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Archive for the ‘Frown’ Category

I’m On Reality TV

I have written more than once about my experience at Starbucks in town.  In fact, I think I deserve a token amount of sponsorship fees from the popular chain.  Lounging at any one of the 100 plus establishments in the city proves to be both relaxing and entertaining.  Other than my last psychic experience, today I found myself assuming the entertainer role.

Chatting with a friend over green tea latte and cappuccino is a treat of itself, particularly when it’s over 32 degree celsius outside, and we were happy to finally have the opportunity to sit down catching up rather than endless texting.  2 minutes down our conversation, we couldn’t help but noticed a couple of teenage girls staring our way.  Yes, literally staring and listening intently.  It’s a wooden bench type of seating, so I accepted that privacy was never warranted.  Yet listening while looking straight at us was certainly far from discrete.

The girls were not talking amongst themselves.  They were not flipping through magazines, and it felt like my friend and I were a giant television screen right in front of them.  They heard all of our gossips and juicy exchanges, but no one other than the two of us should be able to make sense over what we were yapping about.  Strangely, the girls giggled when we laughed.  Okay, this was downright creepy.

My friend signalled me to lower my voice, since I admit I do have the tendency to get overly excited when I am deeply involved in a conversation.  However, it seems that the quieter we muttered, the more appealing our apparently secretive conversation became to our audience.

I feel that the curious duo should pay for our drinks.   When we left the cafe, I could see them looking our way laughing and mouthing apparent judgements on us.

Yes, we all judge.  We all like to pass judgements over people we hardly know.  My friend and I probably have a million punch lines waiting to be abused by the observant onlooker.  Yet, it’s my first time experiencing it in my face, and in broad daylight without the slightest attempt of coverup.

Maybe this is just a tip of the iceberg.  If we hadn’t left that early, we might find ourselves captured on YouTube tonight.   They could have called for their parents to physically enjoy the free entertainment and mockery session.

My conclusion is that Starbucks is a hotbed of interesting (creepy) personalities, and I should really go back more often to get inspirations for my writing.  If I can’t avoid being the freelance entertainer at times, maybe I should at least erect a signage of http://corporateshopaholic.com  on my coffee table, as a desperate attempt to promote my blog while being featured.

Starbucks, here I come.

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Contractors, contract staff, temps, permanent staff, consultants.  They all have similar jobs.  They work in the same team, under the same boss, who is almost always on permanent headcount.  These are all inventive ways to commoditize human capital, and they are designed to wiggle through the tightening policies in the workplace.  Regardless of what the rationale is, leaders should know that there are distinctively different ways to incentivize human capital according to how they are hired or engaged.

From the way I set this up, you would sense that I am not really seeing this being mastered.  Some leaders know these terms by heart, but they are simply dumbfounded by the workforce who are knowledgeable about all the risks and rights of these engagements.  When a work friend of mine complained about disloyalty of a contract staff some time ago, my reaction was simply: “What do you expect?”

I know it may sound totally unrealistic from the job market we are in today, but as I have said over and over again in the past, we all got to “de-commoditize” ourselves.  Only when we do it can we set ourselves apart and regain some power back, as an employee.  In my friend’s case, his contract staff has one of the highest sought after attribute in the workplace – the ability to close projects.  There are many who are fantastic in the whole song and dance but lack the ability to pull people together to make things happen.  This person exhibits strong cohesion that allows him to lead projects successfully toward completion.  With that track record, he will be grabbed by other aspiring employers in no time, while my friend is still trying to bad-mouth his contractor’s seemingly disloyalty, in sheer disbelief.

A leader who fails to see through an employee’s strengths and weaknesses will always find himself or herself stuck with the worst people.  On the other hand, workers who fail to develop themselves out of a commodity will continue be taken advantage of in the corporate world.

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Do nice guys finish last?

Yes according to the University of Notre Dame, reported by NBC News.  Apparently, being one of those people who gets along with your coworkers gets you a smaller paycheck at the end than those people who are not as agreeable in the workplace.  “Being bad is good for your bottomline.”  The study reveals that disagreeable men earn US$10,000 a year more than nice guys.

Hmmm….

Well I’m not a fan of stepping on others in order to get ahead, but I have seen countless number of times where others attempt to do so behind my back.  No matter how self-righteous I try hard to be,  I can’t help to make sure I am constantly watching out for my back.  However, it’s about what “bad” means here.  If it’s about being insistent and fierce in the workplace, it can be a pretty neutral or even influential behavior.  If we are talking about “jerks” in general, why they get a bigger paycheck certainly strikes up a lot of controversies.

One thing I can experience for sure is that being nice can easily end up being taken for granted, or even taken advantage of.  Not everyone appreciate goodness and competencies in the spirit it’s intended.  Just because you are conscientious, well-mannered, understanding and a people person, you can sometimes be perceived as a push-over.  In circumstances like this, and if you truly have talent and value to showcase for, my advice is to take a harder stand.  No, not on your coworkers, but on those who are trying to rip you off.

I can’t stress more about the prerequisite here.  It’s whether you have distinctive value in the first place.  Otherwise, bragging about something non-existent is not only unrealistic but borderline annoying.  If you have what it takes and you know how much it is valued in the market place, fight for your worth.  Use reasoning, facts and logic.  I may not get what I wanted, but I wish that I have tried my very best to make my case, and most importantly, feeling respected at the end.

My experience tells me that there are always those who are trying to test my boundaries purely as a negotiation habit of themselves.  There is no way around it.  I can only step up to the game.  The process can be ugly, petty, frustrating or sometimes even disgusting, but it has to be played out.  If I can learn to put emotions aside, I believe I have the power to somehow turn this undesirable process into a much more professional exchange.

Nice guys finish last?  It depends on where the finishing line is, baby.

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Some Facebook apps have certainly gone out of hand.  Lingering over someone else’s Facebook page is perhaps an unspoken reality for many, but installing an app to push people’s relationship status updates to you is borderline stalkerish.   Continuing on from my earlier post on No To Facebook Depression, digital morality seems to be hitting a new low with new app developers.

The tagline of the app Breakup Notifier reads:

“You like someone.  They’re in a relationship.  Be the first to know when they’re out of it.”

 

The tagline of the app Crush Notifier reads:

“You like someone.  They like you back.  Get crushed.”

Apparently when Breakup Notifier was launched in February this year, more than 3 million users flocked to the tool almost overnight.  While the demand kept rising by the day, it was confirmed shortly and officially that Facebook broke up with the Breakup Notifier.  According to the Washington Post, “…the affair was short-lived”.

And if this hasn’t creeped you out enough, shortly after Breakup Notifier folded, a new app Waiting Room came to the rescue by offering former Breakup Notifier users upgraded stalkerish efficiency.

The tagline of the app Waiting Room reads:

“Wish a friend was single?  Anonymously enter a friend’s WaitingRoom and give them a hint that they have options.  WaitingRoom will give you the confidence to become single again — if that’s what you really want.”

According to Mashable.com, “Not only will the Facebook app notify you when the person you’re pining after relieves himself or herself from a relationship, but it will also help you anonymously encourage that breakup.  Here’s how it works: When you indicate interest in an unavailable Facebook friend, that person gets an e-mail notification that there is someone in his or her “WaitingRoom” (this person need not have the app installed at this point). The identity of the admirer isn’t revealed until the recipient has changed his or her Facebook status to single.”

What has our world come to these days?  Should we get into caves to safeguard our already fragile relationships from being further sabotaged? 

On the other hand, supporters’ rebuttal is likely to be: “If recruiters can use business networking portals like LinkedIn to poach us from leaving our current employers onto hotter, fancier alternatives, why couldn’t we do it on Facebook for our lifetime happiness?”

Sick logic it is, I have to say.

 

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Dealing with suppliers that are not in any way smaller than your employers is one of the trickiest negotiation scenarios to master.  I cannot believe I still come across senior procurement executives who continue to believe that they are given almighty powers just because they are in the seats of making multi million deals.   More often than not, they are the ones who constantly get themselves hit with never-ending surprises.  I pay no sympathy for them, not even a tiny bit.

I wrote about reciprocal trading last year and that existence is plentiful with large multinational suppliers.  What I encountered recently is the classic example of negotiation leverages – the battle between the lawyers.

A big technology supplier is insisting to use a brand new contract template on a renewal deal, while we believe that it is just going to be a tremendous time drain to review all the terms and conditions again from scratch.  Lawyers of mutual parties refuse to give in, and as in every negotiation, essentially it’s the deal itself that is going to matter.  As long as I gather the bottom line position of my stakeholders (i.e. users), it is now up to me to lay it out on the table by keeping it simple.  Do we need this deal or not?

The answer is always yes, or we won’t get ourselves into this situation in the first place.  If this is a deal not worth remembering, no one would have been bothered by it this much.  As long as the intention is mutual, there is ought to be some common ground that we can all work with.  I usually don’t dwell on matters that are already handled by the lawyers to avoid redundancy.  I focus on the logic portion and point out the inconsistencies I see of the other party’s arguments.  Why is a new template needed?  What’s changed?  What does it have to do with our other similar agreements in other markets?  Why wasn’t this mentioned during bid phase?  Why are we discovering this only now?

In short, don’t take us for a ride.  Our company’s time is worth much more.  I reserve no time for last-minute rip-offs.  Even if we really rely on you, we deserve some professionalism instead of some third grade sleeky salesmanship.

Obviously, I sugar-coat such messages.    Though every seasoned salesperson, or in many cases the Managing Directors, would have gotten my messages.  When I make it a point as to question someone’s professional credibility or even integrity, coupled with logical reasoning and facts, there is no way the other party won’t budge.

Does it work on people on the same side as I do?  You bet.  Did they inspect all the fine prints when they received the quote?  Did they sound way too eager when they approached the supplier?  Did they not make it clear as to what’s important to the company aside from the service only?

I have to say again and again that none of this is rocket science, and those of you reading this must also agree that this is just common sense.  However, you may be surprised just how much time and effort continues to be wasted on such power play.

Perhaps, that equates to job security to many.

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My Beloved

Never underestimate the power of a song and its lyrics.  Last night I was watching a Taiwanese entertainment talk show featuring the local diva Ah-Mei, and by the end of her live performance I  found myself tearing up.  I then youtubed the song’s music video and ended up crying through the night like a pathetic loser.  Yes, I was utterly moved to my tears.

Although it’s obviously no fun at all seeing and feeling yourself aching at heart and weeping alone, somehow I find that it’s a blessing to have the ability to feel and get in touch with my emotions.  I have never felt more alive, and it can be endearing to express my vulnerability once in a while.

To all of you who have truly loved someone in the past, I dedicate this song to you.  Enjoy a good cry, and move on!

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A popular mainland Chinese cable TV show that attracts over 100 million viewers per episode continues to strike up controversies across the country.   It is similar to a condensed version of “The Bachelor” where 24 eligible ladies express their interests over 5 bachelors in each weekly episode, with the bachelors making their ultimate decisions after a few rounds of shortlists by the ladies. 

The show’s popularity lies largely on the eligible ladies.  Most are attractive models, former beauty peagent contestants or from well off families.  Yet like any other reality shows, viewers are mostly attracted by the unrehearsed snappy exchanges on stage.  For this show, there are plenty of this, from the bachelorettes.

“Is it because I’m just too beautiful?”

“I just know you need a beating the moment I hear you speak.  Let me get a whip now.”

“Looking at you make me realize that coming to this show is both a game and a dream.  Now I’m woken from my dream.” (upon seeing a bachelor with ordinary looks)

“We have to face the reality here.  The reality is that men turn bad when they got money.”

“Why is it me again? Damn, all I want is a low-profile life!” (upon selected by the bachelors repeatedly)

“Your clothes are from the 1930s.  Wait till it’s the 30s to look for your wife then.”

“I want the elite of the men, the talent of the elites, and the prince of the talented.”

“Never know what wine feels like till you are drunk, what love feels like till you have loved, what wealth means till you have been poor.”

“A person with my beauty and talent deserves no one less than David Beckham.”

“This is a dead-end with utterly no future.  Any woman who choose to be with you will never find light.”

The most renowned and controversial quote comes from a bachelorette in front of a bachelor who loves riding bikes.  “I’d rather cry on a BMW than laughing on a bike.”

Due to the candid exchanges on screen, the controversial show receives continuous censorship by the national broadcasting bureau on their “materialistic” influences.  However, the 100 million and plus viewers who tune in definitely find something that resonates: the overwhelming craving of wealth in today’s China.  Worse yet, everyone want to take shortcuts.  If you can capitalize on your looks, bodies, youth and social status, do it before it’s too late.  There is this oldest Chinese saying, “Laugh at the poor but not at the prostitutes,” that summarizes this prevailing but wicked notion in today’s China.  Well, if we are talking about those who are too underprivileged to even make their own living, the measuring stick may need a bit of fine tuning.  Though for a substantial portion of the viewing audience, plus those of the wealthy middle classes here in Hong Kong, the alarming phenomenon of generations X, Y and Z circulates around the dream of falling into the comfort of wealth and security right after coming out of college.  Paying the dues?  Going after my dreams?  No, not for me, if there is a bigger meal ticket up for grabs.  Dreams are far secondary.

Then there is this outcry of eligible ladies in their mid 30s in Hong Kong who complain that they can never find their other halves because no one is good enough for them.  Sure they are super eligible.  Most of them have successful careers and are financially independent.  They look down upon on guys who are indecisive and aimless.  They look for men who are secure, even more financially stable, and to top it off, willing to invest in extensive amount of time and efforts to woo them and make them feel like goddesses.  That’s not a bad dream, but you would think all that education and life experience would have prepped them to be a bit more realistic and tactful in the lesson of mutual support and give and take.  Think about the competition, ladies.  Be vulnerable, for once.  It’s no business transaction.

It certainly goes both ways for sure.  Too many men refuse to grow up and prefer to forever stay in our childhood utopia of computer games and instant gratification.  That is alright as long as a secure meal ticket is on the table.  “No, I just want a job that doesn’t take too much work and effort.  I can live with what I make now.”  The only thing is that they don’t realize they won’t stay 30 forever.  There will always be younger, fitter, and more aggressive new generation coming in and grabbing your jobs, in a second.  What’s the future, guys?

When young attractive people are going on television not to showcase their talents but to participate in some reality dating shows, I’m not sure whether I should shake my head or applaud them for making a run of fulfilling their childhood fantasies.  For many of them, I suspect that marrying someone rich literally is the bedtime story read by their parents.

 

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6 / 2 (1 + 2) = ?

Other than the viral links circulating around Facebook these couple of days about Osama Bin Laden’s alleged bloody pictures or those “See Who Viewed My Facebook Profile” apps, one popular question on Facebook lately is the supposedly simple and straightforward math as follows.

6 / 2 (1 + 2) = ?

The question seems so straightforward (it’s fourth grade math) that 1.5 million adults answered online, and got it totally wrong.  That is, if you believe the answer is 1.

I think most remembered to add the bracketed 1 and 2 together first, but I, amongst the 1.5 million people so far (and still counting apparently…), totally forgot the cardinal rule of tabulating in the order of left to right.   So, for those who are 4th grade proficient, they know the correct answer is 9.  Those who answered wrongly with the answer 1 constitutes over 44% of the respondents.  Nothing to console myself about, really.

No, I’m not smarter than a 5th grader.  Now I’m depressed – again.

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Finding Ourselves

So I have a desktop computer at home, and a 16-inch laptop.  Oh yes I have another 10-inch netbook for my travels, and of course an iPhone.  I just ordered my iPad 2 a few days ago, which I am expecting in a couple of weeks. 

Things have definitely gone out of hand.

Now when I get an e-mail, I get it on my iPhone, on my computers, and on my Facebook if it’s a Facebook message.  When I work, I also have all my messages and e-mail forwarded to my work blackberry.  There are so many ways I can get in touch with my friends and it does take a while for the virtual party to figure out whether it’s best to text, whatsapp, MSN, Facetime, skype or Facebook chat with each other.  It just seems as if we are all too lazy to pick up the phone these days, and I am just as guilty as anyone I know.

If I ask you how you have been sending pictures to your contacts, I’m sure I will get quite a few different answers.  However, the trend is definitely moving toward personal mobile devices that can talk, text, take pictures, exchange info, entertain, and surf. 

I feel like we never have any so-called free time anymore.  In the city of Hong Kong, it’s like we have been trained to keep ourselves occupied 24 hours a day.  It’s a sin to stare blankly anywhere even for just a few minutes.  We are surfing Facebook, catching up with the news, playing games, and texting with our friends no matter whether we are on the subway, at the coffee shop, or quietly recuperating at home. 

I also feel at times that we are no longer actively using our brains.  Yes it’s been working but more often than not our brains have been passively bombarded with junk information that we can live without.  So much data is being pushed on us now and those who are not careful can very well lose track of who they are.  Why is it a crime to give ourselves a few minutes of free time to listen to our bodies and inner voices?  Are we feeling contented, or are we lost?  Are we designing our own destiny or are we following some set upon paths for us? 

Take a breather, get to the countryside, pack some light lunch, leave your gadgets and spend some quality time with yourself for an afternoon.  Think and be free.  We all deserve just that.

 

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Talk about business title inflation.  I now see so many “Chiefs” around the corporate space.  Southwest Airlines has a Chief Twitter Officer. Coca-Cola and Marriott have Chief Blogging Officers. Kodak has a Chief Listening Officer.  When does it end?  As with everything else, title inflation just leads to value degradation.  In order to have the relevant stakeholder give you the time of day, you need to be appropriately titled or apparently you are a complete waste of their time.

Sometimes putting a chief officer in an area is to merely broadcast to the outside world that you are committed to such space, rather than doing anything fundamentally useful.  In larger multinational corporations we always hear of the company’s core values and principles.  Easy, we’ll name a chief officer for each of them.  Chief Integrity Officer.  Chief Teamwork Officer.  Chief Speed Officer (no it’s not what you think).  Chief Openness Officer.  Chief Fun Officer.  Chief Equal Opportunities Officer.  Chief Creative Officer (Microsoft).  You will definitely not go wrong.

What’s popular these days?  Facebooking, twittering, blogging, etc. leads to companies creating such chief officer positions like SouthWest, Coca-Cola and Marriott. 

Sign me up for Chief Recreation Officer any day.  I heard it’s such a tough job that I should remember to ask for more vacation days.

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