Why I Left My Company 2 Years Into The Covid Pandemic
I would have never imagined to be jobless in my 45th year. My 44th year was filled with so many challenges and so much excitement that I was so ready to take on my 45th year heads on. Plans had been set in August. Many plans. Wonderful plans. Job was going well. The social media strategy for my department was on point. Life was good. Then the straw that broke the camel's back happened all because of one announcement.
An Ex-Colleague Returns
The evening of Nov 27 2021, Glenn (National Group Fitness Manager) announced in the Group Fitness Instructors' (full-timers) group chat that Kester will be returning to Fitness First Singapore as the company's very FIRST Senior Group Fitness Instructor starting Dec 1 2021. After freelancing for over 2 years, Kester decided to apply for the Group Fitness Instructor role when 2 roles opened up in the 4th quarter of 2021.
I knew early on that he would be applying and had no qualms of him getting the role. Kester is a great guy and definitely would have added much value to the current team. What I didn't expect though was him given the Senior position without any thought for the current team who had worked really hard, especially through 2 years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This decision made by the management did not sit well with me. The conversations with Glenn that followed after his announcement sealed my decision to leave the company and the industry.
"You Can Now Work Hard For The Position"
Please do pray tell what did Kester do for the company during the 2 years of the Covid-19 pandemic whilst many of us within the department were working hard to keep the company moving. Did he work full-time outside in a role that would have granted him leverage for this newly created position? Did he pick up a skill that was above and beyond what any of the current team has in their toolbox? Did he add any value to the company within the past 2 years?
A statement such as this from the National Group Fitness Manager broke my heart and spirit. I'm sure many others felt it too since I got a number of PMs after that grand entrance statement. So what have the rest of us been doing since the start of Covid-19? Apparently we were doing it all wrong. Helping the Group Fitness Managers with the studios, working with each other to keep our member base, teaching our classes like there's no tomorrow.
I pushed really hard the past 2 years because I wanted to contribute to the company staying afloat. I stepped up to manage a social media account to help answer members' queries and calm their anger when they couldn't get official responses. I forwent family time just to set up the studios every effing time SportSG released a new guideline. I remember almost blacking out at Fusionopolis on one of the Sunday evenings cos I rushed there after my Paya Lebar's triple class and a last minute call for help from Jasmine to help with the Paya Lebar Studio. Was on the brink of collapse and had to tell Linda, Amy and Bryan to give me a little time cos the world spun around me. Guess I wasn't working hard enough.
You don't tell someone who worked hard, to work harder. It implies that you are taking that employee for granted and the message of "you will never be good enough."
"You Need To Do Things Outside Of Your Job Scope"
When I asked Glenn what I'd have to do to be promoted to Senior Group Fitness Instructor, his reply was that I would have to do things outside of my job scope. Wait a minute.
First you tell me I have to work hard(er). Then tell me I have to do things outside of my job scope. Noted with thanks.
GroupX SG was outside of my job scope. GroupX SG was a platform that I knew I would be able to use to my best abilities in assisting Fitness First Singapore calm angry members. Angry members who were terminating their memberships by the hundreds; demanding answers which they were not able to get via the official channels. I knew my skillset coupled with my product knowledge allowed me to answer members (within the scope and marketing guidelines of Fitness First Asia) which in turn stemmed the flow of members terminating, but also calmed many who were on the verge of terminating.
Me stepping up to manage this site on my own accord, outside of my job scope, did not sit well with (to my knowledge) Glenn and Naila, both Senior Group Fitness Managers then. They neither questioned me nor explained why they didn't like me working on GroupX SG, but made their unhappiness known to the managers. Once, in a Microsoft Teams meeting Glenn even mentioned to me about GroupX SG, in front of everyone, "No one asked you to do." That line still resonates today. The good intentions I had for both members and the department were snubbed, and this felt personal. Maybe I shouldn't have stepped up, and allowed the company and department to burn instead.
I ran out of things that I could do outside of my job scope. Manning the Front of House counters due to the shortage of manpower. Reading and memorising every new SportSG Guideline. Rushing down to studios to measure and paste stickers. Virtual class filmings. Teaching classes already took a toil on me. Fighting fires via GroupX SG DM and managing an online community. I've done more than the other Group Fitness Instructors, and much more than couple of Senior Group Fitness Managers. What else would you like me to do outside of my job scope?
* Note: Had a chat with Anil (Fitness First Singapore Country Manager) a couple of weeks after I tendered my resignation. He clarified that the statement by Glenn was wrong. It should have been for whoever took up the Senior role would have to pick up additional job scope (eg managing a team). This is a given though, isn't it? I'd love to be promoted senior without having a wider job scope. Higher position, more pay, same work. Who don't want?
"There Was No Ill Intention Towards You"
I don't think there was any ill intention towards me or any Group Fitness Instructor when Glenn decided on creating this role for Kester. There was just zero thought. Personally, that's worse.
At least with ill intention, there was a sense of WHY one was not considered for the role. Zero thought meant he did whatever he wanted with no consideration for everyone. No consideration of how such a decision would impact the dynamics of the team. No consideration of how everyone would feel.
In a meeting with some managers a couple of weeks prior, they were asked who helped out at the clubs. I was told that many names, but mine were mentioned. When a manager finally brought my name up, Glenn's response, as I was told, was lacklustre and mediocre at best. "Oh yah, Leonard." The response of an afterthought, or should I say, zero thought.
And So I Left
Even though I loved my job. Even though I loved engaging with members online/offline helping them so they stay with the company. Even though I loved working with most of my colleagues. I chose to leave because I felt I'd never be appreciated for all that I do by the new National Group Fitness Manager. And I knew it was the right decision cos 24 hours after submitting my resignation letter, he processed it without any counter offers. That showed me just how much I was worth to him and the department.
I'm not an ambitious person. I do not care about positions. I do not care about money. Friends who know me know I'm very chin chye (easy going). I care about my work and making sure the company stays afloat. I also care that I be appreciated for the work and effort I've put in, that the company be willing to invest in me just as much as I invest in it. Since the GroupX SG movement, I've always asked members to be fair to the company, and whilst doing so, I worked hoping the company would be fair to me. As evident, it has not. As I mentioned to Anil, I don't need to be treated equally, but I do expect to be treated fairly.
And so I left knowing I have not and will not be treated fairly.
Why I Chose To Leave Completely
Some members asked why I couldn't stay, even if just to teach my classes. It is impossible to stay when such a card gets played by the management. I felt resentful, anger and bitter because I wasn't treated fairly. I would have been a terrible employee. My already crumbling mental health would have suffered even further if I stayed. I would stop being that fun loving, cheerful, helpful person I've been known to be in the company. Everything would suddenly be calculated based on "what is in it for me." I cannot work that way because that doesn't gel well with my value system.
As someone who lived and breathed the company values, I would have continued to help out at the Front of House when they needed help, and volunteer my time with the Group Fitness Managers when they needed assistance. Not to mention, members would have expected me to continue doing what I did with GroupX SG. I had to severe all ties as I was no longer willing to invest my time and effort helping my National Group Fitness Manager, department and company look good. Leaving was my only option. This way, nobody wins.
Here's a joke to finish this whole blog post, since I'm a funny guy after all.
How do you get promoted to Senior Group Fitness Instructor at Fitness First Singapore?
You resign for 2 years. Do absolutely nothing. Then you apply.
Thanks for making this new position a joke, Glenn.
BONUS: I Have The Power
Some time in early November, Mingfei gave Glenn some cookies which he posted onto social media. I joked with Glenn and said that that looks like bribery as Mingfei was looking into signing as a full-time Group Fitness Instructor. His reply was, "I have the power." Words, be it in jest or not, no subordinate wants to hear from his boss.
Since he mentioned "power", then I will leave the words of a famous uncle. Not me lah. A different and more famous uncle.
Uncle Ben Parker to Peter Parker: With great power comes great responsibility.
Use your power responsibly.