Friday, December 31, 1999

the saga continues

[Originally posted on January 10, 2023, at 4:25 a.m.]

Consistent meeting times? Actually leaving us alone to work on projects? Of course not! Not when you work for this CEO. We've met at 7 p.m.; we've met at 8 p.m.; on Monday, we met at 2:00 p.m. after being initially told to meet at 1:30 p.m. I didn't even know we were supposed to be meeting at all, but my boss called me around 11:30 Monday morning to say, "You know we have a 1:30 meeting, right? And that we're supposed to prepare something?" No, I didn't know. No one said a thing to me. When I met the boss an hour after his call, he said that the CEO said something about the time last week. I don't recall hearing a thing, and I said so. "Oh," said the boss, "he may have told only me." You know what would eliminate this sort of problem? Consistency in meeting times! But of course, the CEO being the CEO—i.e., a bouncy, zigzaggy "P" person—consistency is not in the offing.

So I got to work and cranked out some vocab notes and discussion questions in the space of 90 minutes. That's vocab, part of speech, etymology, definition, sample phrase, and sample sentence, plus extra language note (e.g., "-ment is a common noun ending"). Times ten for ten vocab words. This information could be used as the building blocks for subsequent PowerPoint presentations, and as it turned out, that's what the CEO wanted me to do. So this week, I have to crank out three PPT presentations, five words each, for three separate articles (that my boss and I both have to read, of course). And like last week, I have to produce several pages of lecture notes to help the CEO when he teaches my material to his audiences (who can be Korean instructors of English, foreign instructors in international schools, mothers of children attending our language school, etc.). It's not easy for the boss, either, as he often has to paraphrase the articles, create vocab lists from them (I pull my vocab words from his lists, so making those lists is a high priority), and even rewrite certain articles that are too poorly written in Konglish-inflected English to be presentable as is. On top of all this, I'm now supposed to create voice recordings of me reading through my PowerPoints as a way for the CEO to walk through the lessons. As he told us, he doesn't drive himself: he has a chauffeur, so he can afford to sit back inside the car and just listen to audio.

I told my boss that I was going to tell the CEO I'm not tutoring his kid. The boss said I should hold off since we're not even sure the thing might happen: private tutoring was one of the avalanche of random ideas to spill out of the CEO's face. As far as we know, the CEO hasn't even talked to his son about tutoring yet, and if the CEO did decide to go through with it, it wouldn't happen until March. My position's not going to change by then.

You might be wondering how the CEO's Saturday seminar went. At that session, he used both my material and my boss's. He said the whole thing went very well, which means he's now officially attached to the product I've made. My fear is that the CEO is missing the point of my PPT: for me, at least, the point is the pedagogical philosophy underlying the PPT, not the PPT itself. The problem, I think, is that the CEO looks at the PPT and sees yet another formula to follow (Koreans love formulas), and he wants to follow it without understanding that the stress needs to be on constantly evoking student responses as opposed to just lecturing. That was the thrust of what I'd written.

The CEO makes no bones about the idea that my boss and I have one main function: to make the CEO look smooth and smart during his lectures (or seminars... the CEO is trying to move away from lectures). This is why it's up to my boss and me to take the CEO's harebrained, scattered ideas and hammer them into coherent lessons. More: we're supposed to organize the guy's life. You kind of have to admire a guy who is so up-front about his inability to put together logical teaching material on his own. I have no clue how such a person can even become a CEO. He has no specific vision for our company, but he has this instinct telling him that things need to improve (an instinct prompted by a drop in our school's middle-school enrollment stats). So he's grasping for new, innovative teaching methods.

I have certain basic principles that I follow when teaching—principles that have evolved over the years through my own trial and error (mostly error). But the CEO is eventually going to catch on that I'm fairly limited when it comes to novel teaching methods. He's apparently never seen student-centered teaching up close, so my PPT will be novel for a while, but he's eventually going to get bored, and that's when Uncle Kevin gets tossed over the side of the ship—assuming I last long enough for that to happen.

The CEO is off to the States next week. We're meeting with him every day this week, and the CEO wants me to watch some of his high-level classes as well. These classes occur at weird evening hours, e.g., 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday evening/night. This reminds me a bit of the hours I kept while working at C2 Education in Centreville, VA—hours I never really got used to. Anyway, my boss and I are meeting with the CEO every single day this week, then next week, the CEO will be meeting with us via Zoom. I've never used Zoom before, so I now have yet another thing I need to get acquainted with. Fuckin' joy, right?

My Korean coworker is suddenly wavering on whether to walk despite having turned in his own resignation. He apparently had a long talk with HR, and it's possible he might be rejoining our team if we end up making textbooks (he's a graphic designer). Meanwhile, my boss keeps trying to reassure me that the current chaotic phase is only temporary: things will acquire a rhythm and smooth out. I'm not so sure. What I see right now isn't likely to change, and what I see is a ship captained by a scatterbrained, distractible man who chases superficially after the newest, shiniest, most cutting-edge things (like the much-ballyhooed ChatGPT). The only way for things to smooth out, as I see it, is for the CEO to undergo a radical change in personality. And how likely is that?

The three PPTs I have to make by Thursday are based on two articles the CEO had given us, plus a third article that we didn't receive until after our Monday meeting was over (it got sent to my boss via email). The CEO had initially said that he wanted my boss to select the third article, then he pivoted and said he had an article, but he wanted my boss's opinion, then he pivoted again and told us to just run with that article.

So, I'll be in the office tomorrow around 11 a.m., which is early for me. That'll give me nine hours to finish work on the first PPT and set of lecture notes, then we're meeting the CEO at 8 p.m., a meeting that's guaranteed to last until at least 11 p.m. (i.e., a 12-hour work day... at least I'm not in the salt mines). We meet again on Wednesday at 5 p.m., at which point I'll show off whatever more I've done, then we meet once more Thursday evening, at which time everything needs to be done (for me, that means three PPTs and three sets of lecture notes and, presumably, three voice files for the CEO to listen to in his limousine. On Friday, I'm slated to observe a class. Yay.

This is basically a succession of more-than-8-hour days, with no end in sight. What's the motivation to stay? Stay and get jerked around even more with promises that this'll all smooth out? The CEO asked me, during the Monday meeting, whether I've ever participated in "such meetings" before, i.e., such meetings as the ones he runs, where everything is messily all over the place. I told him quite frankly that I have not. What I wanted to say was that he's one of the most disorganized leaders I've ever had the misfortune of meeting, and it's a wonder his company is still afloat. But why get summarily fired when you're scheduled to leave in ten days, anyway? That's right: the CEO still hasn't decided whether to hire us officially.

January 20 can't get here fast enough. Mentally, I'm 90% out the door. I might consider staying if the CEO offered to double my salary, but fat chance of that ever happening: he's already thinking of having me tutor his kid during office hours so as not to pay me extra.


John Mac said...

What a cluster fuck. The fact that a meeting was scheduled that you were not aware of reflects on your boss as well. It's just two of you, for chrissakes. If this work mode is going to continue, your boss should make it standard practice to summarize the meeting, including takeaways and to-dos, and the scheduled time for the next meeting (for whatever good that does, given the unpredictable nature of your CEO.

Anyway, you can look at the work as challenging and never boring, with a heavy emphasis on creativity. You don't find that in a lot of jobs. That doesn't appear to be your style, though, and not having a set schedule and reasonable working hours would be a problem for me too.

So, it sounds like you probably won't be staying. Does your boss get to replace you, or does that force him out as well? Then the Korean guy would potentially be jerked around again when the house of cards collapses. I've never been in a situation where my leaving a job would impact the employment of others. I'm not sure how I'd deal with that.

Good luck!

John from Daejeon said...

Sounds to like you really work for a man named Biden or someone quite similar. It'd take a lot, a lot of money for me to put up with all that constant jerking around all the time.