Most of us who have worked in Taiwan for a while will have seen or experienced really wacky, foolish and unprofessional things at work. But I never thought that I would experience something really shocking myself. I want to share my experience for two reasons. One, because it was so absurd and unprofessional, and two, to warn others here in case they work at this company.
What happened is I’d been at this company for almost two months, almost two-thirds through my probation, when suddenly one afternoon in the middle of the week, I was called by my manager to a room. She had a grim look, made sure the door was closed, then said sorry we won’t continue your employment. Basically, I was fired in the middle of my probation! To complete the weird symmetry, they did in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.
I’ve known people in Taiwan who were fired on their day off, fired when they came into work but asked to finish their shift, and fired with the manager then standing at their desk ordering them to hurry up and get out. But my firing tops all of these.
This company is a well-known firm in the English learning magazine industry. I won’t give its full name, but it starts with “L” and ends with “ABC.” I’m sure most of you can figure out who it is. As a foreign editor, my job was to edit articles and to write sentences and questions for these articles.
The reason for my being let go so abruptly was because apparently my work was flawed as I hadn’t done everything the way they expected. Because I was in such shock, I didn’t ask the manager to explain in detail how exactly my work was so bad. I was actually given new assignments that morning so I found it bizarre to get fired that afternoon.
I obviously don’t think my work was so terrible that I deserved to get canned in the middle of my probation. I keep thinking about this and I really can’t figure it out. During my time there, I’d get feedback like make the sentences less complicated, make the article more punchy, use simpler words, use more words, etc but nothing to indicate my work was terrible.
A few days before this happened, something weird happened to me with a dialogue I’d written for an exercise. This dialogue involved two scenarios involving a student pool party and then a worker inviting colleagues from different teams to an afterwork dinner. The main Chinese editor came up to me and gritting her teeth, asked me: “Why would someone invite colleagues from another team to dinner? Is he their boss? And why would a student have a pool?”
Seriously, this Taiwanese editor was upset because she couldn’t understand why somebody would have dinner with colleagues from different teams. I can’t figure out whether she was really surprised and upset or if she was pretending in order to use this as an excuse for my firing.
The truth is that besides the shock of being fired, losing this job wasn’t a huge tragedy. The office environment was the worst I’ve ever been in. It was this huge office with 50-60 people sitting in rows and for most of the day, there would be dead silence. There were about 10 expat staff, but we all sat far apart, and the only interaction was to pass each other our articles to do the required second checks. The work hours were fixed so there was no flex-time arrangement. Most ludicrous was that you got fined for coming in late more than twice. And you got fined for taking unpaid leave or sick leave (you’d get deducted for the time you took off and be fined NT$200 for each time ). I’ve worked at a few companies and none of them ever fined employees for coming in late or taking leave.
I know some people might not mind being in a quiet workplace with long hours, and indeed there were a few foreign staff who’d been there for years and had gotten accustomed. But if any of you considers working there, be very careful and keep my experience in mind.