Friday, December 31, 1999

the big nerp

[Originally posted on Thursday, May 10, 2018, at about 6:00 p.m.]

[This is a followup to the previous "frank" post.]

I sat down to talk with Stu (not his real name), a large, beefy Komerican who currently manages the foreign teachers at the Golden Goose. I don't know why he's also in charge of us foreigners in R&D, as we're not teachers, but Stu seems to want to involve himself in any and all things expat-related. My immediate boss sometimes chafes at this situation, but Stu is beloved of the CEO, who views Stu as his right arm, so there's little anyone can do.

Let me be frank: I've disliked Stu from the beginning of my time at the Golden Goose. Luckily for me, I haven't had to deal with him that often, and most of the time, when he lumbers necklessly into our R&D office, he ignores me outright. That's fine by me, but ever since I put in my request for a much higher salary, it was inevitable that I'd have to sit down with Stu and have a face-to-face chat about my situation. That chat happened today, and it has done much to help me decide whether I'm going to stay with the Golden Goose.

Stu is the incarnation of all that is smarmy about hagweons. He's a sneaky, shifty fellow who, whenever he comes in to talk with my boss, usually indicates "We gotta talk in private" by giving a wordless beckoning gesture with his head (disrespectful in Korean culture, but Stu, being a gyopo, thinks of himself as an American talking to a fellow American, which he technically is). There's nothing honest, direct, or straightforward about him, and the way he talks to people, when he's trying to persuade them, usually involves a good measure of underhandedness, half-truths, and misdirection to keep the interlocutor off balance. Hilariously, this snake-like fellow is a seminary dropout, as I found out late last year.

Anyway, when Stu sat down with me today, along with another higher-up named Ivan (not his real name, either) who will be taking over some of Stu's duties, I was prepared to meet with resistance to my salary request. Sure enough, Stu started off with a lie: "I don't want you to think I'm here to reject your request and try to negotiate with you, but..." (As Eddard Stark is reputed to have said on TV's "Game of Thrones," everything before the word "but" is horseshit.) He also said that, because I had signed a contract with the Golden Goose in 2015, I must have signed because I'd thought the deal was "fair." I demurred and said I'd signed because I had no other options. Stu shifted the goalposts of the discussion and said that the past was the past, and whatever had happened before Stu himself had gotten involved with my case (which wasn't until a couple months ago) was no longer relevant. I told him that, from my point of view, the past remained quite relevant to me. Stu ignored my point and moved on.

He tried to convince me that giving me the salary I wanted "wouldn't be smart" either for me or for the company. He talked about the need for "trust" and "motivation." His counterproposal was a sort of "step increase" through a series of one-year contracts. The idea would be that, while I may have requested a salary at level X starting this September, the company would actually pay X minus 500,000 won for a few months, then add a couple hundred thousand won over the next two or three months, then get me up to X at the very end of that one-year contract. After that, over the following two years, I'd eventually get an additional 1.5 million a month. Stu's rationale for this was that, if I got X salary at the very beginning and remained at a stable level for the next two or three years, I'd have no motivation to work as there'd be no higher salary to work toward. Also, by stair-stepping the salary over time, I'd be building a foundation of trust with the company, proving my worth as time went on. This was exactly the same bullshit rationale that justified the sudden cut in my salary when I initially signed on in 2015: "We'll start you lower than the salary you wanted, and after a year, when you've proven your worth, we'll step you up to the level you requested." That's what I was told when the Golden Goose bent me over the barrel. As I've written before, I cursed myself for not having had a Plan B in place.

I told Stu I'd need time to think about all this, so we agreed to talk again on Monday. We shook hands and parted ways, and that left me with time to begin pondering my future. At this point, I'm already pretty sure I won't be re-signing with the Golden Goose. Stu's smarmy manner, and his sneaky style of argumentation, convinced me that the time had come to get the fuck outta Dodge. His psychological point about "motivation"—the idea that I'd be more motivated if I knew I had incremental salary increases coming my way—struck me as utterly bizarre, and it also indicated that the man knows nothing about how I think. Had I been able to get the X-level salary that I had wanted, I would have gladly worked at that level for a few years. In the end, I'm not trying to become super-rich, nor am I trying to extort huge sums from the company. I want enough to pay off my debts and begin to live comfortably, at the level of a middle-class fifty-year-old, with all that that implies about creature comforts, etc. Am I asking too much? Am I a greedy bastard?

I also know that the Golden Goose is expanding into international markets. We've already got property in Vietnam, and from what I've heard, the plan is to sign up at least 150,000 students there within the next two or three years. It's bullshit for a company this rich to plead empty pockets, so I'm not impressed by any institutional moaning and groaning about how much I'm asking for. The company has money, but it's being stingy. Not that that's surprising: you don't get rich by being a spendthrift.

So that's it: I won't be re-signing, and that's what I'll be telling Stu on Monday. I've got feelers out to various universities, and I'm confident I'll have a new place to go by the end of the summer. I told my boss the plan this evening; predictably, he wasn't happy. But all good things must come to an end, and the time has come for ol' Uncle Kevin to move on. On Monday, I'll be sure to tell all the other managers involved that it was thanks to Stu that I was able to come to a firm decision about my future with the company.


Charles said...

I can't say I blame you, man. Good luck with whatever comes next.

John Mac said...

Yeah, I would have been insulted as well by the implication that the only thing that motivates you to work hard is the money. They've got that backwards, the money is recognition for the hard work you've been performing and the value you add to the company's bottom line.

They will spend a lot more going through the effort of replacing you and not have anyone near as good and dedicated as you have been. Idiocy.

Good look in your search for greener pastures!