Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Monday January 15th 2018

Polytechnic student on attachment with law firm frustrated by Filipino co-workers

Dear Gilbert,

I am writing to you to describe a depressing situation I am currently facing at work.

I hope to share my experience as well as to see if you can offer me any advice.

To introduce myself, I am currently a final year poly student doing my attachment  with a small-medium law firm with about 4 lawyers and 6 supporting staff.

The thing about this small firm is that they  currently hire two pinoys for their admin clerks and I am feeling hopeless by the situation they have caused me as an intern.

To put things into context, my classmates who have been attached to the bigger-medium sized law firms have told me that they are doing some meaningful work such as assisting in legal research and sitting-in meetings with clients.

While I am attached to a partner who is supposed to guide me during my internship, the reality is that he is busy most of the time in court pleading for criminal cases and has told me to report to the pinoy staff.

All that I am doing is basic filling while trying to look busy so as to appease the foreign staff.

As absurd this this sounds, they would not be doing anything while asking me why I am so free.

On the first week of work, all I was doing was to spend the entire day sorting out client correspondences in their various folders As you can imagine, being a small office, the rolling cabinets barely have enough space to walk through and is already stacked to the brim.

By the end of the week, I had developed both a severe backache and numb fingers from trying to navigate through.

My impression of pinoys is that they are generally nice but my stint in this company has proved to be otherwise.

They would be doing nothing and surfing facebook while gossiping about me in a very blatant manner when I do likewise. As a result, even I feel stressed when I am supposed to find work to do when I actually receive none.

What is more shocking is that I found out from some colleagues (who don’t like the pinoy staff as well)  that this filing is supposed to be done by them but they are generally too lazy to do so as they feel that they should not be doing this as they are degree holders in their homeland and this is below their level.

What they would do all day is to gossip about how stupid Singaporeans are and even express surprise on how one of our lawyers actually became a lawyer when he has to look up the relevant statues.

They would then go on to claim that they have high school holders in Philippines who can memorise the entire statue of law by hard.

They have also said that coming to Singapore was a waste of their youth.

Even their characters are flawed.

Our office has a part time cleaner who would come in at the early morning to clear the bins and vacuum the floor.

Never mind that they did not even help, they also made sarcastic remarks about the old aunty who I try to help out.The next day when I told them I had nothing to do, they said I could either give them a back massage or and date the aunty.

I am almost driven to depression because it was not easy for me to come to poly from ITE and am looking forward to a good future.

Not only am I doing less work in my poly work attachment than I am in my ITE work attachment, it is also a waste  of   my time but I have no choice but to appease those pinoys so as to get a good report for my poly which is essential in securing a good job after I graduate from poly.

I hope that you are able to offer me some advice on what I can do since I still have about 2 more months with them.



Hi Anonymous

Thanks for your mail and sorry to hear of your predicament.

The current influx of foreign workers have complicated  work harmony in our work places.

We used  to have a minority of foreign workers in our work place but now they form the majority of workers here.

Some locals even have to report to a foreign supervisor like in your case.

Its really ridiculous that as locals, we have to report to superiors who are foreigners and worse of all they do not have the expertise and knowledge in their work.

Its no wonder that our productivity here has nosedived.

The work place represents a jungle out there and only the fittest survive.

Its not meritocracy anymore  but who  you know and which nationality you  represent.

However, as you are an intern now I would advise that you abide by their regulation and put up a good front so that you will get their endorsement or else your career will be jeopardised.

Let me know if you want to schedule an appointment to see  me next week at my office.

Take care and stay positive.

Gilbert Goh

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Reader Feedback

22 Responses to “Polytechnic student on attachment with law firm frustrated by Filipino co-workers”

  1. sal says:

    Its part of work life experience, either you meet a good or bad colleagues….don’t let others to affect your working habits.

  2. Charles says:

    The main problem here is that the company does not hold up to its promises regarding the training scope of the internship. The bad behavior of the co-workers just make things more annoying.

  3. Max says:

    You are not alone. I worked 3 months before I quit the company paying me middle management salary. A Pinoy admin assistant clerk hoarded her knowledge for selfish reasons and knowing I could not meet company KPI I decide to better quit the company.

    Even Pinoys fight amongst their own kind and they will screw their bosses in order to move up the career ladder. Trust me, you are not facing this alone.

  4. Anon says:

    The above situation is considered NORMAL in S’pore now.

    In my company, we report to an ahneh (i.e. from india) manager who is a double-headed snake with forked tongue. He will look after fellow village ahneh subordinates while delegating most of the work to Sinkies, especially shit work. This ahneh manager will often walk around like he is the big boss, and will loudly question the Sinkies — what are you doing now? What are your workplan for the next 5 days? Why you so slow? Why I’m not seeing results from you? Give me the complete results by tomorrow morning 10am!

    But with the ahneh execs, he will laugh and gossip with them. He frequently asks them out for tea breaks during office hours, going for the ahneh-style super-sweet tea which more & more foodcourts and kopi-stalls are serving in the city area to cater to all the india ahnehs.

    During weekly meetings, this ahneh manager will talk big about himself and praise the good work of the ahneh execs. When there is bad results, he will be quick to blame the Sinkies for not being cooperative, for hiding know-how from the ahnehs, for not putting in long hours, etc etc.

    BTW, whenever I have to do OT (uncompensated) working till 9pm, I sometimes see some of the ahnehs hanging around. But they are not working. Instead chit-chatting, ta-pao-ing their ahneh dinner, surfing and even watching ahneh hindi movies online. When 1 or 2 of them ask each other whether they’re going home, I can even hear the reply: What for go home, here can enjoy air-con, free tea & coffee, and free surfing, watching online movies.

  5. Sad Case says:


    I was from polytechnic too and graduated in early 2000. I can tell you is that Internship is a waste of time and most companies absurd our free student’s labour.

    I was from chemical course and by right the School should send us to chemical industries/companies to learn the role and gain some working experience. But some of my classmates sent to hamper company just to pack canned food and carry boxes in the ware house. For me i was posted to a event company doing data entry job and giving out flyers during events show.

    I mentioned to the school internship department and they don’t even give a damn at all! Most of my classmates even complaint to lecturers and they turn a deaf ears!
    in the end, we only just hope to end the internship and forget about the whole damn shits.

    My advices: Just bear with it for 2 months and do what you need to do. After that, just f$%$K off and from this incident, maybe, you could see what went wrong with the educational system and ask yourself. “Do you think you see any ‘good’ future in sg?”

    If you able to get a good lecturer to help you, by all mean, seeking the help. If not, you are not alone to face all this shits stuffs even after you graduated and starting working.

    Take care.

  6. Gina says:

    I used to be a lecturer with a polytechnic and one of my responsibilities is to supervise students who are on attachment. I was also a director at a company that used to take in students for internship. Many of my students were eventually allow to assist with projects and learnt a lot from their internship period. Many also either joined the company after graduation, or worked part-time with some of the projects.

    My advice is that you speak candidly with the lecturer who is assigned to supervise your attachment. But you also have to check your own workplace expectations. Before the company was chosen for your internship, they would have submitted a job description – what you would be doing during your internship, and any projects you would be assigned to. Your lecturer can give you a copy of this and you can discuss with him / her on your scope of training. If the company has deviated too much from the original job scope, your lecturer is obliged to intervene and speak with the partner.

    However, I have to be honest and you need to moderate your own expectations. What did you think you can contribute to the company, since you are a student with little or no working experience? Many students think that just because they are going to get a diploma, they are beyond doing normal office matters like filing and photocopying. You will be surprised that in some MNCs with a flat organisational structure, even the MD and directors do their own filing and photocopying!

    Also, while you complain about the attitudes of the pinoys, what does that say about your own work attitude? Someone with a good work attitude will not complain that they have been unfairly assigned work while their colleagues are idling away! Instead of grudging the pinoys, look out for areas of work or projects that you can make a valuable contribution. After all, you are handling the filing of documents, so you have all the company information at your finger-tips!

    • Pui Pui says:

      The gist of this student’s complaint is why must a law firm be allowed to employ Pinoys as admin clerks and if they became PRs or citizens, were they given the status on a platter?

      What is this country coming to?

      The old guards who left us for a better place must be now turning in their graves.


  7. Truth says:

    You really got to work with Pinoy to understand their work ethic and culture, lay back, untrustworthy,easy going, irresponsible, talkative, lack of integrity, sabotage. They are not suitable in Singapore society in the long term and cannot integrate well here without conflicts.
    P.S. I had travelled there and work with them for fifteen years. Even their biz people agreed with me.

  8. Steve says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Dont despair,industrial attachments are usually as noted by some are cheap labour.

    In time to come, you would understand office politics is something that happens all the time, at all the offices.

    Even in large companies, there are people who treat their subordinates without respect. Sometimes earning people’s respect is half the battle in office politics.

    You have to be aggressive, acute, diligent and most of all aware of your environment. When I say aware, I do not mean just to look around I mean you have to know the culture, the type of people you deal with and their aims and goals in the environment.

    Remember, there cannot be 2 tigers on hill.

    If people are oppressive, that is because you are not viewed as an equal. Normally, even the oppresive can be easily won over, if you know more then them, but instead of pushing yourself ahead you lend a hand to push them ahead. That dosesn’t mean that you have to help people be a winner all the time. But rather, pick the battles you would like to win. The rest, let others win. People and bosses would usually notice this quickly.

    I know it is not easy, but you must learn office politics is the key decision and not KPIs that promote your well being mentally and career wise. Again that does not mean, you dont meet KPIs, but rather learn to achieve both.

    In you case, learn to be part of the group. For example, humans are simple creatures. There is only needs and wants. Simple way to break ice in a new environment is to blend in. I would normally approach this by doing simple meaningful things for people I have to work hand in hand with. I would buy them coffee when I come into work or have lunch with them, maybe the first time. People would doubt your intentions or your motives. So dont expect to be accepted into the group immediately after your first attempt. If people question your motives, for in example the coffee that you bought, just say you were early today and you had breakfast, so you decided to get them coffee as well. Treat them with respect regardless of their behaviour, eventually your “acceptable” behaviour would allow you to be acceptable. Just to be clear, this is just an example and a method. As far as, I can tell you, it is always hard to be part of the group. But it is not impossible.

    Feel free to post to ask questions, if you require some assistance to understand work life relationship management. But a gentle reminder life is always greener on the otherside. Learn to control your environment as much as you can but never despair some people cannot be changed. Thus, never blame yourself for it. You would realise before you know it, you would have more people getting along with you then not.

    “No man is an island”

    • J Y says:

      From what you wrote, I can see that you have a very high IQ indeed! It is only when I started working that I realise that hard work doesn’t really pay, unlike studying. Working depends a lot on whether one can integrate within the team.

      However, due to personality differences, it could be futile to try to blend in.

      I used to have a manager who likes to buy snacks or drinks for us after lunch. The problem is that she didn’t ask us what we like to eat or drink. In the end, I was forced to drink something which I hated in order not to offend her.

      My other colleague told her that she was too full after lunch and rejected the snack. The manager flared up suddenly at her and scolded her for being “ungrateful”. Actually, many colleagues didn’t like this manager due to her flaws, but she didn’t know it.

      Some people resigned because they couldn’t tolerate her, but didn’t want to tell the truth in case she got offended and flared up.

      The point I want to make is that a good working relationship needs 2 hands to clap. It cannot be forced.

  9. Steve says:

    Adding on, if you feel you are not doing anything meaningful and want to participate, PLEASE ASK. Be clear of your own aims that you want in your industrial attachement. As long as you can finish your work (which might mean working late), you could always ask your “boss” to allow you to sit in to learn, and make sure you let him/her know you want to be an observer only and not participate in the meeting. Remember, unlike most occupation, legal is a sensitive matter, allowing you to sit in also means you have to most likely need to sign an ethics agreement.

  10. J Y says:

    I think you can write a letter to your poly internship department to tell them about your plight. You can also ask to be transferred to another company for the rest of the internship period.

    If a transfer is not possible, just try your best and do whatever you can to endure this difficult period. Afterall, it is only 2 months more. Many working adults have endured their colleagues/ bosses for their entire lives for the sake of providing for the family.

    At least you can ask your poly for advice on this matter. Many working adults have to fend for themselves alone in this increasing harsh working environment. For many people, having a job is at least better than none with the ever-increasing high costs of living here.

    Hence, most people would resign only as a last resort if one’s health is deteriorating due to work stress.

    I wonder whether the tripartite alliance know about how the foreigners bully our locals in the workplace. Are those employers so blind or deaf that they believe whatever biased remarks foreigners said about our locals? If that is the case, is this the reason why Gilbert and his team of volunteer counsellors are seeing more and more jobless people?

  11. jj@39 says:

    In poly/school, students were taught with all the subjects n modules. Besides exams, they also have to do individual n group projects. Once they are assigned with internship or job attachment. Then they started to realise that many of the stuff the lecturers taught them are useless.

    Many employers are treating them like ordinary workers, labourers. Asking them to do things that aren’t related to what they have learn in polys. They probably could never get a chance to display their abilities n knowledge.

  12. itslife says:

    Well you cannot expect much from internship as some company take in interns to alleviate shortage of manpower for menial task. During my internship, I been tasked to do housekeeping in the hotel when I’m from engineering.

  13. jj@39 says:

    In the name of internship n job attachment, u will used as a labourer with no or meague wage.

    This is sad.

  14. Sha says:

    Last time during my IAP, I was attach doing AutoCAD for 3 mnths.

  15. jj@39 says:

    The yearly report on poly students salary is out a few days ago.

    After spending so much time n money studying for 3 years. The medium salary figure is only around $1800-$2000!

  16. sal says:

    This is w

  17. sal says:

    The cost of living increase but the salary remains the same ….20yrs ago

  18. 亡国奴 says:

    Singapore is one of the few places on earth where Singaporeans are bullied by foreign workers.
    In certain countries like Saudi Arabia, the Pinoy workers are treated like slaves. You need to tell them you are the boos here. This is your turf, not theirs!
    I don’t like the Pinoy/ Pinay attitude too and I agree with a previous post where it was pointed out the Pinoys are untrustworthy, frivolous and lazy. I wonder why our government allows so many of them to come over.

  19. ken says:

    think we need to teach those arrogant foreigners some lessons we should form up a vigilante group and use a guni sack cover their head and wack the daylights out of them. pee on them and tell them better know where they are.

  20. jade says:

    I personally had bad experience working with irresponsible and blame-pushing pinos. Now I am feeling like I am working in Philippines with so many of them in my department(50%). What the hell is Singapore becoming?

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