Jobs gone wrong

Extreme examples of unprofessionalism across Thailand's workplaces

Work can be a pain in the ass (well, provided you actually have to work for a living). Not only do we have to wake up at an ungodly hour every morning, we're expected to put on pants, brave traffic and/or smelly commuters, suck up to the boss, deal with other people, and actually get stuff done on a daily basis. And on top of all that... we're expected to maintain an air of professionalism the whole way through!

Of course, we're only human, and there are bound to be times where any semblance of responsibility goes out the cubicle window. Oh, don't lie, you know you've irrationally picked a fight with the printer, drank beer from your coffee mug, and spent your day on Facebook instead of Microsoft Excel.

But don't feel too guilty; there are some people in this country who have made unbelievable mistakes while on duty. Just to be clear, we aren't encouraging mediocrity or saying it's OK to drop-kick your chatty colleague, but hopefully their horror stories will turn your bad day around and make you feel like a miracle worker again. And if anything, use them as a cautionary tale to avoid doing anything too extreme, because you don't want your unprofessionalism to become national news like their stories did.

THE CUSTOMER IS NEVER RIGHT

The screw-up: A shop assistant named Apisit Boonsri lost his marbles on the shiny tiled floor of a 7-Eleven store in Charan Sanitwong Soi 3. You're probably wondering how an innocent transaction between a 7-Eleven staffer and customer could go wrong, right?

The unprofessional act: On October 9, 2007, Nichakan Pongpensri took her usual morning trip to her neighbourhood 7-Eleven. She picked up bread and drinks and went to the counter Apisit was manning.

When Nichakan noticed he put everything in one bag, she asked him to separate the bread and drinks. Instead of offering the 7-Eleven customer service that we know and love, Apisit murmured something under his breath and it wasn't sweet nothings. Instead of ignoring the rude comment, Nichakan called him out, asking him why his attitude was so bad. This ticked Apisit off. He stormed out of the store and said now that he's off duty he and Nichakan should "take this outside". Taunting a woman to fight over another plastic bag, really?

Being a shopper not a fighter, Nichakan asked another staff to report him to his supervisor. This further angered Apisit, prompting him to storm back into the shop to hurl profanities at her. Fortunately, another employee took Apisit to the back of the shop to calm down or else things could have gotten more heated than salapao buns fresh out of the microwave.

But it didn't end there. According to a Manager report, Nichakan went to a nearby market to buy more stuff but Apisit followed her there on his motorcycle. As he walked towards her, onlookers berated him for acting like a thug. He called her to fight again. Nichakan feared that he might attack her so she reported him to the police. Consequently, Apisit was suspended from work for three days and was assigned to work at another branch. Well, perhaps 7-Eleven's ringing doorbell is bound to make employees go berserk at some point.

FIGHT AND FLIGHT

The screw-up: Being a flight attendant is hard enough as it is; you have to be careful not to bump people's elbows with the food cart and deal with any mishaps that occur in the not-so-friendly skies. But a Thai woman working for Cathay Pacific had to deal with a different kind of turbulence when she messed with the wrong passenger on a flight in November of last year.

The unprofessional act: The flight attendant, identified only as Phueng and who goes by Honey Lochanachai on Facebook, took to the social networking site and posted a message saying she wanted to throw coffee on one of her passengers... who happened to be the youngest daughter of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Upon realising that Paetongtarn Shinawatra was on her flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong, the flight attendant wrote this on her Facebook page: "I immediately told my flight manager I could not work knowing the daughter of my enemy was on the plane. I called my personal adviser asking if it would be all right to throw coffee at Paetongtarn, but was told that this could breach Hong Kong's laws."

Her unkind words against Paetongtarn went viral and it agitated Thaksin's supporters. They demanded the airline take action against the flight attendant. Although no coffee was actually thrown, Phueng later posted on her Facebook that she had resigned to show responsibility over the commotion she unintentionally caused.

If there's anything we can learn from this, it's to save harsh words about your job for the poor stranger next to you at the bar who has to hear you vent while drowning your sorrows in a bottle of Jack.

EXAM ERRORS

The screw-up: The National Institute of Educational Testing Service (NIETS) is an authority whose task is evaluating the education level in Thailand. The important-sounding organisation would have failed miserably had they been graded by students across the country.

The unprofessional act: NIETS is responsible for administering the Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net), a university entrance exam which was last taken by students in February. However, the supposed educators should have hit the books again because NIETS admitted around 400,000 students had been given exam papers that contained rookie errors such as duplicate choices, missing quiz numbers and incorrect test orders. Out of 90 questions in the science exam for Matayom 6 (Grade 12) students, 23 of them contained mistakes. These errors take up about 24 out of 100 points on the exam.

Along with these mistakes, the O-Net also contained ridiculous questions such as: "Why do Europeans like Thai massaman curry?" (The choices obviously being because of its spicy taste; its soupy quality; its colour; its fragrant spices; or, because it tastes like tom yam.)

Anyway, a whole hullabaloo ensued about the unfair scoring and dumb-as-nails questions on the test. But oh well, at least these exams give Thai students an excuse to hang out at their favourite coffee shops and partake in their favourite pastime of memorisation.

THEY TAKE BRIBES?!

The screw-up: A few policemen from Bang Rak police station visited a tailor in Sri Phraya on February 9. They weren't there for their order of fitted suits, though. They were there to ask for tae ear (gift of money) as the Chinese New Year Day was near.

The unprofessional act: Banjong Chiwamongkol, a reporter for The Nation, happened to be at the tailor shop when the pesky police entered. Recalling the gross misuse of power on his Facebook page, Banjong said that while he was talking to the shop owner, he saw three policemen walk in.

One cop extended his hand and asked the shop owner, "Do you have tae ear for us?" The shop owner whispered, "Please come back later. This is not a good time." The officer persisted asking for the gift of money a few more times. He demanded it be handed to him now as he had to go to other places and wouldn't have time to come back here. We guess extorters have a busy schedule during Chinese New Year.

The shop owner then proceeded to turn to Banjong and introduced him to the police as a reporter from The Nation. Banjong made a ballsy move by asking the officers if they knew it was illegal to ask for tae ear. The cops were taken aback but tried to make light out the situation. They said the bosses get a bigger cut of the sum they collect and quickly left.

After the story made headlines, a police inspector was transferred to an inactive post and the officers were put behind bars. Well, some jobs do come with freebies but it isn't a gift if you have to ask for it.

DR BUTCHER

The screw-up: We forget things while we work all the time. It's OK so long as you don't forget your work equipment in someone's body after you cut them open and seal them back like a doctor in Ang Thong did.

The unprofessional act: According to a Kom Chad Leuk report in December 2011, Hathairat Aonnatun first went to Ang Thong Hospital to have a C-section performed on her by an unnamed female doctor. One year later, she returned to the hospital because she had an unbearable pain in her stomach.

They performed an X-ray on her and found that the doctor had absent-mindedly left gauze in her abdomen. The hospital admitted to the mistake and removed the gauze. There was no report on consequences (if any) that the doctor who butchered the operation had to face, though.

OFFICE DRAMA

We talk to office workers in their 20s about different aspects of their work life. Here's what they had to say (all names have been changed so their bosses don't yell at them).

Bad Work Days

"We have this wireless microphone which we use to communicate with the news anchor. Just before we started shooting one day, the anchor wanted to change something on the on-screen graphic and I asked her to double-check if she's sure about the change. After the shooting was over, I complained about her changing things at the last minute without realising the microphone was still on. She heard everything and confronted me about it. I felt so bad about it and I tried to patch things up with her but she's still giving me the cold shoulder."

- Pink, TV programme producer.

"Two students in my class cheated. The brainy one let the not-so-bright one copy him. I was in the room while they took the exam but didn't realise that they cheated until the other students told me. I was disappointed and betrayed because I trusted them. At the same time, I felt the pressure to punish the two students in order to make it fair for the students who were honest. So I made them retake the exam and the best they could get was the passing score."

- Nat, university lecturer.

"My probation period was extended for one month. The boss simply told me I'm not up to the standard they wanted and if I couldn't prove myself to them within one month, I would have to leave. I was disheartened by the possibility I might be jobless after the extra month. However, I turned that anxiety into my motivation and the company finally accepted me."

- Kung, business development manager.

Annoying Habits

"There's this girl at work who likes to eavesdrop on me in order to find something to tattle about me to my supervisor."

- Noina, account executive.

"At my old office, my supervisor was very selfish. He didn't lead people who work for him. When we faced some issues where we needed guidance from someone with more power and experience, he simply refused. He said it wasn't his concern and that it was our job to fix them. I think he was so afraid to take responsibility should anything go wrong. I couldn't work for a guy like that. He was one of the reasons I quit to find a new job."

- Nop, assistant manager.

"I feel like people don't use the toilet with enough care especially when it's a shared space that we all use. Sometimes I'm shocked to see that someone doesn't flush the toilet properly and leaves unsightly bits in the toilet bowl. Eww! Aren't we supposed to be adults?"

- Waffle, librarian.

Dream Offices

"There should be a room in which workers can play video games, relax and take a nap. Like a second home."

- Duang, graphic designer.

"Working in a cubicle is so tedious. I don't want to work in a box. I don't know about you, but I find it somehow attracts mosquitoes. I want my workspace to be airy and spacey. Also I'm sure many offices have no-smoking signs at shared spaces and it would be nice if people honour them more."

- Barbara, account executive.

"The bosses can't be just good people. They have to be great. For example, they should ask people who work for them how they are doing more frequently. They should also make sure that the total workload has been distributed fairly among the workers and that the right guy is assigned to the right job. They shouldn't also get too chummy with any workers in particular and favour them over the others."

- Mod, secretary.