What we can learn from the NOC saga

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Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Recent allegations of workplace bullying and harassment against NOC’s co-founder Sylvia Chan has once again shined the spotlight on toxic work environments in Singapore. Screenshots of conversations, audio clips and video recordings are being shared all over various social media platforms. There’s even a blog post by those who claim to be a group of current and ex-employees of NOC sharing their encounters with Sylvia Chan along with some pretty damning evidence (allegedly). The situation has garnered lots of public attention and the police are now investigating these serious allegations.

Toxic work environments are unfortunately not uncommon in Singapore and it presents itself in various forms. It can be anything from using abusive/derogatory language, expectations for employees to work well beyond their working hours, messaging employees after work hours, sexual or racial discrimination, paying salaries late etc. The NOC saga is just one example of the many cases that don’t make it to mainstream media. While the case continues to unfold, let’s focus on an important lesson:

How to avoid/address being in a toxic work environment (employee standpoint)

Do your research on a company before joining

Research isn’t everything but it sure can give you a slightly better idea of the company you’re keen to apply for. Honestly, it’s better than going in blind. It helps if you know someone who works/formerly worked there, otherwise, visit sites like Glassdoor and Tellonym where employees/ex employees post anonymously about their experiences in various companies. That being said, not everything you find out about the company or its people will be accurate but if 8/10 people are singing the same tune, there’s probably a good reason why. It is then up to you to make a judgment call if you would still like to find out more or explore possibilities at a different company.

Observe and trust your gut

Say for example you attend an interview and you get a bad vibe/feeling. It can be anything really – from the interviewer to the place itself and even small interactions you see amongst people who work there. Don’t ignore early warning signs. When in doubt, trust your gut.

Identify red flags and deal with them

Sometimes it is only after joining the company that red flags start to appear. If that happens, you do need to assess the situation. How much of the toxicity can be avoided? Are the ones calling the shots abusing their power, showing favouritism or harassing employees? Is there a work culture where nothing gets done and everyone’s just busy pushing work/blame? Is there a lack of accountability and room for development/growth? Are you expected to complete tasks without being given the proper resources/information/time to do so, or else you shoulder the blame?

When any of the above is present, don’t choose to sweep it under the rug or tell yourself that this is how it is and you just have to accept it. Accepting it isn’t going to help the situation, nothing changes. More often than not, it only gets worse from there. You get used to being treated a certain way that is not healthy – over time, it can easily become a major source of stress that affects you psychologically, emotionally and perhaps even physically.

Find proper channels, most times through HR, to address workplace issues. Sad to say, it’s not always effective but at least try something to change the status quo. If you’ve exhausted different means to improve the situation and it still stays the same then…


Like it or not, the reality is that if you’re not in a position to effect change, your hands are tied. You don’t have many options but you can plan your exit. Word of advice? Learn to save money. So that if/when the time comes that you do feel the need to leave, money won’t be the factor holding you back. Otherwise, secure another job before you tender your resignation. Whatever it is, a toxic work environment is not something you should stay on in. Remember, nothing is worth your sanity and your health.

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