Working in Singapore: Things I Miss & Things I Don’t

This post was motivated by the fact that people close to me are utterly miserable at work. I wanted to write a post to commiserate, because I have been there and am glad I’m out.


{Image: The Pretty Life}

I Don’t Miss:

1. The climate of fear where we were told things like “failure is not an option” and “do it by hook or by crook”. You enter an environment where every little thing is of magnified importance and when you leave it all the stress just vanishes in a second.  You wonder why you had heart palpitations and sleepless nights over what now seems like trivial issues that seemed like life or death then. You’re not imagining things by the way. Some bosses only know how to manage by fear and intimidation. They have no idea how to motivate, but they do a heck of a job de-motivating.

2. Having your soul crushed bit by bit till you are totally defeated.

3. Watching mostly the nicest employees and interns being bullied and being unable to effect any change.

4. The stupid hierarchies in the office where Senior Managers would not have lunch with Managers and so forth, as it was just not done.  I felt like I was in an office caste system.

5. Spending 80% of the time with horrible people and 20% with the people I really care about.

6. Taking the MRT during peak hour with sweaty people rubbing against you and elbows stuck in your face the whole time.

7. Management by who stays back the latest and is seen doing so, rather than the actual work you produce. Also management by who sucks up the best or is most skilled at it.

8. Having work shoved at you at close to 6pm.

9. Being told that you have to work weekends with no time off.


{Image: Newsweek}

I Miss:

1.  The company of kind, considerate colleagues who would not compromise values for ambition.

2. Being financially independent.  I knew what they felt like – and it felt great.

3. Working with wonderful bosses who were brilliant yet full of humility, whom I had the utmost respect for.

4. Taking pride in and being appreciated for what you do.  That just makes you want to work even harder.

And now I ramble about what I thought I was missing:

I thought I was not learning and growing as employment interviews would like you to feel.  But I learn more out of the office than I ever did within one.  When I was working 24/7, I didn’t even have a moment to read a book, let alone start a blog.  I learnt most computer related stuff when I was pottering about on my own and out of pure interest.

All I basically learnt in the office, was all the red tape and how people played nasty politics.  None of it is rocket science as they would like you to believe.  It’s just a barrier to entry to protect those already in the industry.  If someone was truly willing to teach you, or there was a proper manual or processes in place you could learn what you need in half a year to get fully up to speed.  It’s just that no one is willing to wait that half a year and expect you to hit the road running which is tough.

E-mail is dangerous.  I did learn that directors are human too and make the same mistakes like sending an unintentional mail where they criticise their mean woman boss and call her a she devil. They were supposed to hit forward, but hit reply to all instead – yikes!  So now your mass e-mail with the harmless typo doesn’t seem so bad.

On the other hand there are a lucky few who work in a great environment where they actually do what they love and learn something as well.  Sorry – these jobs will never be available, because who in their right mind would want to leave a golden place like this.

Sorry about this negative post.  Just felt like venting today and I miss the posts by Living Dilbert who captured the nightmare office brilliantly. I am happy that she got out of that hellish place and into a much better one that she deserves, but I do miss her wonderful writing.


{Image: Living Dilbert}

If you’re suffering under a bad boss or mean colleagues and these are some of her greats:

1. Things I’m Whole-Heartedly Sick of

2. At one point when it was the last straw I was full of rage like this too: My Life as a Mummy.

3. When Bad Bosses and Mean Coworkers don’t realise….The Power of a Smile.

4. This post reminded me of the time I was happy to go for surgery just so that I could get away from the office hell hole. It was such a contrast to when I was happy at work and was bored to even miss a single day. I used to love going to the office.

Another cool website I stumbled upon which I hope will help anyone out there who has a coworker from hell: Hate My Coworker

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore helps me survive the mid-life crisis
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11 Responses to Working in Singapore: Things I Miss & Things I Don’t

  1. Sounds like you worked at my husband’s office. He comes home with stories every day and I just can’t believe that people treat each other this way. So it’s not just on your tiny little island that the workplace is sometimes like a nuthouse!

  2. Ody says:

    I’m still friends with Living Dilbert via FB and LinkedIn. She’s doing great. Moved in with her significant other and loves her new place of employment. She hates the snow though, doesn’t usually snow where she is.

  3. Crystal says:

    Ravi’s office doesn’t seem petty like that (or that he’s fairly oblivious to office politics might help…or that it’s a largely international office–I don’t think he works with a Singaporean, which seems odd to me). But it is longer hours than he’s ever worked, which is a difficult adjustment for the whole family.

    I think what I miss most about work is just having a place where I’m not E’s mom. One of the things I think a lot of moms (especially stay at home moms) struggle with is a loss of identity. I have to make an effort to be just C, and not E’s mommy. Work created a safe, separate space to just be me.

    I also miss contributing to the family budget, although as a public school teacher in the US, I never made more than 1/3 what R did.

    I chose not to go back for two reasons…

    1-I didn’t love what I did. I mostly ended up in teaching because I started a history PhD program and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do, nor did I want law school…and teaching was a fast Master’s program that would have me earning money to pay back my massive student loans. I did like it, but I didn’t love it. More to the point, I loved teaching. I hated the testing, the beauracracy, the shit curricula I didn’t believe was effective but still had to teach. As the years passed, teachers because less and less autonomous, which was excruciating. I have a plan for my career (once I get pregnant and have #2 and wean him/her) that will eventually incorporate some teaching (and public speaking) but where I am fully autonomous and in charge of my own company.

    2-Child care would have eaten up my whole salary (or so much of it that the left overs were negligible). If I LOVED my job, it might have been a worthwhile tradeoff, but I didn’t and it wasn’t. What was the point of spending all day with other people’s kids instead of my own?

    • bookjunkie says:

      I agree with you wholeheartedly especially with #2. A friend of mine was feeling down because she has a PhD but her relatives criticize her for never having worked. I think she IS working. 24/7 in fact and doing a brilliant job with her kids.

      I am looking for a job I love too. It can’t be about the money alone. It’s just not sustainable.

      In sIngapore I just don’t like the culture of how they manage people based on the hours they put in at the office..it’s so unhealthy…I believe in things like telecommuting and working from home and just more trust and respect from the organization. I got that when working for an American company, but sadly they outsourced when the recession hit. Going from that to a local company full of energy zapping politics was quite unbearable. the worse part was the fear and intimidation. oh yes and the annoying sucking up.

      I also understand what you mean by loss of identity…I feel it too…..which is why I started to isolate myself.

  4. orionstar says:

    helloo… I must say I luv your blog.. You write well and luv the pictures… Had enjoyed reading this post and I’d totally agree on those points in the “I Don’t Miss” list…Real spot-on… From your perspective, is this a “Singaporean” work culture issue? Believe it’s not uncommon elsewhere but it seems like working here has more stress and grief (to sound extreme) than satisfaction…

  5. Working in an office where the environment is built with warmth from people around makes life easier even if the work itself may be hard. But a hard task combined with horrible bosses could really make your office life a hell.

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