Friday, October 10, 2008

Work Stories

I have just read an article which underscores the need for employers to provide a pleasant and effective orientation programme for newcomers.

Further, the article notes the close correlation between unstructured and poorly done orientation programmes with low staff retention.

I agreed with the author of the article wholeheartedly, drawing from my personal experiences. I could still recall my first day in one of my first jobs: after some perfunctory introduction to the colleagues by a fellow departmental colleague, I was practically ‘cast aside’ without seeing my immediate supervisor for the first few days thereafter. I was asked to sit inside the cold cubicle by the same fellow colleague and left to my own devices, while he resumed back to do his work. The whole office was cold and quiet so much so that a dropping needle would make the most distinct sound. I could imagine that the human relationship in this company is as cold as the quietness and dead silence of the office.

When I was showed the cubicle I would be sitting in, I was shocked and nearly vomitted! The cubicle, cupboard, table, chair were in a mangled wreck, with papers, files, refuse, debris, food strewn all over! There were no basic accessories at all: computer, new stationary, files, etc. The chairs, tables, etc were spoilt! Am I coming to work in East Timor as a volunteer to restore the conditions in the island after the tsunamis in year 2004?: this thought suddenly flashed across my mind then.

I was next told that my new cubicle previously belonged to an employee who has left, not after he has tidied up the cubicle and cupboard. The cupboard, drawers and cubicles were also spoilt, not being able to lock. When I asked for my computer, the colleagues replied that it was on the way.. which was not quite, for I received the computer only after 2 weeks of patient waiting.

My immediate supervisor was so busy or seemed so that although he saw me on the first day of work, he just gave me a quick gawk and left immediately. I thought to myself: is this the way the company treats a newcomer? Since the first days, I did not have a very good impression of the company.

Soon, I also learnt that the colleagues were also not forthcoming and friendly, though on my part, I tried to bond with them. A ‘buddy’ assigned to me also did not help much as he was always doing his own things, seeming busy and I could feel that any assistance I sought from him was seen as a burden from his body language.

In the first week, I have nothing to do, all the colleagues reported to work, retreated into their own cubicles, stared at the computer for hours, fell asleep at times, were they so busy? They managed to retreat out from their own worlds at lunch and when it is time to end the work day.

Thus for the first few days, without anything to do, I asked my seniors on what could be done. They said nothing. I asked them to give me some brochures to read which they complied but how long could reading such brochures take.

Next, I spent a day clearing my cubicle which was in a serious mess, and things did not improve (in terms of human relationships in the office) though work started to trot in slowly over time and my office cubicle become neater, all through my own efforts.

Work environment plays such a pivotal role in one’s work life. As I have guessed correctly, the shoddily orientation programme was a foretaste of what is to come in my tenure with the company. I could not imagine these colleagues working alongside each other without understanding each other in depth and just liaising on official work matters each day. How could they survive! I was not surprised when I learnt that one of my colleagues called another’s number which he obtained from the staff directory and was shocked that the latter was based right inside our office as he has though all along the latter was based in the office in another location.

It was not too long that I left the company before joining a new one. It was such a joke that the office is one of the ‘world class’ offices in Singapore.

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