Detoxification from the Singapore Working Environment

An old friend of mine texted me one early morning to informed me he had quit his job.

At long last. How many fucking years was that? As far as I know, he has been working in that same company by the time I reunited with him after we gone separated ways upon secondary school graduation. It must be at least 12 years since. No. I don't have a problem with loyalty. In fact, I think it is an admirable trait. Many of my close friends are not job-hoppers and have stayed with their employers for many years. Admittedly, it made me feel rather bad because I was a job hopper. I had always see the need to leave whenever I was chronically unhappy working in the company. I was told if I was unhappy everywhere I go, the problem might be me. That only knocked back my self esteem and made me believe that I wasn't good enough among my friends. I wasn't good enough to turn the wheel of life in Singapore.

I thought I would had it easier in Australia. "They are slackers," they said. I learnt the truth the hard way. We cannot deny there are black sheep no mater where we go. However, the serious Aussie workers will teach their Singaporean counterparts a lesson on efficiency, productivity and the right way elbow grease should be used. The Aussies may not be technologically more advanced in work. The general IT setup in companies are dire, if any exist. Machines, production lines and work processes are not bad, though nothing among the best in the world. The key difference, at least in house construction, is the difference in mentality towards work. The Aussies are generally proud of their work and their vocations. Should you point out their shitty work, they rarely make excuses and simply redo it to the acceptable standard. No printing of emails, arguing about requirements, unfair scheduling, cost, very familiar everyday happenings in the Singapore construction scene.

To cut the bullshit short, I realised I could actually survive in this society, not because the pace is slower or the competition is weak. In fact, working here made me a better worker. It made me take ownership of my work. From Day 1, I was told about my responsibilities and am left to carry them out almost without monitoring. Work requirements and my performance is being reviewed each year and if there are nothing major, life goes on. I am answerable to ever single decision I make. If I do what is expected and keep things running smoothly like a well oiled machine in the factory, nobody even want to step out here if they can help it. I hardly see my boss. Our team remains very small, we find ways to work despite our differences. We are quick, so bloody quick and good that we are gradually stealing market caps of the big guns.

Much of these are only possible if every member of the team knows his job well. The moment a challenge is issued, we find the way to deal with it immediately. No two jobs are the same and will be dealt with the same way. There is general SOP in the factory for "peace time." But when there is war, changing every single process from the norm is a definite possibility. If the company's expansion goes well in future and there is a need for an addition member in the factory, I will never choose a candidate who expects the same duties day in, day out. I cannot promise that. The working mechanics in my factory is completely opposite. No one knows exactly what we will be doing the entire day. Not even myself. We can do a reasonable prediction but our work design for the day is completely at the mercy of demand.

I always wonder what will happen if I were to work in Singapore again. I'll be an unhappy worker again because my work will always be under close surveillance. That cannot be helped and I can see why. For some reason, our work environment is based on the winner being the one who can chao keng best, dog eat dog and vultures claiming credit for the kill they didn't make. I blame that negative work culture on the toxic mentality the men are infused with during their NS days. As a ex job-hopper in Singapore, I saw that same shit in the many companies I worked for. Everyone just ended up trying to outdo one another in Taichi Mastery. The ones who were not smart enough to siam the sai kang ended up grouchy, unhappy workers.

Well, I genuinely feel happy for my old friend, who is leaving the toxicity of the undercity and climb beyond the smog, jumping from tree to tree. It is true, he will be losing job security and a stable income. He may even have to cope with a drop in net income, at least in the beginning. However, he will start breathing, living and .... taking flight.

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