I wrote about this years ago, and then I got too comfortable. My direct manager was my friend from before either of us had started working this company, and I’d thought two and half years of working with there, padded by two promotions, would’ve afforded me fair treatment. That’s turning out to be an increasingly expensive misconception.
Having just come back from an unpaid vacation home for the holidays, I’d decided to leave China at the end of the current semester to pursue new things. In an attempt to avoid burning bridges or laying any collateral damage at the desk of my friend-first-manager-second, I’d decided to do things the official way with a formal notice of my intentions. I didn’t need to; in fact, there wasn’t much downside at all to not doing it legitimately… Some personal fallout, a bad taste in my mouth, and maybe an angry email or two. The winter break was coming up and I would’ve received my salary during that time, well before I would have been expected to be back in China, giving me plenty of time to no-show or create a personal tragedy once I’d had my money. The ATM fees in America would’ve been peanuts to get my money out of China, now more than ever considering I’m out almost 2,000 USD for being the good guy.
I mentioned a promotion just now, which is, or should I say was, more so an additional role I’d played in the company acting as their cultural consultant while also teaching. There’d still been quite a bit of work I could’ve done during my final month to earn this separate salary, but only a day after handing in my formal letter of intent, that rider-contract had been retroactively canceled, despite the clause that required 2 weeks in order to legally terminate it. “Get a lawyer” the vice CEO had said, as if I was going to be around to fight this.
I’d always thought I was lucky for working in a middle school, since their winter holiday, and my vacation, started about 2 weeks before anybody else’s. In this instance though, it meant my pay would stop 2 weeks earlier, regardless of when I was planning to leave the country since I was ultimately leaving the company. Every other teacher would be paid for that full month regardless of their school’s end date or when they were planning to head out on vacation, as an incentive to not unexpectedly disappear during the 6 week break like I could have. Sure, not receiving this pay was slightly more understandable than flagrantly terminating my consulting position, because any rational person would say “yea, well you were done teaching,” but again, my contract and its terms of leaving had been blatantly ignored.
This blog post isn’t to say my former company is terrible or even that I would never again recommend them to somebody else; it’s just a statement of how the ESL industry in China often works. If I’d ended exactly as they’d expected, I’m sure everything would’ve have gone accordingly. Call it a tax, or an embedded cost, but if they don’t need to pay for something, they probably won’t. Business and profit come first, and while I’m not particularly pleased about all of this, I’m still good friends with my direct supervisor whose hands had ultimately been tied. Insert that one quote about hindsight and good vision here, and be aware of what could happen if you’re ever in the same boat. That’s just how it can be here, a costly con across from all of the pro’s of living and working in China.