Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Wednesday January 16th 2019

The local PMET’s one–year unemployment story

Dear Mr Gilbert,

Good day to you. My name is Silas (name changed) and I came across while looking for information pertaining to unemployed individual.

Here’s my story and hope that you have some time to hear me out:

I was retrenched by my previous company in Jan 2016 due to rapid expansion in Singapore, which the company feels that they are losing lots of money. Hence, the company decided to shift their main office to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore. The company has shut down their operations in Hong Kong and Australia, and cut down the staff strength to 2 person in Singapore. My colleagues and I were retrenched in this case and we were forced to write resignation letter and serve one month notice.

After being laid off before Chinese New Year, I was constantly keeping a lookout for new job opportunities. I was offered a role of HR Executive with a SME which was based in Malaysia, and their Singapore branch office was near my home. Initially I thought I can start everything from scratch all over again. However, things didn’t seems to be what it is after working for about a week or so.

This company is a family run business operating in retail line, selling luggage and winter clothing. There are only 8 employees in the main office, with all reporting to the managing director (MD). Most of the employees have a hard time working with the MD due to her temper and dominating nature. Most of the employees in the office told me that they have been verbally abused by her and they are used to it.

As a HR person, I do not believe that anyone has any right to abuse anyone in the workplace, be it verbally or physically. In fact, I have identified the disciplinary actions taken by the MD for employees who have violated the company’s policy to be against MOM regulation. Furthermore, working in the abusive environment has taken a toil on my mental health, which makes me lose my motivation to work in the company.

Everyday at work I am simply working in the office and do only what I am supposed to do. While checking the employee profiles, I’ve found out that the company has a very high turnover rate for both retail employees and office employees. Those who stayed on are mainly foreign employees holding on to work permits or passes, whereby tendering their resignation not only makes them lose their permits, but also the risk of being deported back to their respective countries.

After working for 6 weeks in the company, I tendered my resignation as I feel that the company culture is not very healthy. Not only do employees have to work under the fear that they will be abused by the MD for no apparent reason, micromanaging on the employee is one of the reason which I do not see the point of staying on.

An example: working hours.  Though the official working hours is from 8.45am to 6.15pm, it is very rare for the employees to leave the office at 6.15pm sharp. Most of the time, employees leaves the office after 6.30pm, while some employees tend to leave the office latest at 9pm.

I keep track of the employee’s attendance and found out that though some employees might reach the office later due to traffic, most of the time they stayed beyond the official knock-off time. Hence when their OT hours exceeded their late-coming hours, I take a flexible approach of not penalizing them since they have worked more than the stated required working hours per week. However, the MD does not see this way and she insisted to slap a penalty fee and warning letters to employees who are constantly late for 5-10 minutes daily (while these employees are the ones who stayed till 8pm or longer). The MD told me that she insisted to penalize these employees, which serves as a warning to them not to be late for work.

As stated in the contract, I am to provide the company with one week’s notice when I tender my resignation during the probation period of three months. Hence I stated in the resignation letter that I will serve my one week’s notice. However, the MD decided that she will bring forward my last day of employment to the following day as she will be in China during my notice period. In some way, she is forcing me to leave the company immediately since we sense that we can’t work on good terms in the long run. I left the company after handling everything over to her.

I have remained unemployed since May 2016 till now. Though the recession has left me unemployed for a long period, I have not looked back since. Personally I have signed up as a volunteer with a non-profit organization which allows me to help out in events. Not only do I get to meet more people, I also feel a sense of achievement through participation in the activities and building up the connections. The committee members did spoke up to me and told me that they are more than happy to write a recommendation letter/testimonial for me to assist in securing a job during job search.

However, at the same time, I also feel that being unemployed for long term has taken a toll on the relationships with my family members as well. My mother has been constantly nagging at me and ask me to why I am still unable to secure a job. Even though I explained to her that the economy has not been doing well this year and unemployment rates are getting higher than usual, she has constantly make many unhelpful remarks.

To her, all it matters is I secure any job out there so that I can bring in some income for the family. To me, I am aiming at working out a career path in the field of Human Resource.

I have seen some officers from WSG (previously known as WDA) and e2i from NTUC, been attending job fairs regularly, sending out applications daily and secure at least 2 to 4 interviews per month. However, nothing happens in the end.

In fact, I am extremely dissatisfied with the way how some local SMEs conduct their job interviews. I have applied for HR Executive with 2 companies, which I am being called for an interview by these 2 companies on the same week.  However, the first company is not interested to hear out my HR experiences. Instead, they are more interested to hire employees to sell insurance rather than employing a HR company. I told them directly that I am not interested in selling insurance and thank their time for the interview. The interviewer, in return, wanted to return my resume to me which I’ve provided for their reference. The second company is a local electric company, which the interview was disrupted by a telephone call for the interviewer and she stepped out to settle some matters. After she has settled her issue, she told me that the interview has ended.

From the way these 2 local companies handled the interview, not only do I find it insulting to the job seekers, I also find it disrespectful and a waste of time.

Hence I will like to check with you on the following:
1. Are there any counselling services I can utilize for now?

2. Are there any financial assistance I can tap on?

Looking forward to hear from you soon. Thank You.



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Reader Feedback

4 Responses to “The local PMET’s one–year unemployment story”

  1. Hard Truths says:

    Dear Silas,

    Interesting read, but I have some observations.

    You are far too idealistic in looking for the perfect environment to work in. Your pickiness will affect your future employment opportunities.

    Firstly SMES are not MNCs ; and all SMES will definitely have the personality of founding owner whether you like it or not. Look for work in big companies who can let HR executives specialise.

    Ultimately, whether you work in MNCs or SMEs, everyone INCLUDING the HR executive needs to multi-task for your own survival. The market is very small for specialised HR senior executives, only large companies can afford them.

    if you feel u are being insulted by the 2 companies, think you will have a tough time in working for all SMEs. SMEs priorities is to make make and survive in this brutal economy. HR work whether you like it or not is not a priority. Survival comes first, nice fluffy HR guidelines is secondary.

  2. Interviewee says:

    I felt the same as the writers about how many interviewers or HR out there were not very professional in conducting a proper, ethical and courteous interview. Most of them, from my view, were untrained and also told by their boss to do the first interview. Many good candidates were being filtered out because the boss weren’t keen to be involved and the interviewers sometime seen as mis-using the authority to delist a suitable candidate. Despair not for the writer, we need to take all these a blessing in disguise and I wouldn’t want him to leave his preivious nighmarish company and jumped into another scary place again. Take interview experiences as a guage to see the type of people he is dealing with if he were to join them. God Bless and keep your hope up. Once recession is over, these companies will have problem begging their cheaply rewarded staffs to stay.

  3. xyz says:

    As a HR staff, you will know that it’s not good in Singapore to have a big hole in your CV. Yes you may be volunteering some of the time, but employers in Singapore are very pragmatic — they want to know how you’re supporting yourself/family in the meantime? Most of them view long periods of no-income in a negative light and they think you’re lazy, freeloader or hopeless.

    You should take on tuition, temp, contract jobs even though its not HR-related. This at least shows to people that you have some initiative and not so passive and whiling away your time & just hoping for the best.

  4. Bruce Lee says:

    Dear Silas, I feel for you because I too am unemployed for the last 7 months. I resigned from my job last year to do a full-time diploma course but till now is still unsuccessful in my job hunting.

    I also had bad interview experiences. The worst was at FIDREC. I was early by 15 minutes but was kept waiting for close to an hour by the PIC, a Ms Adeline Lee. When I refused to disclose my past salary, she was visibly upset and made rude remarks. I explained to her that my past salary was irrelevant because I was applying for a job in a different industry and I was prepared to follow the industry norms and practice, but she simply refused to listen.

    I cannot give you any advice on job hunting other than keep trying. But meantime, it may be helpful for you to read and learn new things beside volunteering. For example, I took some free financial courses from Coursera and attended free seminars by SGX on investment while working part-time. This allows me to make extra kopi money for myself in the stock market.

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