s the thing, for every day 123 delayed my handover, I would text the Head and ask him “I thought we had an agreement, what’s with the communication here with management? why is 123 doing this?” and the Head would call 123 to check on my handover.
So yea… now 123 is just fuming mad at me and hell-bent of making my last 1 month hell now.
On the 4th day, at 630pm once again, he wasn’t going to meet me. The Head skyped me to ask if my handover had been finalized. I told him 123 didn’t want to do it with me. The Head asked “you are certain you have done your handover list?” I told him “I’ve done it, it’s detailed.” Next thing I knew, 123 received a call from the Head, and then 123 asked me to meet with him.
Once again, he refused to let me go, and insisted on one last item + to be on standby all through the official last day which meant I had to come back whenever he called…
At this point I just about had it, so I said “No”. Tone of voice: just normal.
Now, me saying “no” that’s like a big thing. I am super non-confrontational and an ultimate people-pleasing person, so for me to say “no”, that’s almost never happens. I can’t recall the last time I said no to anyone. I really can’t. But it’s was a proud moment for me; for standing up for myself, and for what I want. Looking back, this act changed something in me, but at that point I couldn’t have known.
But the word “no” riled 123 up. He slammed the table, walked out and got BLAH to come into the room to “talk sense” to me.
BLAH agreed to let me go, but that I had to respond if I’m asked to come back. At this point, I said “ok” but I knew that I wouldn’t come back and be subjected to 123’s abuse. Even 123 chimed in “Nuh she says ok but she won’t” right in my face. I asked if I could now surrender my laptop and equipments to 123, but he lied and said I have to come back again tomorrow to pass it to this secretary who had left for the day.
So I came back the next day, seeking the secretary, and she walked up to 123, sat on his arm rest by his side, saying “why did you push this to me? you know you can handle this yourself”. So there you have it. 123’s last attempt to just screw with me. He made me come back again for naught.
Before I left, 123 also made me sign on my very first handover draft, I was puzzled, because I knew I had taken out the items which I already did during that four days, but I thought he just needed the full handover list, so I did it. But on hindsight, I figured he would have used it to paint a nasty picture of my non-compliance towards him to the Head… but whatever.
I left the building, looked up to the sky and took a last deep breath of the putrid central-business-district-air. God bless my soul.
The Proper Context: Politics
X was just a relationship manager like I am. One day she wanted to quit, so she spoke to the head of business banking , and he asked her why. She then stated objectively the weaknesses of the system, the weaknesses of her team lead (yes that guy) and team head (BLAH) and told him (the head of business banking) what she would have done if she were “boss”. She then gave an informal business proposal verbally stating what she would have done to improve the business etc, and he was impressed with her.
So, the Head asked her to recommend other like-minded relationship managers like herself. He told her that business was slow, people had been working there for long and become complacent. That’s when she came to me, and sent my resume to the Head.
The Head arranged for me to have an interview with BLAH and another team lead, everything went well, and I thought I had a good chance. And, nope. I told X I got rejected, X called the Head and he told her that BLAH didn’t like me. It was pretty scary, coz the interview really went well BLAH was smiling, we laughed etc… So X posited that BLAH was sabotaging my interview so that X would not gain power in the department. BLAH by now had suspected that X had been badmouthing BLAH to the Head, because the Head had now started to pick on BLAH’s inefficiencies and the lack of performance by BLAH’s teams. X got really angry and vouched for my character, and convinced the Head to hire me.
So the Head, bypassing BLAH, sent my resume to another team leader under BLAH (read team leader 123). This time, 123, realizing that it’s pretty much a done deal = the Head wants me in, asked to meet up with me for an “interview” but instead, just had a chit chat with me instead. He then told me I was in!
I was really happy, but X did warn me that by associating with her I would be hated in that department. I did heed this, but I also thought that this jump from retail to business banking wasn’t easy and that it will be a good stepping stone for me anyways. So I agreed, knowing full well that X had stepped on many toes already, but seeing as she had favor with the biggest fish in the pond, I figured, who cares? I don’t need everyone to be my friend anyways, I’ll just work, deliver and keep my head low. What’s the worst that can happen anyways? I can always quit and find a new job.
So my move to the other department shocked my bosses at the retail banking side as they haven’t heard of any vacancies over there, and now suddenly I’ve been accepted. My big boss at the retail banking side even took me aside one day, and asked me to ascertain the transfer, because no one had any knowledge of an opening at the business banking side. I knew then that my transfer was out of the norm. Anyways, they gave me their heartfelt blessings, wished me well and sent me there.
On my first day at work, BLAH shook my hand and she said to me (I kid you not):
“Welcome to hell hole.”
*cue foreboding musik. muahahah
Boiling Soup in the Cauldron
I realized that BLAH, 123 and the team were a very close knitted team. Working together was heaven for them, or for anyone when colleagues become friends and you look forward to see each other every day.
And from Day 1 til Day 180 (my last day) that I was there, none of the girls asked me out for lunch. I figure this is due to the circumstances, namely the way which I came into the department, where for the first time a Team Head (BLAH) and a Team Lead (123) had no say in who they wanted to hire. I figured that BLAH and 123 would have gossiped to their people about me, and the girls avoided me like the plague, except for X of course, a lone-ranger in the team, and my desk buddy (a strange guy who often chose to eat at his desk rather than hang out with the team - but that’s maybe because he wanted to go home early to his wife and child) - these were the only 2 individuals (aside from X) that had small talk with me.
And then there were a few times where X would have her own plans, networking with her contacts and taking me along with her. X told me she wanted to see me succeed, as a friend + also for selfish reasons: she recommended me in and if I succeeded it will make her look good to the Head as well.
123 pulled me aside one day, and told me not to mingle with X.
But I couldn’t not mingle with her can’t I? We were basically a package, X would have meet-ups with the Head, planning for events to canvas for business, and the Head would give her his blessing to rope me in, BUT as she discussed all of these with the Head, BLAH and 123 (the team head & team leader) would often be left out of all these conversations and be told after it was decided.
I think their egos have never taken such a beating ever since X came into the picture and started stirring the pot, talking shit about them to the Head.
All these while, BLAH and 123 were always courteous towards me and civil, but they never showed me genuine superior-subordinate concern over my welfare. I came in on the wrong note, and they saw me and X as one.
I could sense their dislike towards me hovering over me like an aura every day as I stepped in to work.
It was as if they were tolerating my presence, despite me keeping my head low, doing my best to perform, and being as accountable as I could towards 123, I could never get my immediate superiors’ favor simply because of my association with X.
And I always had that feeling that if I were to ever walk in on them talking, I might just hear bad things being said about me.
*pat on my back for accurate gut sense
A sad thing though, I think towards the last 30-40 days I was there, few of the girls in the team had actually started warming up towards me. They probably figured by then, I was harmless, I wasn’t hired to snitch on them, I was just doing my job and fighting cases with the anal analysts just like them. On my last day, one of them actually asked to have a farewell lunch with me. I said “sure”. And I meant it. I would have really liked to get to know them better and keep in touch with them.
But of course, the way I left (read above), left me no choice. I could not honour my word to her.
And no, I have not kept in touch with a single soul from that department since. A real pity.
My part in this:
I’ve often reflected upon this incident, upon areas that I could have improved or things I could have done to prevent this from happening.
I knew by the 3rd month that I already wanted to leave this place because:
tremendous amount of paperwork the role required… it became a “database entry clerk-ish” job instead of Sales… I was keying in data, batching papers… I had tall mountain piles of paper on my desk..
lack of sales support which meant that I was dealing with mundane customer requests and complains, inundated with complain calls about the company’s platform…
the constant rejection of anal analysts rejecting my proposal for reasons I do not see and understand and having to re-do it again and again and hearing others complain and also tell me “that’s the way it is”
I had zero relationships in my team. From the day I started work, none of the girls in the team asked me out for lunch. The guys always had their own lunch plans with friends outside of the team. I only lunched with my desk buddy (a guy).
I feel so distant with my team leads, and had zero hopes of career progression
There were times I stayed til 11pm in the office, times I came back on a Sunday… I could never finish the paperwork
So after the third month, I intentionally slowed down at work as I couldn’t quit yet I had to wait 2 months til my commission payout and although it wasn’t much, it wasn’t meager either so I had to tide through 2 more months.
If anything, I fault myself for slowing down in the 2 months awaiting for my commission after I completed my 1st quarter… I took a longer time to answer emails, missed a couple of calls, took longer lunches, procrastinated over the paperwork… because I was exhausted, very jaded, and there was no point fighting to score the next quarter anyways..
Hence I couldn’t say my work was faultless nor that I was completely blameless too…
My UTI (urinary tract infection) came back coz I was stuck to my seat and didn’t go to the loo regularly, my husband had relocated to Jakarta leaving me here by myself in Singapore, I had night school + assignment deadlines + exams to handle… this role = paperwork which is really not my element…
As for my performance in terms of sales figures, I did deliver. I wasn’t the top, nor was I the bottom, but I met the requirements, which was quite decent for a newbie with zero background.
I guess it was probably the mountain of paperwork that I left (I procured quite a number of new clients) that maybe pissed 123, because he probably wanted to shield his team from the extra work, seeing as morale was already low? (people were complaining about the amount of paperwork) That’s me looking at him with a positive lens.
BUT nevertheless, it didn’t warrant his targeted hatred towards me, and all that effort he took to personally handle me, threaten me, meet with me etc…. I guess it was something more, and I think I know what it was.
Following my previous post “I committed career suicide”… One would have thought that I’ve found my Workplace Happily Ever After after discovering my calling in a sales role at a hotel.
I had bosses who believed in me, colleagues who became friends, and I was, for the first time in my life truly happy to be working. Yet, I became restless, and after months of being frustrated with the lack of sales support and staying in late to do admin (not my favorite thing to do), I started to send my resumes out again. But this time, I was looking to enter an MNC. A bank. I wanted to experience a workplace with more diverse cultures.
And I did. During my interview with a bank, I showed the prospective employer my 8-month bonus payslip as testament to my sales performance, and he was impressed. I got the job easily. This would be a Relationship Manager role in the Retail Banking department, and a role not easy to come by especially for someone without a degree or any prior experience in banking.
The role had a steep learning curve (took me 6 months to soar), and was very physically demanding and mentally draining but the $$ was good, and I got along well with my team mates and my team leader, although I stuck out like a sore thumb in the team. Why a sore thumb? Well, I predominantly speak English all the time, but they spoke Chinese and Hokkien (dialect) - especially my team leader. So with my colleagues I’d speak English/Singlish and they’d reply me in a Singlish/Chinese/Hokkien mix, we were like chicken and ducks but we got along so well anyways. However, I hated the role (what my job entailed) and the people from the support departments that I had to work with, BUT that said, I could still perform my role adequately, be in my team lead’s good books, and get myself a reasonable commission to fuel my shopping.
So in my role at the retail banking sector, I would “network” with other people within the bank from the commercial banking side (medium sized enterprises), and eventually I managed to get connected with people from business banking (small enterprises) and subsequently a few from the priority banking department (handling affluent individuals).
I collaborated with a business banking manager there, and had our mini ecosystem going on, she (let’s call her X) would recommend me her corporate clients, and I would offer them the retail perks from my side, and it would be a win win for both of us.
And one day, she asked me, if I would be interested to try move to the business banking side. I told her I definitely wanted to, as I wasn’t happy with what I was doing.
After I left, I heard that the Head removed one team from under BLAH, and pressured that team leader (not 123) to resign, leaving BLAH in a vulnerable position (not sure how true, I really do not care). I also heard that a year later, the Head quit. Which goes to show how messed up the place was.
I quit and left to pursue a similar role, but with a financial company offering loans to SMEs, not a bank. Again, it was X who recommended me in, and this time, we had the favour of our bosses, but I had nothing left in me… I couldn’t work.. took many breaks during the day… and had zero interest in anything.. on the days when I needed my husband’s presence, he was overseas, so that compounded my “depression”. I decided to quit at the 3rd month there, and relocate.
And I have not worked a corporate job since.
I just can’t. bring. myself. to.