Ratta’s bother

Friday 20 January 2012, 1.56pm HKT

THIS is a serious post and it should have been made ‘private.’ You don’t have to read it and can safely ignore it.

I’m keeping it public for the time being because I figured some of you might possibly be going through (or have gone through) a similar experience.

This post is related to somebody in my inner circle who seems to be going through a spot of bother at work.

I’m just blogging this for my own lazy benefit and also to organise my own understanding of the situation. I welcome any kind of comment or criticism from you.

Hopefully this post will also give school leavers and first-time employees an idea of working in ‘the real world.’

* * *


Råtta (a placeholder name) rang me minutes ago that she got a faceful of accusations from her colleague Alice (a placeholder name) while on the company bus to work today.

I quote my telephone conversation notes:

8.15am R rang that A. on the bus loudly accusing R of instigating rumours + defamatory accusations against the woman [A].

– Allegations untrue since never happened, e.g. that A broke things at ‘Charlie’ office.

A said that R told HR Dept or made rumours alleging A. broke some sort of wall panel, couple of glasses, and couple of coffee pellets for espresso machine.

A also said reason R retransferred from ‘Whisky’ to ‘Charlie’ office around midyear 2011 was because company wanted to get rid of R, but didn’t because A said nothing negative about R. (This to R means company been planning for some time to eliminate all ‘Charlie’ staff.)

A said she’s “already/soon leaving [the company] because of you, so why keep saying those bad things about me?!” R said she in fact said nothing at all about A since they no longer operate together.

R said A.’s rant in the bus highly suggests something is seriously wrong going on at work.

– R heard nothing resembling she’s being accused of saying against A.

– As A never broke anything at ‘Charlie’ office, never did anything wrong there, so sudden high state of disaffection between A and R is complete surprise to R.

– Tried to speak up, but R could not get word edgewise because A was giving R the hairdryer treatment in front of all the other company staffers on the bus.

– (Methinks: Hairdryer treatment clearly done for max. exposure.)

Told R that if A broke nothing and did nothing wrong @ ‘Charlie’ office except for brief misunderstanding over some medical/payroll paperwork, so situ should not unravel like this.

– (Methinks: Highly suggestive of 3rd party rumouring to cause strife between them.)

– R agrees above, but couldn’t figure out who. Thought [‘Whisky’ staffer] possible but improbable in starting rumours, so more likely one of the old people from ‘Charlie.’

R asked if good idea to bring matter to HR attention. Advised that is in order because of sudden onset. Needs careful explanation since A alleged mishandling at showroom being alleged at R. never in fact took place.

R said would in fact defend A. about mishandling/breakages in ‘Charlie’ office because no such thing occurred.

– Depending on the attitude of HR Dept, might have to softly allude to possible litigation if 3rd-party rumour-mongering were found.

End 8.25am.

In other words:

Alice accuses Råtta of disinformation by reference to non-existent events or activities to at least one company department. Alice alleges the disinformation was part of a personal campaign by Råtta to discredit Alice even while Alice was making moves to leave the company.

Råtta denies the allegations because she has never undertaken any disinformation against Alice at any time, and there is no possible reason nor in her character to do so. Råtta says the events or activities mentioned in the allegations never existed.

* * *


(I’m writing this lot just to refresh my memory.)

Relationship between Råtta and Alice is uneasy, but not ‘tense.’ There’s a difference. Much of the uneasiness comes down to personalities.

In concise form:

1. Råtta and Alice are both 50-ish. At that age (and in our tumultuous times in a no-safety-net place like raw capitalist Hong Kong), both their job situations are precarious. And it’s more wobbly now because their company had carried out various restructurings and brought in ‘new blood,’ and that The Old Man is retiring soon.

2. Råtta has been with the company for 10 years; Alice two or three years. Ratta is office worker whereas Alice is more ‘manual’ worker. Their job functions don’t cross or overlap. Both are paid shit even for their job functions in my opinion.

3. Råtta. Not the rumour-mongering type. I know her extremely well. If anything, she’s often deaf and blind to the office politics that goes on in the typical workplace. Has some initiative, but not much beyond a support role. Brain works like a hard disk drive with auto-wipe function after use. Great at following instructions. Gets the work done precisely as wanted. And then totally forgets any kind of sensitive information after finishing. Would make fantastic support at the CIA.

4. Alice. Met her a few times before at the showroom with Råtta. Other than that, comes across a bit pugnacious in character. Not the type who likes to be ‘told’ to do things. (I’m like that too in a way, so it takes one to know one.) Nothing wrong with that, but kind of hard to deal with when sometimes ‘speed’ is of essence.

5. Alice and Råtta started off quite well. I’ve seen it for myself in the early days. Became uneasy since around late last year after some misunderstanding over some amazingly trivial matter about work. If memory serves, something urgent needed to be done by the head office. Råtta had to pass on head-office instructions to Alice, but taking care to ‘soften’ the ‘urgency’ bit because of knowing how Alice would react to being ‘told.’ No go, and the attitude soured between the two, but mostly sour on Alice’s part.

6. Company shut down the downtown showroom late last year and the two women got transferred to different parts of the head office. Basically, their paths hardly ever cross until Alice’s outburst this morning.


Alice’s rant was a surprise for me too.

I’ll cut through the bollocks:

7. High degrees of consternation, disaffection, dislike — choose the words you like best — don’t occur unless the parties have been in fairly regular and/or close contact. FACT: These two women have practically nil contact with each other for months. So something else is causing Alice to make those accusations.

8. Familiarity breeds contempt. Not this time, I don’t think. Their job functions aren’t high up and don’t cross or overlap to any regular or consistent extent. One is leaving the company, the other is fearful for her job, so there’s no point. Much to lose, little to gain.

9. The allegations are crazy. Råtta isn’t capable of doing those things even if she wanted to — she’s got no blood willpower. Besides, people who are paid shit generally don’t think much beyond their immediate needs; these people have no ‘wants.’

10. That leaves one possibility — a third party is spreading pernicious hearsay to cause strife between the two. Someone somehow has gotten hip to the two women’s uneasy relationship and has been working behind the scenes to build hate between them.

11. Job takeover would be one reason for fomenting strife — and this tactic is common enough in Hong Kong. Strifing employees get sacked, ergo, bring in favoured parties to replace them.

12. Downsizing is the other possibility. Employees sacked for ‘discipline problems’ are cheaper for the company. Employees made redundant or laid off the normal way are costlier because of the need to provide various redundancy payments and benefits.

FACT: This is a favourite tactic of employers in Hong Kong and (as far as I know) in China.

FACT: They used to do the same thing in Britain during the Industrial Revolution right up to the end of Victorian times. Talk about traditional practices.

FACT: The American Revolution was also partly because of this practice, by the way.

I leave you to consider the implications of those thoughts.

My thoughts to be revised as more information comes in.


Disclaimer: I’m old enough and worked with an enormous range of normal and strange human beings in my time to be even-handed. Just because I happen to know Råtta for a long time doesn’t necessarily (or automatically) mean I favour her side. If anything, I know her more than well enough to know it is highly unlikely that she’s doing those things. So there.


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012.

2 Responses to “Ratta’s bother”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    Just an observation: Game is very instructive here. Regardless of variations across cultures, female nature remains fairly constant within known personality types. However, only in churches have I encountered the depth of politicking you cite.

    As you note, Råtta is quite atypical. She is proof of NAWALT (“not all women are like that”) in her relative lack of interest in politics. I’m guessing she is as safe in her job as any woman can be. She has done all she could, from what little I can see, and should be praised for being such a fine example of humanity.

    Alice is the other extreme, and has gone begging like a Buddhist monk with a bowl, hoping to find something to make her angry. She lives for throwing a fit. I’m guessing she has at least some peculiar talent, or some other leverage not revealed in your narrative, or I’d have fired her long ago for being difficult. Further, I’d actually sleep better knowing she was gone.


    • Ed, it’s amazing you could see so much by ‘remote control.’ I reckon you’ve got both Råtta and Alice pretty down pat as well – especially the Buddhist monk bit about Alice, I think.

      Fact is, Råtta and Alice are no more different than the vast majority of people here in Hong Kong. I find that people who are generally paid shit and low down in some kind of organisation often unknowingly get sucked into someone else’s RPG (rumour-playing games) because they’re such fantastic fodder – don’t know how they got sucked in, easily disoriented, don’t know how to extricate themselves.

      Personally, I wouldn’t go as far as firing Alice – she ain’t easy to deal with but not what we might classify as difficult. It’s hard for me to put into words unless we see Alice in the flesh – and then we know. The real problem with Alice, I think, is that she’s the type who’s intelligent enough but simultaneously easily manipulated by others – and that’s what makes her type harder to handle than most, I think.


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