Just as I was about to enjoy a fuss-free pre-Christmas period, in walk Gloria who greeted me politely with an intense handshake.
My sixth sense told me that something is very wrong here as she shifted gingerly on the sofa – her countenance caked with emotion.
Her puffy eyes also indicated that she didn’t sleep much the night before and may have been crying badly for a while.
I have seen close to two hundred clients this year alone and Gloria must have been the one who sobbed the most before I can even say hello.
I have to go and take out a packet of tissues from my work station as I waited for her to stop crying.
The stress must be over-bearing for her as she slowly placed a thick file before her – all ready to pour out her grievances.
I saw her email the night before and could sense the urgency in the correspondence.
I always place priority for clients who use words such as hopelessness, suicide and meaninglessness in their emails.
The festive season is a period whereby counsellors are on call the most as distressed people feel the desperation of their situation more acutely than normal time.
Your heart ached ten times more when you walk past shoppers laughing out in giety whereas you have to bear your burden all alone.
Gloria’s email is more of a cry of desperation than anything else and I couldn’t ignore the plea for help but I didn’t know its so serious.
I wanted to schedule to see her after Christmas but decided against it and instead see her the day after she sent out the email.
It was the right choice as her desperation and stress level are really sky-high.
In a nutshell, Gloria was harassed by her ex-employer whom she has resigned from about one and a half month ago.
During the period after she resigned, they would sent her threatening email and text messages of which I couldn’t reveal much here.
They also claimed that she didn’t hand over her work properly and even withheld her last month’s pay.
She has approached MOM who initially rejected her claim for assistance due to her managerial position as that means she wouldn’t be covered by the Employment Act.
After much insistence, MOM relented and now they have fixed a date for hearing just on salary matter alone – ignoring the more serious issue of workplace bullying by an employer.
She also approached TAFEP via tele-conversation who provided her with some morale support.
After the latest email from the employer, she couldn’t sleep much and shuddered whenever she thought of the threatening words.
As she is suffering from high blood pressure, she is also worried about her own medical condition.
“I want to move on Gilbert but they wouldn’t let me,” she told me in between sobs.
“I couldn’t even look for another job due to my current unstable condition.”
Her loud sobs attracted some attention from the other colleagues who are within earshot of the place where we have our conversation.
I told her that she can report to the police if she felt threatened.
Her eyes brightened as she is desperately seeking for anything that will help her out of the nightmare.
Though the emails and text messages do not contain vulgar or threatening words, if she felt harassed by the ex-employers after leaving the company, I told her that she can report to the police.
She agreed and we left for a nearby police station.
At the police station, the police also felt that there were nothing in the emails that suggest intimidation and harassment but they still politely took down her statement after much persuasion.
I told the reporting officer that Gloria is stressed up by the situation and is rather unstable emotionally.
I may even have used the word suicidal to push them to take some action.
After taking down her statement, they also advised her to go to the magistrate court if the threatening emails and text messages continued.
I have assured Gloria that I will personally accompany her to the magistrate court if the bullying continues.
I also advised her to see a doctor for her medical condition so that she can have some medication.
After the incident, I felt sad that no official body could really help our executives who are abused by employers out to belittle their staff.
Transitioning has received close to a hundred emails from executives who are unfairly dismissed during the past few years and I must have personally seen 80% of them.
Employers could verbally abuse their staff forcing them to quit and escaped scott free whereas the victims are left to pick up the pieces - often after suffering emotionally for a while.
Many have learned to move on after feeling down for a while and unfortunately so far I have not heard of anyone seeking legal recourse due to an unfair dismissal.
Many dismissed executives do not dare to sue their ex-employers for fear of adverse publicity and how it will affect their re-employment opportunities.
MOM has always asked our aggrieved executives to look for legal asssitance if they are managerial or earn above $4500 a month in salary during an employment dispute.
They will also only deal with salary dispute ie if you qualify for assistance and brush aside any other matters.
It is akin to seeing a doctor with a medical condition and they can only treat your injury to your leg and not anywhere else.
Employers have long known this loophole and used it to their advantage by asking their staff to sign on employment letters with all kinds of ridiculous terms.
Transitioning has all along being pushing for the formation of an independent Ombudsman to look after the interests of our hundreds of thousands of unrepresented executives working in our first world economy.
Its a shame that they have nowhere official to turn to when they are of executive level and bullied at the workplace by unscrupulous bosses.
There will always be that odd few who could not move on properly after a dispute with their emplouers though the majority will be able to do so.
Transitioning wants to assure all Singaporean PMETs that if you have nowhere to turn to when you face an unpleasant employment dispute, we will be here for you!
Wtitten bu: Gilbert Goh