Onward and Upward|帶刀上班

過去一週,一個已到英國兩年的香港學生叫我寫這個作文題目:Write about a time when you were betrayed。

我希望他意識到,能逃離日益大陸化的香港是何等幸運,所以給他寫了一段我在大陸工作的往事。Below is the piece I wrote。

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Write about a time when you were betrayed

“I kept a knife in my briefcase, just in case.”

A middle-aged mainland businessman recently made this rather alarming declaration on his social media when he looked back on the early days of his career as an executive at a furniture manufacturer. Instead of being given a salary in line with his market value, his 23 year-old self was sold what seemed a sweeter deal: a base salary of RMB 3000, plus 10% of the company’s profits that year. “We are on track to rake in RMB 30 million, so your bonus will amount to RMB 3 million,” his boss assured him.

Six months on, he realized his firm’s scale of operation was much smaller than his boss had let on; the company only earned RMB 2 million in profits by December. What’s more, boss refused to hand over the promised 10%. The young man then took matters into his own hands. He bribed the company’s accountant, obtained from him evidence of his boss’s tax evasion, with a view to using the material to pressure his boss to pay up. He also kept a knife in his briefcase, in case his boss hired thugs to rough him up. Eventually, his boss, feeling the tension and mindful of what his employee could have done with the connections he had made in his previous job as a reporter, relented, and gave him RMB150,000.

The mainlander’s reminiscence prompted me to do some reminiscing of my own. I, too, once suffered the stress of having to cope with a deceitful mainland boss, though things never deteriorated to the point where I had to have a knife with me at work to feel safe. My first brush with his ways came when he asked me to use my credit card to buy personal items – hotel bills for his friends, Hong Kong-made Chinese medicine for his business partners. “Of course I’ll pay you back later,” he said. At the end of the month, when I submitted the receipts to him – by then he had owed me almost HKD 30,000 – no reimbursement was forthcoming. Luckily, I had the good sense to make a copy of the receipts, so I handed them over to the company accountant, who was from Hong Kong and sensed immediately the injustice of my situation. She paid me out of the company’s funds.

Not long after this incident, I turned to an older mainland colleague and asked her to interpret our boss’s conduct towards me.

“It’s not even about money,” she said. “He is testing whether you’re under his control. His thinking is, if I treat her so shabbily and she still continues to work for me, this means she can’t find opportunities elsewhere.”

I was to later learn from other colleagues that, they, too, received similar “lessons” from our boss – most were not paid the salary they had been promised.

I did find better opportunities elsewhere, so I quit after a few months. Ironically, the experience of working under such a person turned out to be the best education I’ve ever had, far better than even Oxford. That celebrated university taught me how to read books; my mainland boss taught me how to read people.

Michelle Ng

聯絡方式: michelleng.coach@proton.me
個人網站: https://michellengwritings.com
逢周日英國時間晚上8時 / 周一香港時間凌晨4時刊出



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