Friday, December 31, 1999

they went after me

[Originally posted on December 16, 2022, at 10:20 p.m.]

I got the expected email from HR, asking me why I hadn't attended the Wednesday event. (My coworker told me they'd used a name-tag system to check for attendees and absentees. If you didn't come by to pick up your name tag and/or you didn't put back your name tag at the end, you ended up on The List.) I truthfully said in reply that I had been in the office all day; I untruthfully said I was taking advantage of the relative peace and quiet to do some research on phonics for a future project. Now, I did do a bit of research on phonics, but my real reason for being in the office was to stay away from that fucking ceremony—a reason that probably wouldn't fly with HR. So I was taking advantage of the peace and quiet, but not primarily to do research. The HR email said that, if I'd been away from the event, I needed to sacrifice a vacation day by filling out a vacation-request form. So the penalty for absenteeism was a vacation day. In my reply, I said I'd been working, and that I'd rather not lose a vacation day for being in the office. Surprisingly, HR replied by saying that that would be fine, but that I should notify their office next time, before an event, if I planned to do such a thing again. Oh, yes, I do plan to do such a thing again. Without a doubt.

So I guess you could say I got away with it this time, but once HR realizes there's a pattern, I'm probably going to have to explain myself, which I resent. I've been in Korea long enough to have absorbed a bit of the value system here, and it rankles me to have my movements questioned by a bunch of young 20- and 30-somethings who spend their time tracking company employees instead of minding their own fucking business. I hate the Orwellian aspect of this company, and the Korean mindset in general that says, "You are required to have fun." Shove it up your ass.

I will indeed be skipping future events unless they have been labeled as "attendance required." If attendance is required, then of course I'll go: that's essentially a work day. But for pointless celebrations like the one that just happened, no.

Here's something: I had been told that, this past Wednesday, there was supposed to be an event followed by a party with food. The event was to go from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and the party was going to start after that. According to both my American and my Korean coworkers, that's not what happened at all. Instead, the fucking speeches ran until 3:30 p.m., there was no intermission (as there normally would be—usually around noon), and there was no food. Everyone was starving by the end. The teachers who attended the event all left at 1:30 because they had to prep for classes that would be running until late in the evening. Imagine being a teacher who normally teaches evenings and nights, then being told you also have to attend this stupid event that starts in the morning, when you're normally just getting up and puttering around. Essentially, you're on the clock from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. As bad as I might have had it, our school's teachers generally have it worse, which is one reason why burnout is a big thing at many language institutes. And most of those poor slobs attended the event, probably because they'd been told that attendance was required. Jesus Christ.

Learning about the event made me all the happier that I didn't attend it.


John Mac said...

Okay, I had misunderstood your original post, thinking the gathering was mandatory. Your failure to attend should be of no concern, especially since you were working anyway. And damn, 10 a.m. to 3:30 sounds torturous, even more so because it was misrepresented (who requires people to skip lunch, for chrissakes?). Maybe if they made these events more enjoyable, they'd get people there willingly.

In my years of government service, we were frequently required to attend indoctrination meetings on subjects such as diversity (that's where I learned you can't call it a "flip chart" because that's an offensive word for Filipinos. I guess a whiteboard would be even worse these days.) Anyway, we were on the clock and had to do as we were told. That's probably the case in most private-sector companies as well.

Charles said...

Reading about your bullshit makes me feel slightly better about my bullshit.

Kevin Kim said...


The question of how obligatory the event was was left somewhat vague in the email that my Korean coworker had been sent. And we're all still wondering why my Korean coworker was the only one to receive any notification that there was to be an event at all. So you probably weren't wrong if you had a sense, from my previous post, that the company really, really wanted me at the event. That is, after all, why HR checked up on me afterward, as if I were some wayward little kid. Demeaning.