Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Tuesday January 15th 2019

How to recover from an unfair dismissal has received a few  mails lately from Singaporeans who were dismissed from their jobs.

Half of them were  carried out  in acriminous circumstances  and we have to advise our disgruntled readers how to  better manage  their situations given the lax labour law we have here.

Of course, everyone by now would have known of Fabian Tan – the NUS graduate supervisor who was dismissed by Han’s Café due to an incident at work.

He was sacked because the management thought that he has incited a fight with his foreign staff at the kitchen. Fabian has provided us with a comprehensive interview regarding his dismissal and the article can be found on our blog.

Dismissal  affects practically almost everyone  at work in Singapore and I am sure that readers here will have their own frustrating sad story to share when they are been dismissed.

A dismissal is often taken more badly than a retrenchment as the former carries a tag of poor performance on our part which affects our self esteem adversely.

Dismissals  also deter many from stepping out to take on jobs that match their skill sets  and qualifications as their confidence was badly dented.  They will only take on easy-to-do functions for fear that they could not perform well enough and they may end up with another sack again.

Employees are often dismissed due to poor work attitude, bad performance and to a lesser extent fierce office politics.

Most employers hate to dismiss staff  as not only will it affects other staff morale who may be close to the person at fault  but also it makes the boss looks bad and merciless.

However, if you are involved in a hostile situation with either your immediate superior or a very experienced influential colleague, chances are you will have a hard time carrying on working in the same office environment.

It will also be terrible having to go to work and face up to work politics  as we literally spend all our day light hours slogging away.

Chronic work stress  plus office politics are  two sure combustible dynamics that will  either force you to resign on your own or the management will  find a way to dismiss you in the name of work harmony if you are a difficult employee.

If you are those who are not so easily-adaptable and have many foreign workers in the same office environment, it is highly possible that your integration process will take longer.

I also find it strange that in Singapore, employers like to fire their workers instead  even though the workers have already tendered in their resignation abeit in a cloud of hostility.

It is as if the employers who  fire you want to let  you know that they are the bosses and our fate lies in their hands – not ours. When we resign, it makes them look bad and out of control.

We also received numerous emails on unfair dismissal and in one particular  email from a local PMET he has to pay his way out when he was forced to resign from his company in dubious circumstances.

Ironically, the clause was inserted in the contract and stipulated that any employee who  resigned before a certain period of employment has to compensate the company. If not, he will be subjected to a legal suit from the company.

Any employee will want to sign up for a job in this tough competitive environment even though it contains an unfair compensation clause  for fear that they will stay on the unemployment sideline longer than usual.

The  writer has chosen to pay up and closed this awful chapter of his unfortunate employment with the local company. He also didn’t want to expose the company for fear of a potential lawsuit and is exploring migration as an option out of this madness.

I thought that our Ministry of Manpower should investigate such fraudulent labour practices among our local companies fairly. I also lamented at the poor arbitration rights that all our PMETs have all along while working in our high-GDP economy.

It’s a classic case of having third world employment rights in a first world economy – there is no proper union representation, no Ombudsman and definitely no proper worker rights.

Personally, I was dismissed from my jobs twice in my working career and those were really ultra-low moments of my life.  In face-saving Singapore, those were difficult times and I even hid it from my wife for a long time before confiding in her.

I lied her saying that the compnay was restructuring and the whole department was closed down.

Of course, during that period, I felt enraged and unjustified and could work out a storm wit the company if I wanted to. However, looking back at those painful ego-crushing events right now and  I called myself a veteran survivor of dismissals, there were not really that damaging after all.

More importantly, I managed to learn important lessons out of those adverse moments and applied them to my career when I am out working again.

All dismissals  have their own grievances and misunderstanding and most recipients of the red card often harboured some form of anger and frustration towards the management.

This is only human nature…

A job dismissal is often taken personally by the recipient as it affects our ego and self esteem – especially when we felt that we are in the right.

I remembered hanging my head low for a couple of weeks after been dismissed by Amex in controversial circumstances almost ten years ago.

The human resource department could not contact my latest employer as I have worked  in a government sector – a place where the outside world could not connect with easily like most private companies.

Thinking that I have fabricated my employment for the last nine years there, they decided to terminate me even though I could furnish a glowing company’s testimonial letter later.

Having only worked there for a month and doing quite alright in consumer banking, I felt that I could have move on well with the company but my prematured dream was dashed.

It didn’t helped that those were awful period immediately after the 9/11 incident and jobs were as scanty as water in the desert.

I also only managed to secure the job after six long months of search and though it paid me only a miserly  $1500 basic salary, I was contented as the commission was attractive and one could earn $2500 easily in gross pay each month.

It was better than sitting at home earning zero salary and sulking my days through life.

Naturally, I didn’t took the dismissal  well and suffered from depressive relapse for a while. I felt helpless as there wasn’t really any recourse that I could take due to our weak labour law then.

I blamed my fate more than anything else and didn’t really harbour a lot of grudges against the management then.

I realized that it was dangerous to do that as there was little fighting power left in me to climb out of the pit.

When you blamed your fate for anything that has happened, you felt powerless and do not take any proactive steps to move forward.

After three months, I slowly climbed myself out of a seemingly bottomless pit and learned to face the world again.

I hid at home and only came out in the evening for fear that my neigbhours would ask me the most-frustrating question: “Are you still not working?”

I hope that readers here who were recently dismissed and still taking it badly will learn from my lesson.

Never take a dismissal personally as after all it is only a job. Always tell yourself that you can contribute better in another work place and that the company who sacks you has lost a good worker.

List out all the positive attributes you have on a piece of paper  and paste it up either on the wall or fridge so that you can see them daily.

Don’t also seek  ways to get even with the errant employer – it will only make things worse for your own recovery.

Of course, do what is necessary to get a fair result by going to the Ministry of Manpower or even seek legal advice, but let it rests once you have done what you could.

If possible, seek the help of a counselor  and  talk out your negative emotions.

Share your dismissal with a close family member or friend as bottling it up is harmful for your emotional  well being.

You don’t want to dispense  energy fighting a useless battle to get even when you can use it to earnestly look for another job.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

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Reader Feedback

5 Responses to “How to recover from an unfair dismissal”

  1. SAF says:

    Hi Gilbert,

    Thanks for this post. I went through something similar recently, when I was unfairly terminated from my job. A job that I acually liked and enjoyed doing and was good at it. I was a PMET in a foreign bank.

    It has certainly affected me a lot. I’m nervous and depressed. I’m a Singaporean and was always proud to be a Singaporean but now realise that there is no protection for Singaporean workers.

    In fact I was fired by a foreign manager (who is actually firing Singapore workers and replacing them with people from her own country), and this makes me feel even more frustrated. And now I see that as we have more and more foreign managers in Singapore, they have and will fire more and more Singapore workers and hire from their own kind. And Singapore does nothing to protect its own workforce.

    Hope I can climb out of my current situation.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. admin says:

    Hi SAF,

    I will email you privately later on using your email address.

    Indiscriminate firing is happening rampantly here – especially from foreigner bosses.

    There are no proper employment laws to protect the workers here and also no ombusdman body which will help the executives to arbitrate for their rights.

    Hopefully, the laws will change soon so that our employees have fairer employment rights and some body to fight on their behalf.

    Gilbert Goh

  3. Cheapskates says:

    I’ve been unfairly dismissed a few times. I think it’s a blessing in disguise as to my surprise I landed better paying jobs later. I think the universe is trying to say: let go of this bad situation, there is something better round the corner.

  4. Shane says:

    Hi Gilbert,
    I consider myself a victim of a potential unfair dismissal.
    I am a manager in a company and lead a department of 2 staff, who have been working for more than 10 years.
    One of the staff threatened to resign if she’s not promoted, and hence, I reported it to the Director of my department as well as the HR.Surprisingly, they requested I proceed with promotion plans for this staff despite my advice to them that the staff has plans to leave right after her promotion.
    Her promotion came true eventually in August 2012.
    As predicted, recently she tendered her resignation within short notice and wanting to clear her childcare/family care leaves instantly. Her last day of service is 1.5 weeks from now.
    HR department called me in yesterday, to my shock, the HR director accused me that the company lost a long service staff because of me. It was definitely beyond my responsibilities to tie down the staff’s freedom in seeking out other career opportunity, but taking the blame of this resignation is definitely out of the question.
    The company is finding fault on me and has somehow hinted me that I will be “dismissed” on grounds that I have resulted and caused a non conducive working environment.
    Currently I am adopting the wait& see approach and actively looking for other career opportunities.
    Appreciate your comments and advice on the best way to manage this situation.
    Thank you so much.

    • Skytann says:

      Hi Shane, interestingly looking thru this site’s old articles I stumbled upon this and your reply. I’m currently facing similar situations at the work place. We were all asked to hand in our resignations due to the closure and restructuring of the departments and also hinted with a gag order on the situations. When I contested that my departments high turnover was no fault of mine, I was threatened with testimonials from ex staff under my management and also even reference checks on my previous employment. So not wanting to blow the matter up and have a nasty exit, I backed down and even assured them that I just wanted to leave amicably. None of us were given any compensation for our termination and we just felt that we have no recourse on the situation since in terms of black and white, we resigned and was not terminated. Sad but true in our world class society.

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