I Survived a Toxic Office

It’s been nearly 3 years since I left a toxic office environment at large Hong Kong corporation and preparing to start new work after months of interviewing and upskilling.

Looking back at my time there, the office was really questionable given the circumstances I was brought in, the day-to-day challenges, and the way they treated me as I left the offices.

The company had an intense clique mentality. Nearly every department had their own cliques and subgroups and these groups had a tendency of not being inclusive. It was already a challenge getting to work with the more local colleagues but the fact my former managers tolerated or enabled cliques made the work situation unpleasant. These colleagues would go to lunch without me, not even have the decency to ask if I was interested in something out of courtesy, and really disliked speaking English despite being a multinational office. I wound up getting along with the non-local staff and those who are not into office politics as a result.

Their HR (People Team) does not pretend to even care about employee well-being. Whenever, there is an issue related to cliques or unpleasantness, the HR would pretend to schedule a meeting to discuss then not show up without any real reason. Any attempt to address concerns about reduction of job scope would be met with “oh jobs always evolve at the company”. During my last day at the office, they made it clear that the company has no separate company culture and everything is THE PARENT COMPANY WAY, meaning company comes first. This lack of proper HR is really no surprise seeing that disgruntled employees or fans created a Secrets page to anonymously discuss company or employee issues.

The office doesn’t even practice what it preaches. The current CEO of the company loves to bang on about “stakeholder-centricity, tolerable risk, and bias towards action”. In reality, the company culture is basically the same as the Parent Company, which is risk-averse, bureaucratic, and loves the status quo. The office HR was proud to point out everything in the company runs the PARENT COMPANY WAY. If that was not an issue, there is also the fact that my former manager was hired without HR involvement. First he received a phone call from his friend, the current head of marketing, to go for an interview. Then, he and the market head go out for drinks with the CEO and later have an actual office interview just for show.

Another problem at the the company office is that the CEO is too busy doing public appearances instead of doing his job at the office. While the CEO loves the media attention advocating design thinking and the stakeholder-mindset, in reality none of the things he talks about can be implemented in the office as planned due to the company culture being dictated by The Parent Company and because of his limited involvement at work. It would not surprise me that he will leave the company once the hyped website and mobile app revamp is completed.

Other problems I’ve noticed in the office to list are:

-Lack of close colleagues with them making excuses to not connect on Facebook/Social Media
-Random favouritism with my former manager giving more time to the younger female colleagues while being disrespectful to me
-Fake professionals claiming to stay in contact and then lash out with calls to “just move on” when contacted for advice
-Employees that are either extremely loyal to the company or extremely disgruntled with nothing in between
-Managers actually trying to undermine other projects because they didn’t think of the idea first
-De facto segregation with some departments populated by foreigners and others purely HK locals.
-Giving an employee a pay rise and bonus one year then accusing them of being godawful with threats to the job the following year.
– Weak-minded or desperate jobseekers willing to end friendships or blindly side with The Company for the sake of extra money.

Looking back, it was an OK move to leave that office. I am still recovering from the effects of working in a toxic office and all that job nonsense. Planning on relaxing before starting my new job later this quarter.

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