Remember the tale of the grrl named Butterfly?
So off she went for a little holiday just before her work contract ended. She decided way in advance that no matter what happened she would treat herself to a trip overseas for the tough year in Bokyo.
Right after Butterfly returned to Bokyo, she decided to talk to the Head about her work contract. Her first meeting before she went off for her holiday did not bear any fruits. Her meeting this time also didn't seem to have much effect whatsoever.
Seeing that nothing was still being done after working 1 month into her 2nd year without a contract, Butterfly decided to take things into her own hands.
Butterfly sent an email to the Head, gently reminding him about the contract that he owed her. It was truly strange to continue working in the company under such circumstances. Legally she could have just stopped working as there and then. However, since there was no contract, the Head was also not legally bound to pay for the work done after that 1 year on.
After a few days, the Head replied with a supposedly new contract. Nothing much changed. In fact, there was no salary increase, no bonus, no obvious benefits compared to the previous one. As she turned to the 2nd page, she saw that the number of leaves had increased from 10 to 12. As she read on, however, she also noticed that the number of sick days had decreased from 5 to 3.
Wow, Buttefly thought, the Head must have thought she lacked basic mathematical skills. Or perhaps that she just wouldn't notice such a change made in her favour. Surely if everything else remained the same from the previous contract, such a change in figure would have been immediately obvious to even a kid.
So Butterfly emailed the boss, and courteously thanked the Head for being so magnanimous with the terms of her new contract. But she added that she wanted to further discuss the changes he mentioned.
That night, Butterfly made some notes on the new contract, just enough to remind her what to talk to the Head about. She was much better writing than speaking and decided that using some written guides would help prepare her discussion with the Head the next morning. She realised she had to stand up for herself, if it meant speaking her mind, which was something she rarely did.
As soon as the Head sat down to listen to what she had to say, Butterfly started the tone by expressing how disappointed she was with the contract. In fact, it was so insulting that nothing much has changed from the previous one. Instead of improving on things, it had gotten worse. Previously she thought she had bagged herself a dream job that would allow her flexibility, but everything seemed to have gone downhill from then on.
The fact that the Head had asked her to help in some personal errands, not grant her compassionate leave when her grandmother passed away, and requested that she visited a client on her sick leave made her feel more like a slave instead. By having a new contract which did not work in her favour and was more restrictive, it was like a tight slap on Butterfly's face.
The Head was obviously taken aback by Butterfly's outspokenness. He had not seen her spoke like this before, and was a little speechless for awhile. But he quickly regained his composure and defended his reasons for the changes.
He said that since the economy was not doing well, employees should not be demanding for a raise and should be happy that they had a job. Butterfly said that they were not asking for a raise merely because they wanted more money. But rather, the Head should see it as a way to reward them for their contribution the previous year. Still, the Head said there was nothing much he could do as that was just the way it had to be.
As soon as he had finished his sentence, Butterfly would cut in with her next point and go on about how unfair she was being treated. Like how all her other colleagues were allowed to work from home while she was the only one who had to be at the office everyday at regular hours. Or the fact that they had flexihours and the freedom to run errands on working days.
As Butterfly got more into the mood of being forthright, she continued on with how unhappy she was with the situation at work. It felt rather awkward in the beginning as she was brought up not to speak back to her superiors. But as the discussion continued on, it was clear that the Head finally heard Butterfly's side of the story.
At the end of it, she felt a mixture of relief and guilt. Relieved because she has expressed what she had wanted to say all these while. Guilty because she thought perhaps she might have been a little too brash. But after talking to some friends, they encouraged her to keep being outspoken as that was the only way to deal with the Head.
Butterfly decided that she would take it as a good step forward in learning to speak up for herself and in dealing with Western Heads. She gave herself a pat on the back for doing something good for herself.
Still, it was not easy doing what she did. She took quite some time to get into that mode, and even though she would lapse into her old self now and then, she had to remind herself that being honest was not wrong. In fact, at the right situation, to tell the truth without fear or favour would only help solve the problem at hand. Even if it hurts.
A week after that discussion, Butterfly got a renewed contract. Her number of leaves remained at 12, while the sick days was kept at 5. That was probably the only change the Head made, but the Head seemed more considerate and was more appreciative of her work.
*Any resemblance to real-life characters is purely coincidental. Excerpts from this story may be reproduced by acknowledging the writer.