Friday, December 31, 1999

saying no

[Originally posted on February 1, 2023, at 3:15 a.m.]

Our CEO told me before the lunar holiday, "Don't worry about working overtime." I took this to mean that I was now done working 12- and 14-hour days. For the most part, things have been better than I thought they'd be ever since the craziness ended before the lunar new year. But on Tuesday (yesterday), something happened that raised my hackles.

Because I was exhausted from moving boxes on Monday night, I came into work an hour later on Tuesday, arriving in the office a bit after noon. My Korean coworker was off working at another office; he'd have been in our office much earlier than me, but today, I was the first to arrive. The boss, also tired from having worked a late night, arrived a bit after 2 p.m. I had finished all my work on Monday, so to give me something to do, the boss got me working on doing my own version of a vocab-textbook chapter—just something to show the CEO at what I assumed would be a meeting later that evening. Happy to have something to do, I got to work.

Sometime later in the day, the CEO's secretary called my boss to say the meeting would be at 9:30 p.m. Alarms went off in my head. Having gotten to the office a bit after noon, my plan was to leave for the day a bit after 9 p.m. So, I reasoned, there was no way I was going to a 9:30 meeting to listen to a bunch of boring shit for three hours. The boss tried to suggest that I go to the meeting, do my PPT spiel, then leave. No fucking way, I thought, although I admit that part of me felt bad because the boss, per his promise a while back, was going to endure the meeting without me. I walked the boss through my PPT presentation, the lecture notes I'd made for the CEO, and the alternative vocab-textbook chapter. It would be up to the boss to present my stuff and make it shine (or he could sit there with the CEO and pettily tear it all apart). A bit after 9 p.m., I said my goodbyes and left my boss to his fate. I hope he didn't have to stay with the CEO too long, but given that he'd gotten to the office a bit after 2 p.m., he could have stayed until 11 p.m. with the CEO and not worked any extra time.

I think the new normal is going to be harder on my boss than on me. He's got a family, too, and his kids now can't see him in the evening because of the CEO's demands. We also got news about our contract: the boss asked to see the Korean-language draft since that's the version that applies in court. It appears that the language in that contract is entirely against us, the staff: there are provisions about what happens should our work be less than satisfactory, what happens if we get fired 3 months or 6 months into the contract, and a bunch of other sinister sections and sub-paragraphs that are too awful to talk about. Essentially, the boss, who's way more Korean-fluent than I am, is going to have to bargain hard to negotiate new, less-oppressive language before we sign. I'll be morbidly curious to see what passes for "acceptable." And I have my own ideas about what language I want to see in the contract.

Anyway, I remained firm about not going to the late meeting because I don't want to start a precedent. The boss says the CEO never does anything without a reason, so having the late meeting Tuesday night could have been a test of some kind, and maybe I failed. I told the boss that I'm still ready to go out the door at a moment's notice if I sense things are turning shitty; all of this is still probational as far as I'm concerned. And hey, if the CEO thinks I have an attitude problem, and he fires me... well, so what? He can't fire me because I'm a lazy or stupid worker; he can only fire me because I refuse to kiss his ass. For now, this refusal takes the form of a deliberate-but-subtle passive-aggressiveness on my part. Things might get more overt later if the CEO tries any more shenanigans. The way I see it, the CEO is used to not respecting other people's boundaries. Well, he will respect mine, or I'm walking.


John from Daejeon said...

I'd have waited a little longer before bringing your books and belongings back.

Kevin Kim said...

I'm still enjoying reasonable hours. My boss now has to work later (of course, he comes into the office a couple hours later than I do). The CEO wanted to meet with the boss again Wednesday night, but... as the boss has been predicting for some time, the CEO was too tired to meet. Apparently, the CEO goes through this every year: he starts off all energetic and heedless of his mortal limits, but by the end of winter, he's begun to discover that he has to pace himself, and once that happens, the workload for everyone else smooths out, or so the legend goes. I'm still not totally convinced this is true: to me, as long as the CEO has that zigzaggy, willy-nilly personality, we could find ourselves buried, at any time, under a rogue wave of sudden work. We'll see how things go over the next few months.

John Mac said...

I'm curious how the CEO reached that level and how he maintains his position. Is the "Golden Goose" owned by an individual, or is it a publically held corporation?

Kevin Kim said...

John Mac,

I often ask myself how a man like that could have gotten to the top in business and gotten a Ph.D. as well.

My tentative conclusion is (1) however he got his doctorate, it wasn't legitimately, and (2) he founded the company I work for, but he's remained as the big cheese because of the Law of the Septic Tank: the biggest pieces rise to the top. (Something my high-school bio teacher once joked.)

Charles said...

Just got back from the States last night and am trying to catch up on things. Looks like a lot happened while I was gone.

Kevin Kim said...

Welcome back!

Yes, things have been rather mouvementé and agité around here.