Friday, December 31, 1999

it may all come to a head on Monday (or Tuesday)

[Originally posted on January 14, 2023, at 3:20 a.m.]

If the real-estate office in my building is open Saturday morning, I'll be going down to talk about making a private arrangement to stay in this building. Otherwise, I'm going down there Monday morning. After I leave my company, I want to stay where I am. Frankly, I like my location: I like the close availability of all the walking trails, the fact that I'm sitting on top of the subway's Line 3, and my nearness to the newer parts of Gangnam (I live in the older, more beaten-up part of Gangnam). I also like that I'm exactly halfway between Incheon to the west and Yangpyeong to the east—the midpoint of a 120-kilometer axis. I can literally walk down to Busan from my place. I'm perfectly positioned.

My boss warns that there's a chance I might get booted from my apartment because it's currently sponsored by my company. That's the thing I want to talk about with the real-estate office: if I stay in this building after leaving my company, do I have to change apartments? These apartments are all pretty similar in terms of their internal layout, but as I learned over three miserable years, some of them are unrenovated shitholes (like where I initially lived for three years) while others (like the one I'm in) are renovated and decent. I might also discover—because Murphy's Law is always in operation—that the deposit/rental rate I saw advertised on the real-estate office's front wall might be for one of the smaller apartments in this building, i.e., the rate they'll charge me (assuming I'm allowed to stay where I am) will be decidedly higher. That's a possibility.

So—about leaving my company. As we were walking out of our Friday the 13th session with the CEO (only three hours because the CEO had to do his presentation that night), the boss said that our new contracts will be ready for signing this coming Monday. I asked the boss whether he'd had a chance to plead the case for returning us to regular R&D work; he said no (I don't blame him: the boss is being worked harder than I am, and he's got a family to take care of, so he has his own pile of worries to deal with). "Well," I said, "I'm not signing, then." What the CEO wants is for us to be at his constant beck and call, with daily meetings that double as tutoring sessions. This is not the R&D I signed up for. What I want is to be given a project, then to be left alone to work on it, with the higher-ups checking in only occasionally to see how things are going. That would be an ideal situation. But since we've established that the CEO is not the sort of person to trust his employees enough to leave them alone, I can't see working here any longer. What normal person likes being micromanaged?

The CEO is supposedly leaving for America on Monday, the same day we're going to see (and presumably sign) our new contracts. If the CEO's mind is on his trip to the States, he won't know that I've refused to sign my new contract until either Monday night (Seoul time) or sometime Tuesday. Will he respond by firing me, or will he do the civil thing and let me work my final few days in peace?

It's also possible that my boss and the CEO will talk about my situation over the weekend (I know the CEO likes calling my boss at weird times to talk about this or that). While I don't think that will affect the CEO's trip to the States, I have no idea what the other repercussions might be. I get the impression my boss hasn't told the CEO about my intention to depart. Instead, he's told the CEO that my time is short, so those contracts need to be hammered out. I wish the boss had kept silent on this point and just let the sand run out of the hourglass.

My boss and I are supposed to move offices on Monday—the same day the CEO departs for the US. The CEO once again emphasized that he'll be doing three-hour Zoom calls with us every day. At a guess, that starts on Tuesday, which is when I imagine I'm going to get an earful for deciding not to sign the contract. I expect guilt-tripping, too, from the CEO: I did what I could to keep you two in the company, and you're throwing this opportunity back in my face? Shit like that. I refuse to feel any guilt for my decision to leave.

Of course, we can't Zoom without first downloading the Zoom app onto our respective computers, and we also need proper headphones, microphones, and web cameras (my Mac at home is good to go with all of that, but my office computer, despite still being fairly fast and capacious when it comes to storage, is woefully unprepared for remote chatting of any sort). I assume we're getting all of that on Monday, then we'll Zoom on Tuesday. Seems a waste to buy me new equipment since I'm a short-timer, but the people buying the equipment probably don't know I'm leaving.

What's funny in all of this is that no one (aside from my boss) has even bothered to ask me my intentions. It's just assumed that I'll be signing a contract. And what does the contract mean, exactly? If it's a totally new contract that's supposed to start after January 20, my current departure date, then I ought to get my severance pay. It can't be a continuation of the contract I've been on because that contract doesn't end until my birthday, although that arrangement has arguably been nullified by my resignation letter, which was a formal declaration of departure. Reminder: my "current" contract doesn't exist on paper: I haven't had a paper contract since August 31, 2021. I've worked 1.5 years beyond my paper contract because of a quirk in Korean labor law that says the employer and employee can assume the most recent contract conditions are still in force, despite no official renewal, if both parties remain in the same working arrangement. This is why I've been paid my same salary since 2021: everyone assumes that that contract is still in force.

Not that the above questions matter deeply to me. As far as I'm concerned, I'm out of here on Friday the 20th. I get paid my last regular bit of salary on January 16 (my normal payday) then according to HR, I get paid my severance on the day I leave. If I succeed in getting a private arrangement with my apartment building, all of that severance money will go into my rental deposit (plus a few thousand dollars from what's in my bank account). This is a deposit, so whenever I finally move out of this building, I'll get all that money back (in Korea, you pay a huge rental deposit, from thousands to millions of dollars, and the recipient invests your money and earns interest off it for a few years). Meanwhile, I'll also pay a monthly rent—probably around W700,000, but it could be more.

So, there's a good chance that things will blow up on Monday, or maybe Tuesday. Either way, we're going to have some very unhappy, trans-Pacific back-and-forths early next week. The CEO now knows what I'm capable of producing, and he's not going to want to lose that. At the same time, he's physically incapable of giving me the thing I do want, which is to be left alone to work in peace. A pathological micromanager can't understand why other people don't want him hanging around. All signs point to bye-bye. A tiny part of my brain does still hope for a miracle, but realistically, I don't see that happening.

The boss did float another idea: he could start his own company (with help from a Korean investor/partner), hire our team back (my coworker M plus our Korean coworker), then we could contract independently with the company we're now working in. No maniacal oversight by the meddling CEO; a nice, separate office; the works. I could go for that, but I don't know how long it'd take the boss to drum up the necessary funds, and no clue at all as to if or when such a venture might be profitable. Still, given my current shitty circumstances, I'd probably jump at the chance to work in such a startup. But I don't know how serious the boss is about his proposal. Desperate times generate desperate ideas, only some of which have substance.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

It will be interesting to see how the CEO reacts when he learns you aren't going to stick around. It could be an opportunity for him to learn, but from what you've said, self-reflection isn't in his nature.

Here's hoping things go well at the real estate office.