Friday, December 31, 1999

upheavals and decisions

[Originally posted on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at 11:43PM.]

You may recall my rant about the twat in our office. Well, I got news from the boss that she's decided not to re-up, so her nasty ass is outta here when her contract expires. I'm elated. Not that she and I have been at each other's throats or anything—quite the opposite. We've stayed away from each other as much as is humanly possible: I don't look at her or talk to her, and she does the same with me, which is perfectly fine. She and I might exchange a single sentence on those days when I bring food to the office: she'll give me a perfunctory thank-you and tell me the food is good before wandering back to her work station. I'll acknowledge her thanks and say something neutral like, "Glad you're enjoying it." And that's about it.

I think I called the twat "Trish" in my previous rant, so let's stick with that. Trish, who acts lethargic, drags her feet when she walks, talks with a drawl, gets easily annoyed, and is the absolute diametrical opposite of a ray of sunshine, has looked even more withdrawn and antisocial over the past few months. I know she maintains a rich social life outside of work, but while she's in the office, she projects the impression that she'd rather be anywhere else but here. Something happened a few months ago that I'm not at liberty to talk about, and Trish was at the center of it. When the storm passed, Trish was still with us in the office, but we had lost another employee. Feelings were raw, and people were cautious about how to move forward from that time; things have lately seemed to settle into a tentative groove, but Trish herself has appeared, over the last several months, deeply affected by that tempest. I also wonder whether my own chilliness toward Trish has played a role in her decision not to renew her contract with the Golden Goose. I sincerely hope it has, to be frank, but I know better than to ascribe to myself that much influence. Be that as it may, Trish is leaving whenever her contract is up, and that's cause for celebration.

In other news: the boss is leaning on me to stay at the Golden Goose. We had a talk in which things like salary were discussed. I reiterated to him that I was sore at how things had been handled in 2015, when the Golden Goose lopped my proposed salary down to the same level as what I'd been making as a university prof. Cutting my salary down a week before I was to sign my contract was a dick move, and I'm still angry about that. To recap: I had initially been offered a salary at level X, about two million won per month more than I had been making at Dongguk University. A few months later, the boss came back to say that he could only swing X minus a million won per month, which was still almost a million won over my uni pay. I was frustrated, but that salary still sounded better than Dongguk's, so I told him I'd sign a contract with the Golden Goose. A week before I signed, the Golden Goose lopped off another 500,000 per month from the salary, which put me in the same ballpark as Dongguk. I was pissed off, but because I had stupidly failed to have a Plan B at the ready—having trusted my future boss to guarantee the offered salary—I was left with little choice but to sign the contract. I also signed because I hadn't gotten my F-4 visa back yet, and not having an F-4 meant that I didn't have any options. As I've said before, if I'd had my F-4, I'd have walked the moment the Golden Goose lopped off that final W500,000.*

I told the boss that I'd re-sign if he could get me the original proposed salary of X per month—no fucking cuts this time. He said he'd take that to the powers that be, but that he'd most likely get a counter-offer of X minus half a million, which would be half a million more than my current salary, but he also said he'd make an effort to get me an X-level salary, and that he personally had nothing against my earning that amount. At the same time, he noted that, when he had originally made the offer of X per month, "the Golden Goose was a different place then; new hires were all getting high salaries." As we talked, the boss also tried the tactic of making me feel guilty for asking for a million-won raise after having gotten a 500,000-won raise two years ago, but I wasn't having any. I'm normally the sort of quiet, timid guy who doesn't make demands for himself, but in this case, I decided to take my parents' advice not to sell myself short—a phrase I've heard a lot over my lifetime. So if the company thinks I'm being immodest when I ask for X-level pay, well, fuck the company.

After my talk with the boss, I was left a bit confused as to what happens next. He said he wanted me to think about whether I was re-upping; in the meantime, he was going to see whether getting me an X-level salary was possible. It seems to me that I can't commit one way or another until I know for sure that X is possible, so I'm going to have to sit down with the boss again and hash out the logic, here. I'm mentally reserving the right to pull out of any "commitment" if it turns out that HR or the Finance department or the higher-ups decide that X isn't possible.

All that said, I'm still leaning toward leaving. Despite everything the boss said during our talk, there is, at present, no firm promise that I'll get an X-level salary. During our chat, I also told the boss that I don't like the company's cult of personality, which involves kissing the CEO's ass at those utterly useless company-wide workshops. I also talked about the difference between the shitty apartment I've been in for two-and-a-half years and Apartment 1640, where I stayed while my bathroom was being fixed. 1640 was light years nicer. I said that, if I did re-sign, I'd definitely want to move to an apartment like that. Again, the boss was amenable, but all of this remains hypothetical. There have been no concrete promises.

Put all that stuff—the 40-hour week, the sometimes mind-numbing drudgery of the work, the minimal vacations, etc.—against working eight months a year, getting four months' vacation, and a teaching schedule of nine to fifteen hours per week, and it seems like a no-brainer: university work is better. Plus, at the uni, there's none of this personality-cult nonsense—no stupid workshops to attend, no ubiquitous posters and TV monitors displaying the CEO's cheesy face, none of that shit.** And with long vacations, I can engage in personal projects like writing books, traveling and hiking, and perhaps even learning new skills. I might even get a dog at the beginning of one of my two-month vacations: that would give me time to bond with the puppy, and to get it ready for the time when I'll be out of the house several hours at a time. (I do still think a lot about getting a dog.)

Anyway, I have much to ponder. The easier path would be to commit to staying at the Golden Goose—assuming a salary of X is guaranteed (to be clear, I made that a basic condition of my re-upping: no X, no re-upping). The Golden Goose has become "the devil I know," whereas I've been out of the uni biz for a few years, so I've doubtless lost my edge and am now a bit rusty. The more difficult, but more exciting, path would be to tell my boss I'm leaving, then to find uni work somewhere decent. I'm leaning toward this, but the temptation to be lazy and to stay on the current path is very strong. Decisions, decisions.

*An F-4 visa—informally called a dongpo visa in reference to a person's Korean heritage, which s/he shares with regular Korean citizens—allows the holder to function almost like a Korean citizen, at liberty to do everything except vote in elections. Normally, an expat from North America or Europe gets an E-2 visa (to be a language-school instructor) or an E-1 visa (to be a university professor). While an E-1 is better than an E-2, both "E" visas require their holders to be sponsored by the hiring institution, which means that, if the visa holder quits his/her job or is fired, s/he can no longer legally stay in Korea, except as a tourist now unable to work. (Granted, plenty of tourists work illegally in Korea; I used to be one of them.) With an F-4, I'm sponsored by no one, and I don't have to look over my shoulder for Immigration because I don't have to worry about whether anything I'm doing is illegal (unless, of course, I'm engaged in drug trafficking or something stupid like that). In theory, I could lose a job or choose to become homeless, and I'd still be able to stay in Korea legally for as long as my visa was valid (which reminds me: I have to renew mine this year). In practice, as someone with no inclination to relive my belt-tightening days, I can walk away from one job and look for another at my leisure (or at least until the money ran out). This is why I say that, had I had this visa when the Golden Goose dicked me over, I would never have signed that contract, and my life over the past two-and-a-half years would have been radically different.

**There are things I like about my current job, though. I'm tucked away in a corner, surrounded by a partition, which appeals to my introversion. I'm currently working on a single project and not juggling several projects, like some of my coworkers. I like my boss, who has been a very good supervisor for the past couple of years; he's not perfect, but his heart is in the right place. I enjoy, to some extent, the simple and straightforward nature of what I do. And I'm thankful that, when my salary finally went up to X minus 1 million won in 2016, I've been able to pay down my major debts much more rapidly.

TWAT UPDATE, MARCH 7, 2018: the boss actually announced to us, at a meeting Trish didn't attend, that Trish would be out of our office by the end of this week. She's still on contract, but she's being shunted elsewhere so that she can work until the end of her time with the company. As mentioned above, it was Trish herself who said she had no plans to re-up at the Golden Goose. Well... good.


John Mac said...

It seems all pretty straightforward on your part to me. You want X salary to stay. Not sure what the boss means by asking you to reconsider staying on. It's in his hands.

As I recall you had your share of frustrations doing uni work, so the grass may not be as green as you imagine from a distance. But still, those hours and time off are worth so much more than money! In fact, if the boss doesn't come back with the salary you demanded AND an upgraded apartment, tell him "thank you for saving me from myself".

Anyway, I am not sure when the prime hiring time is for universities, but it would be nice to have something lined up prior to your departure from GG. Can you afford a period of unemployment? Also, logistically you'd have to move without knowing where your ultimate work location will be. Pain in the ass that.

Decisions, decisions. Still, it is wonderful to have options!

Kevin Kim said...


Thanks for the comment. Good points. Uni work isn't perfect by any means, but after three years of hagweon-style bullshit, I think I prefer uni-style bullshit. I had thought that, by working in the R&D department of a hagweon, things would be better than working as a teacher (hagweon teaching is a miserable existence). While my job hasn't been terrible, there are certain annoyances that have built up over time. I should also note that my job is fairly boring, and I miss the activity and excitement of teaching, even if students and admin can suck at times.

Kevin Kim said...

Update: the boss took me aside and clarified today that he'll see about getting me my preferred salary, and I don't have to commit to anything until he can confirm the salary. That makes things easier and clearer for me. If the boss can get me the salary I want, I'll finally be earning a respectable amount for someone my age, and I suppose I can put up with another year or two of company bullshit. Because I'm a whore, and it's all about the money.

John Mac said...

Understand that. Earn it while you can. I came back from retirement, so I know all about whoring myself out for the almighty dollar.

I guess one way to look at this is that you can't lose. Either they compensate you for your time appropriately or you'll more time to use as you see fit.

Good luck!

Kevin Kim said...

Thanks, John. Fingers and tentacles are crossed.