Post-93: What’s the Opposite of “Golden Handshake”?

Golden Handshake (informal), a sum of money, usually large, given to an employee, either on retirement in recognition of long or excellent service or as compensation for loss of employment. [Link]

J.H. (American, born 1987) was always polite, to a fault, to the Korean managers. He is my coworker till next Friday.

J.H. missed not a single class for illness or any other reason in 19 months, and he was popular with the kids. He maintained a deferential politeness towards, and avoided any confrontation with, management (which allowed them to push J.H. around in ways I won’t go into). He didn’t fight when “corners were being cut” against us, instead shrugging it all off, even when I and others were ready to fight — “better to keep the peace”, he reasoned. Now, as thanks for all his loyalty and deference, he’s received a final kick in the stomach, right as his foot is out the door.

Next Friday is actually the last day of not only the magnanimous J.H., but also of the wiry M.R. (born 1971), who is occasionally called “Steve Jobs Teacher” (see post-21). M.R. has been very helpful to me in the past year, but he was antagonized by Korean management literally from day-one (in a humorous anecdote I could relate another time).

Both J.H. and M.R. will remain in Korea, and start different jobs. They are both a bit sick and tired of this particular place of employment, especially M.R. Still, both have served their time loyally.

J.H.’s “Golden Kick in the Stomach”
At about 3:15 PM yesterday, I overheard a heated discussion in the 4th-floor teachers’ room, between J.H. and one of the many Korean “managers”. They were alone in the teachers’ room. I don’t know where everybody else was. I only heard bits and pieces of their exchange, as I was in a classroom preparing something at the time. The Korean manager was that pernicious “stringbean of a woman” I briefly mentioned in post-61.

They were arguing in there. J.H. was still trying to be polite, but was getting more and more flummoxed.

A few minutes later, J.H. told me what the fuss was. Management is insisting it will not pay him his contractually-assured return-airfare, worth $1,200. This was confirmed when he met Miss Stringbean again at 10 PM, after work. I met J.H. after work for an hour or so to hear about the situation and give advice. Management had a few half-baked (technical) reasons for why they were refusing to pay. J.H. speculated they’d cooked-up half of them between 4 PM and 10 PM that very day. One was that J.H. is staying in Korea so he “wasn’t entitled to the airfare”. He is actually going home, anyway, in the first two weeks of July, to visit. His new job starts in mid-July. There is nothing in the contract stipulating some kind of “forfeiture of airfare for taking another job in Korea”. An absurd proposition. The other pretexts given were equally dubious. Management refuses to pay him even a portion of the airfare. Unethical. Illegal.

Also cruel. Being (in effect) so openly “screwed out of” an expected $1,200 in compensation is never fun, but it is particularly depressing for J.H. After all, for 19 months he tried so hard to be deferential and acquiescent, as I say above. He didn’t fight when he could have, over Management’s refusal to give legally-required vacation days, or over Management’s skimming-off-the-top regarding pay. He let it all go. I was also affected by those things, and I was committed to fighting…. (alas, perhaps it’s better to continue with that another time, if I ever care to).

J.H. is depressed and angry. He is now on the warpath, thinking seriously of going to court.

A “golden handshake” is a gift of money in appreciation of somebody’s service, when they are leaving a company. “Hey, thanks for your good work. Here’s a cash bonus.”  This situation calls for an opposite term, i.e. for “Hey, thanks for the loyal service and all, but we’re going to screw you out of a bunch of your contractual compensation anyway“.

I’d like to propose the phrase “golden kick-in-the-stomach for what has happened to J.H.

In 2010, I finished my first contract. I told the boss I’d buy my own plane ticket. I told her it was near $1,100, and the boss simply deposited that sum in my bank account. I wonder what my return-airfare-money “experience” will be this time, in light of J.H.’s recent trouble….


  1. This sucks!
    So what to do, don’t let anyone know anything about your plans, or what?
    This sucks!

    1. Yes, I’d say it’s best not to give them an inch, because they “can and will use it against you” (as the police-shows say). Business ethics is a weak spot in Korea.
      The resolution of this story: After much quarreling and various threats, J.H. was, finally, paid-off with the equivalent of $680. A one-way ticket should cost $1,000+. (As I say, at my other job, I was paid the Korean Won equivalent of $1,080 or $1,090 when I showed my boss the ticket I bought.) This sum of $680 was deposited into his account something like 24 hours before J.H.’s plane departed.
      Add this ~$400 underpayment of airfare-equivalent to the list of money he’s (and I’ve) been “cheated” out of through various kinds of accounting trickery. I have tried to keep away from writing about this subject, because it’s just too depressing.

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