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Archive for the ‘Sick’ Category

I have no idea whether it’s because we really have nothing else to say in front of our friends and relatives.  After all we have already shared on Facebook over what marvellous life we have, the trips we have gone on and the mouth-watering food we have inhaled over the weeks.  If you think that we can then finally get down to what’s at stake, and what’s real – our lives, our ups and downs, our struggles and revelations when we finally got time to sit down with our best friends and family, you are wrong.

We are multi-tasking even when we have company.  Our conversations are constantly interrupted by instant messages, texts and up to the minute Facebook uploads and downloads, as well as tweets and weibo.  It feels that everyone else in the virtual world is more important than our companions at hand.  Oh yes, they would understand, since they are doing exactly the same in their virtual friend sphere, at the same time.

And for the few who are not so much into the latest digital gizmos, or the unthinkable catastrophe where your gadgets are either out of power or network coverage, not to worry.  If physical human interaction cannot be avoided, there is always our most loyal friend to the rescue, television sets.

There is nothing more tacky in my opinion than large screen LCD hanging television panels in restaurants in town, and they can be as densely installed as ceiling lights.  I hate it when it’s now considered a must-have item on the restaurant fixture list.  Not only are they in no way aesthetically pleasing, these 60 inches panels just suck the life out of everyone , turning them into chewing zombies.

Call me old-fashioned.   If you want to catch a TV show, stay home for it, or record it for private viewing later.  Please don’t strip away the last bit of enjoyment of actually sitting down for dinner, over a nice long chat.  For me, that latter eye-to-eye interaction is actually what makes a meal memorable.

If it’s up to me, I would really pick some place without the floating TV sets.  Maybe I’m really getting old.

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6 more days and we will enter into a new era under a brand new Chief Executive of the HK SAR. All we are bombarded by the news these days are the various scandals going on with the two transitioning heads of state. For months, the incumbent Donald was caught repeatedly by the press in reckless spending on business trips, accepting lavish traveling and even residential favors by local tycoons, and very much to our horror, smuggling truckloads of liquor from the chief executive’s mansion to his home. On the other hand, CY, the CE-elect, was wildly skinned by the public for lying blatantly about his illegal building works at his home – an offense which he harshly accused of his rival Henry only a few months ago. These scandals have hardly anything to do with public policies or the welfare of our fellow citizens. Worse yet, they speak about our leaders’ character and integrity. Or, the lack of it.

There is a saying that our souls can be corrupted by power, and don’t act all naive and shocked when you turn on the TV news. This happens everyday at the work place and in your households. The difference is only in terms of the level of misuse for personal gains. I am never saying that any of this can be condoned. I’m just saying that while we point our fingers at those around us, we should at the same time have the decency to look at how we conduct ourselves.

In my profession I always look into areas to minimize wastage and inefficiencies. I agree, these are only fancy and politically correct words. My company charges me to make sure we tighten up our expense control measures so that no one is stealing corporate resources. That’s why I am in one of the most hated professions on the planet.

Corporate resources can be traveling guidelines so that the junior marketing manager won’t be checking in to the presidential suite like our Donald did. They can also be how the heads of departments spend our money on unnecessary external consulting firms so as to “pass on the blame” for below-par business results. Talking about how it is best to spend company’s money is challenging and confrontational alone from a third-party point of view, but nothing is even remotely comparable to the landmines of employee benefits. You can imagine the extent of it by looking at the public riots you see in the cash-trapped countries of Greece and Spain.

What are these so-called employee benefits? Alright, we have hotel categories, hotel breakfasts, hotel locations, serviced apartments, daily spending limits, flight classes, lowest cost airlines, airline lounge access, airport limousines, club memberships, blackberry models, cell phone packages, laptops, flat screen monitors, office furniture, name cards, stationery, pens, folders, giveaways, and the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE nice things. I love to be pampered, and I like to think that I have earned my ranks enough to be treated nicely by my boss. However, I know what the reality is, and I know how to draw the line. I come in to work and deliver and get my pay check. Then I can spend it on nice things. I’d rather see my employer make money and then reward me with a bigger pay check. Then no one owes anyone anything. What strikes me hard is that I often see many well-off senior staff thinking very much like Donald and CY – let’s get as much out of the company/government as possible.

I am fully aware that there are blood-sucking corporations out there who take advantage of innocent workers like running a sweat shop. That’s why we protect our employees with well written policies – something which our Chief Executives conveniently omitted for themselves. We know what we are entitled to when we sign on to a job offer. From time to time, companies will want to revisit those policies due to flagging business results or other priorities, and this often creates an outroar of frustrations and resistance from everyone. In my years of experience, I often find the biggest resistance actually comes from the highest ranking staff and often the most wealthy ones. They work their way around with smart excuses, threats and pressure through their poor secretaries. The only thing they almost never do, is walk away. No, it’s not worth losing those high paying jobs, they admitted.

That to me is a complete revelation of their character, and it is eye-opening. I believe it is a competitive market out there, and every one of us should know how much bargaining power we have in all circumstances. If you truly believe you are being ill-treated by not getting the true rewards of your deliverables, walk away. There must be tons of other companies who want to grab you. You have suffered enough. Don’t bully your way through the innocent policy enforcers. Negotiate a bigger package and then take 150 days of leave a year to indulge. Don’t spend your precious time haggling over the next hotel tier or that first class window seat on your next business trip. The reality is, a business trip is a business trip. Even if you have Donald’s presidential suite, you can still hate it because your diamond shoes are too tight.

That’s why, if I am charged with attacking “greed” as one of my buying commodities, I will happily and politely defer to my fellow human resources colleagues for their professional enjoyment.

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Is asking this question a sign of ageing?  I hope not, as the targets I studied aren’t only the Generation X and Ys, but also people of my age or above.  I just cannot get over ladies dragging their ankles walking around the office floor with disturbing clunking noises (don’t mistake that with heels please), people chewing their food loudly like cows next to me, commuters screaming into their cellphones on the top of their lungs yapping about meaningless gossips, or professional athelete-type passengers who compete for a new Olympic Games category of jumping into occupied elevators or subway cars, holding the poor exiting souls hostage.

If you think we can just be chilled over all this nonsense and smirk over it, look me in the eyes and tell me you aren’t shocked and disturbed by the well suited man who jumped into the subway seat one second before you even had the chance to offer it to an elderly woman.

It’s not like we are at war times.  Most of us live in adequately provided environments and more often than not, nobody really owes us anything.  I don’t get how parents will inflict this upon their kids by encouraging them to be selfish, misbehaving snobs.  Alright, it’s probably because the parents themselves are like that, at work and at play. 

For me how a person carries himself or herself speaks a lot about their character.  Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do count people out by the negative traits I observe, and I don’t think I am alone.  To me, I cannot entrust them in anything if I feel that they do not even respect themselves. 

If you can think of a constructive way to steer the city back to the right direction, do let me know.  It will be a cause that I will stand proudly behind.  For now, I am doing my small part in my own professional space, so that I can sleep better at nights.

I wish. 

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Yes this topic has been on my mind since I started blogging about my career.  I deliberately held myself back, at risk of offending a union of powerful professionals.  For those who know me well through this blog, I hate generalization and it’s never my intention to put labels on anyone.  Come on, who am I to judge, when I am in a profession that is heavily undermined and stigmatized by many?

There, is my disclaimer for this long overdue piece.  It’s short, but I think it’s more than adequate for a personal blog with barely enough influence.

Gone are the days when we had to register at a placement agency for career opportunities, unless you are a fresh graduate from school.  Today, headhunters are constantly knocking on our doors looking for business.  There is always a new firm popping up every month or so in the city, but there are still countless of them reaching out to this region from the States, London or Australia.  Headhunters are to be respected.  They dig up the recruitment needs, make the connections, prep the candidates, negotiate the offers, and follow-up with the on boarding process.  They know the major power players in town, in the business, and in the profession.  They know the movements in town, the headcount surges and reductions, and most importantly, they know how much talent is worth by understanding the supply and demand dynamics of an engagement, or any industry as a whole.

How many times however, have you encountered into the following scenarios?

  • headhunters who fail to provide at least the minimum level of details of the job;
  • headhunters who you will never hear back once they get your consent to express interest;
  • headhunters who represent you in front of clients without your consent;
  • headhunters who don’t know anything, and I mean anything, about your profession

Alright I do not expect them to know the inside outs of what I do or what the client wants, but there are definitely basic answers that they should have before the first call.  That includes basic job description, reporting line, organization structure, whether the role is new or a replacement one, the type of personalities wanted, timeline as well as high level budget.  Although it is not unheard of for the candidate to discover these answers only at the first interview, with all the job opportunities around, we do need to assess whether we are at all interested in pursuing these opportunities, early on.  Most importantly, the last thing I want to do, and I think likewise for the recruiter, is the perception that we are wasting each other’s time.  That’s not what I would expect, when there is a headhunter mediating the process.

Since it’s such a fierce and fast-moving business, time and time again we are told that the opportunity is brand new, that things are evolving and the hiring managers are always on the move.  We are urged to send in our resumes and await further feedback.  Usually that’s the last you would hear from a majority of headhunters.  No, not even a courtesy phone call or e-mail.  Not releasing candidates prematurely is not an excuse for disappearing in mid-air.   There are ways and tactics to articulate messages while managing expectations in a professional manner.  Just not with those folks.

To make things worse, the last thing I want is a lecture from someone whom I have never known before in my life.  Believe it or not, it happens.  It’s un-called for when they don’t even know my profession, or when they have zero intention to find out what motivates me in my career decisions.  They make shallow and short-term assumptions, as that is a reflection of their remuneration structure.  Yes they don’t get paid from me, but that doesn’t warrant being ill-treated by them just because they have the client or hiring manager relationships.  There were times when I ended up sharing with the hiring company my very candid assessments of the headhunter, as I believe their actions and behavior are not only hurting themselves, but also the reputation of the hiring company.  For someone involved in assessing, selecting and negotiating headhunting service contracts with corporate human resources on a day-to-day basis, my first hand review certainly carry some weight.

The reason I am critical of our beloved match makers is that I care about my reputation and I take my career very seriously.  It’s an extremely personal business.  Better yet, I have seen and worked with the very good ones.  They are a delight to work with.  They are well prepared, informative, and great communicators.  They share candid and timely feedback and most importantly, establish a close partnership with the candidate.  Quite frankly, I do not wish there were more good headhunters.  I just wish there were fewer bad ones.  Much, much fewer.

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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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I was totally stressed out the other night – but in a good way.  I was relaxing at home after midnight when a good friend of mine informed me of some unbelievably good deals on Cathay Pacific Airways that are only valid for a week.  Seeing that this is a fantastic opportunity to see the world, I jumped on the chance and booked a trip to Paris this May. 

The story doesn’t end here.  There are still so many other attractive destinations that I would like to go or revisit, namely Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Moscow, Phuket, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg, Shanghai, London and New York.  I had been flipping through my calendar, browsing hotel deals, texting my friends, checking seat availability, for a good 3 hours.  I haven’t yet made any confirmed decisions yet, and that planning will continue tomorrow and the few days ahead, provided, of course, that there are still seats available for the dates I am picking.

So this afternoon I was visiting a friend on Kowloon side.  Walking on the busy Nathan Road I could actually hear two separate conversations of people passing by chatting about the exact same online promotion.  Talk about Hong Kong people’s obsessive compulsion to get out of the territory, with every chance we get.  Why is that the case?

  • the fact that we work 14 hour days and still finding it hard to sleep at nights due to immense stress from work
  • we are living in shoebox-sized apartments that we can hardly see the sky
  • we have forgotten about how clean air smells like
  • we find ourselves pressed like sardines in shopping mall elevators even on supposedly relaxing Sundays
  • we cannot get our foot into any electronics stores because every one of the 38 available sales reps were mobbed by our mainland Chinese neighbors
  • tons of rude, impolite, inconsiderate and selfish pedestrians on the streets and on practically all forms of transportation, and most of them are locals
  • news programs are flooded by retarded policies and tactics of the government, and increasingly violent protests spearheaded by our post-80s and 90s
  • another excuse to take 15,000 digital pictures of yourself with exactly the same pose and gesture, in front of landmarks of the world but with hardly any real appreciation of its history or importance
  • one more excuse to take 3,000 more pictures of all the foreign food you are going to eat beginning with the in-flight meals
  • way cooler to check-in at impressive foreign landmarks on FaceBook rather than Central MTR station in Hong Kong
  • experience how checking work e-mails, twittering, and FaceBooking abroad is like
  • witness how devalued the Hong Kong dollar is
  • feel the victory and accomplishment of successfully grabbing the few Hong Kong Chinese newspapers on return flights from abroad
  • another chance to wear NorthFace down jackets together with oddly colored crocs and huge alien-like sunglasses
  • read as many Hong Kong tabloid magazines as possible while laying by the hotel pools
  • a chance to continue being selfish and rude to unsuspecting service people overseas

Alright this may be way too much ranting in one post, but what’s the point of repeating the same old routine or even bad habits when you have a week of vacation time to unwind?  Let’s relax, let our guards down, take a few steps backwards, and be positive and appreciative in our travel adventures.  Take a deep breath, soak in the nature and culture, and teach your children a lesson or two about civility and consideration.  Amen.

 

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Watching the documentary Food Inc. is still disturbing considering it is already 3 years old.  The reality is terribly frightening.  The below summary is extracted from its website.

“In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.”

What I find most alarming is genetically engineered food products, all the way from the staple ingredient of corn to cows (who feed on corn nowadays) to all meats, soda and snacks.  As the end of the food chain, we human beings are unaware of how much genetically engineered products we have taken in on a daily basis.  I hardly think it is doing anything good to our bodies.

So I conduct a quick round of web research and I want to share the below from The Center For Food Safety.

“…By being able to take the genetic material from one organism and insert it into the permanent genetic code of another, biotechnologists have engineered numerous novel creations, such as potatoes with bacteria genes, “super” pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle growth genes, tomatoes with flounder genes, and thousands of other plants, animals and insects. At an alarming rate, these creations are now being patented and released into the environment.

Currently, up to 40 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as is 80 percent of soybeans. It has been estimated that upwards of 60 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.

A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer. As for environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture will lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.”

This is not an American problem.  This is evident in all parts of the world, and we can find traces of engineered corn as ingredients on mostly every food product label we see in supermarkets.   It’s difficult to fight all this as our food supply is highly monopolized by a handful of manufacturing giants in the global and regional markets.  Though as a rule of thumb, I am trying my hardest to get away from as much processed food as possible, and I am beginning to pay more attention to organic ingredients.  Fresh vegetables and fruits now become my main diet.  It’s not an easy journey and it takes work and money to lead a healthy and responsible lifestyle.   Yet even if we cannot avoid all hazardous ingredients at once, being aware of such risks and getting committed to be more selective in choosing what we put in our bodies, is never too late.

Be a smart shopper at the supermarkets, and go beyond bargain hunting.

 Check out the trailer of Food Inc. below. 

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