Monday, July 30, 2012

Korean Everydayness: Slow Day at Work

Today is Monday. The bosses are out of the office. I have done all the work I have to do.There are a total of 7 other people in the office here today as far as I can count. It's so quiet I can't stay awake. So I am taking a break from doing nothing to listen to music through my headphones and make a blog post. I'll answer the question, "how did I get here?" by answering a couple of other questions.

1. Why do I have nothing to do?
2. Why doesn't anyone break the office silence?
1. Why I have nothing to do:
This is complicated and simple at the same time.
  The way I see it, the biggest reason is that people in Korea don't know what to do with Americans other then have us teach English, unless we have a master's degree or higher and years of experience. I have neither. I'm just intelligent, enthusiastic, a fast learner, creative, and likeable. I sound like a good marketer, right? Well, luckily, starting next month, I'm going to be doing some marketing, finally. But up to now I've had to prove myself as an English teacher, and I still have no real work to do.
  Another reason is the normal ebb and flow of Korean workloads. Everyone has a baseline workload below their real potential ability and then is suddenly inundated with work every now and then so they go crazy. At the moment, I am not inundated .
  Finally, in Korea, work always comes from the bosses. It's unheard of to make your own work. So, if all the bosses are out of the office (like now) and there are no long term projects in your list (I finished mine), there is nothing to do.

2 Why nobody breaks the office silence:
This one is not complicated.
  The thought never occurred to them.

As I type this paragraph, I am listening to Radiohead without headphones. I asked the girls who sit by me if they like American rock and mentioned I was listening to Radiohead in my headphones, and they both said they like Radiohead, so I set my iPhone on the cubicle divider at a nice ambient volume. Big improvement. I'll bet this is the first time they've ever listened to music at work.

Actually, the way I got assigned to do 50-70% marketing work starting from next month is that I worked hard and exceeded expectations, including learning the product information and sneaking in marketing during my English classes with clients, like giving them case study practices that practically made them say they would prescribe our medication (I work for a pharmaceutical company). Now, some of our key clients really like me. Then I wrote a 2-page document saying about my long-term goals, my short-term goals, and action plans on how to achieve them realistically with a description of how it would be good for me and for the company. I also mentioned that I could get lots of benefits working as an English teacher but I chose this company for the opportunity, and I would like to start getting some of those opportunities.

Proactive employees are not common in Korea. This is a military society where ideas come from the top. I'm not a good fit with that style, but that's part of the reason my boss hired me. This is a Korean subsidiary of a Western company, but all the employees are Korean. The company needs some cultural integration, like a radio on a quiet day.

I realized that I'm not good at being tough or saying what's bothering me. But, I can write it down and check it multiple times, and that actually looks better from a manager's point of view.

Anyway, since I'm going on vacation for two weeks the day after tomorrow, today and tomorrow are basically "try not to fall asleep at work" and "inundated" because I'm pretty sure all the managers are out at an important meeting regarding a document in English which will become my work tomorrow that must be completed by the end of the day.

And that, my friends, is a normal work cycle here in Korea. But everyone must always look busy. Hahahahahahahaha. I'm typing a lot, aren't I?

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