Wednesday, April 03, 2013

going at just the right time(?)

The timing for my upcoming trip to Korea seems ideal in some ways, not so ideal in others. The work environment at YB is becoming rather toxic, especially as regards the people managing the at-home work I do. My in-office bosses are just fine; they always have been. But my "remote" project managers are, well, assholes. We're pushing hard to get several textbook projects done, you see, and these projects all take time. At the same time, the remote bosses are telling us that our accounting department now refuses to credit any work we do above the "80 hours per 2 weeks" mark. Since YB's policy is already to refuse to grant overtime pay, the upshot is that, if we work over 80 hours in any given two-week pay period, we simply won't be paid for that work.

I had sent an email to my immediate superior—let's call him Hosea—to the effect that I wasn't going to be able to finish my batch of 25 chapters on time, but that I would push hard, even "under-logging" my time so as so make deadline. I jokingly ended my email by saying "you guys owe me a karmic debt for this." Hosea was, apparently, very upset by this remark, and he forwarded my email to our chief editor, whom I'll call Ted. Ted went ballistic and sent me a blistering email in which he raged, "We don't owe you anything!" It wasn't Ted's most shining moment as a manager, and now I'm no longer convinced the guy's stable. I was startled by this blast of anger, to be sure, so I immediately apologized for my joke. This seemed to assuage Ted's tender ego (and I must say, a man who says "we" instead of "I" in such a context has drunk the corporate Kool-Aid and rather unhealthily cathected his company), but he then went on to deny that he had said a certain X at our last e-meeting. This X basically had to do with singling out two people—me and Lily—during the meeting and saying publicly that we both needed to pick up our pace and reduce our error rate. The "error rate" thing was news to me; I had thought I'd been doing an OK job on that point. (In reality, as I found out later, my error rate for a document of 22,500 words is 4 mistakes; 4 out of 22,500 is a 0.0017% error rate.) Ted essentially singled us out, unjustifiably, and now he was denying that he had done any such thing.

So let's just say that my working relationship with Ted is in the toilet. Yeah, we superficially made nice to each other via email, but I know now that Ted is giving me the evil eye from his remote aerie, and I, for my part, no longer trust the guy to manage people in a stable and civil way. Bizarrely, Ted told me that I was "at the top of the list" of content creators, i.e., one of the best people churning out the best quality of materials. This information was in contrast to the "Faster, with fewer errors!" impression that Ted had given me during last week's e-meeting. Why would a guy reprimand someone in public, only to congratulate him privately later on and deny that any reprimand had occurred? I'm still scratching my head.

So, yeah—YB is becoming toxic. It's high time to skedaddle. I won the Teacher of the Year award last year, but now it's time to evoke an eternal truth à la "The Dark Knight": you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I may have overstayed my welcome at YB, because, at least in Ted's view, I've become the villain. For my part, I now know better than to josh with my superiors, even if they are little, spiky-haired Komerican tykes half my age.

As for why my timing, in going to Korea, is a bad idea: well, Ted's not happy that I'm leaving. He wishes he had been consulted about my upcoming trip, but my office managers and the regional manager had already cleared it. This is "crunch time," according to him, since YB's fiscal year ends in June. All curriculum team members need to be on task and charging toward the finish line, so my trip doesn't work for Ted. Well, too bad, Ted. He doesn't know the reason for my trip, which is to job-hunt. I have a feeling that, if Ted did know about this, he'd cut me from the curriculum team right away.

Another reason why my timing is bad has to do with the political and military goings-on in both North and South Korea. The North has been ramping up its rhetoric, and the US, at least, has responded with a greater-than-usual show of force, sending over a seagoing missile-tosser and a stealth bomber or two to fly at the edge of North Korean airspace. I remain 95% sure that nothing serious is going to happen, but there's always that 5% chance I could be wrong. Koreabloggers in the know have been talking about "the possibility of miscalculation" on Kim Jeong-eun's part. He's young and inexperienced (meanwhile, in the South, President Park is old and inexperienced), and may have a tendency to lash out. Brinksmanship, done well, is a game for the steady of hand, not the tender of ego. The South has publicly stated that any aggression on the North's part will lead to the destruction of some of the North's treasured monuments—those obscenely huge statues of Kim Il-seong, and so on. I think that would be wonderful if it happened, but I doubt the South's intestinal fortitude. Neither side is truly willing to strike, full force, at the other.

So that's life in Hominidville: asshole bosses who take themselves way too seriously, and the slim possibility of war in the country of my future hoped-for workplace.

Good times. Good times.



John said...

I'd be surprised if you had (or ever find) an "asshole free" workplace. I've never seen one.

As to the situation in Korea, while unfortunate, it strikes me as business as usual. Frankly, the artillery shelling and sinking of the Cheonon were a lot more provocative than the silly rhetoric of an insane regime. The goal of the powers that be in the DPRK is to stay in power. As crazy as they might be, surely they understand that their lives are only a drone strike from ending. I don't believe they will ever take the next step that would inevitably lead to their demise.

Kevin Kim said...

Agreed on both counts re: assholes and NK. I don't expect ever to find an asshole-free environment, but some assholes have undue influence over your life while other assholes are more or less harmless. As for NK, I, too, doubt they'd take things to the endgame. They have backed themselves into a corner, though.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Into a corner? Maybe not. Just wait until the US-SK war games are over, then declare victory.

Jeffery Hodges

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