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Chats and conversations

CHAT GROUPS usually have a common bond. They are members of a civic club, homeowners’ association, alumni group, or family (one side of it). The chat is a way of keeping in touch, disseminating news (like meetings and required costumes), as well as sharing posts, which include homilies, jokes, cartoons, and fake news on prophecies of future eruptions and the spread of a virus -- decimating half of the world’s population.

The risk of oversharing

PUBLICLY LISTED COMPANIES routinely disclose information to the regulators, such as clarifications of news items, unusual movement of the stock (we do not know what’s going on, Sir), and, of course, financial statements. Some numbers need to be explained. “Advances to affiliates,” for example, should give details on which companies are involved and what the advances were used for, and whether they were paid back. Explanatory notes can run for many pages, and in small fonts.

Looking for the next CEO

THE SEARCH COMMITTEE formed by the Businessman’s Lunch Restaurant (BLR) is tasked to review candidates for CEO to replace the retiring incumbent. He has expressed his wish to have someone “continue his legacy,” mostly in reducing flagrant tipping, especially from suppliers. It’s no secret he is in favor of the head waiter taking his place. He is always photographed with him even when taking siestas.

Your attendance is required

THE ATTENDANCE CHECK is routine in corporate culture. Scheduled events like the board of directors’ meeting makes presence (if not participation) obligatory. The secretary attests to the required attendance. (Madame Secretary, do we have a quorum?)

Being in the picture

PICTURES, now increasingly digital and posted in social media, record an event and who were there (if they did not leave the event too early). Being in a photo proves that one was at the event, not necessarily to lead it or even to influence what happened. The inclusion in the group shot is an opportunity to brag about connections -- is this why these are called photo opportunities (or photo ops)?

Reporting from the field

JUST TO show that news is not just about reading a script, disasters, weather disturbances, and unusual political developments provide the opportunity to project immediacy. Coverage of news as it happens is supplied by field reporters sent to where the action is. The live report is accompanied by video footage of related happenings that put context to the reporter’s story.

Playing the pity card

Part of the effort to push back on the rhetorical excesses of leaders when they inveigh against certain personalities as well as economic projects cast in regulatory limbo is to invoke the dire consequences of the actions being contemplated.

Which way to the exit?

BEFORE THE start of a movie showing, the cinema announcements after the trailers provide a guide on the location of the fire exits. They also show the expected demeanor of patrons in case of a fire unhurriedly ascending the stairs, having time to turn their heads and smile at the camera. There is no sound of a fire alarm in the quiet procession to the exit -- how’s my hair?

A low-maintenance approach

THE PHRASE “low maintenance” is usually applied to landscaping gardens. It is an option offered to a homeowner who can’t be bothered with too much work tending the greenery. It is ideal for some to have a garden that can be left pretty much alone for long periods and requiring little attention. Such daily chores as watering, pruning, and spraying of insecticides are seldom required if at all.

The need for villains

STORYTELLING, especially for epics featuring super-heroes, need to have villains. How else can the sometimes underdog hero triumph and seem larger than life if not by trouncing an evil foe?

Memo to your file

THERE WAS a time, not more than two decades ago, when memos were addressed to other people and typed by secretaries in the form of paper correspondences, with multiple copies too if individuals other than the addressee needed to be in the loop. “Memo” is short for “memorandum” from the Latin, to bring to remembrance.

For here or to go?

NOT ALL the food you ordered or got as gifts end up on the holiday table and fully consumed by your guests. Always, there is an embarrassment of calorific riches left untouched. The household is faced with limited refrigerated space and the need to decide what to keep and what to give away -- for here or to go?

Passing the hat

THERE IS NO shortage of worthy causes asking for help. Even in small communities like the office, alumni classmates, chat groups, there are always those in need of financial help, ostensibly not to pay off credit card debts. The practice of “passing the hat” seems prevalent in our culture. There is no real hat to throw in coins and bills in nowadays, just a bank account number (please send photo of the deposit slip).

Celebrities and products

CELEBRITIES OFFER a simple marketing appeal in their billboard appearances. They are idolized by many and represent the aspirations of a targeted segment of consumers -- I can also use the bank of this famous beauty queen and get the same treatment (without her talent fees).

The appetite for risk

INVESTMENT OPTIONS vary depending on the risk one is willing to assume. Investment advisers want to know their client’s investment philosophy to evaluate risk appetite. If the goal is just to conserve capital and perhaps get a modest return for income enhancement, the portfolio recommendation will favor fixed-income bonds, defensive dividend-paying stocks, or even time deposit.

Is this the line?

“QUEUEING” theory was first established in 1909 for the Copenhagen telephone exchange. (Note that the word, a synonym for lining-up, is the only one with five consecutive vowels.) It was a mathematical model to figure out the requirements of handling calls and how to line them up for proper servicing for a designated number of operators. Queueing as a concept has moved a lot since then, and applies to more situations including airline check-ins, taxi bays, and internet shopping.

Can criticism be constructive?

THE POSSIBILITY of bad reviews is ever present for theater performances, movies, books, political moves, and even hosting of international events. Even out-of-town corporate retreats can be panned -- no alfalfa sprouts for lunch.

The committee rules

JOB DESCRIPTIONS are supposed to define one’s role, accountability, and sometimes the resources to be made available. (You are not entitled to any information or funds.) Anyway, no matter how a subject performs the duties specified in the job description, he still needs to serve in some committee.

This brewing habit

Rising coffee consumption and the proliferation of coffee shops have little to do with nutrition or the alleviation of hunger. Coffee is seldom the main course, even when accompanied by chocolate chip cookies.

No drums, please

AT THE timeouts on the second game of the men’s basketball finals of UAAP Season 82, both the courtside announcer and the jumbotron display pleaded the two sides to refrain from excessive noise -- no drums, please. One side completely ignored the request as its team rallied to within a one-point separation. This injunction is intended to ensure that the frantic coaches are heard by the players. (Where are we going for dinner afterwards?)

Old dogs and new tricks

BECAUSE OF better nutrition and health care, the average life span of individuals has increased. There are more old people around, and they seem to be occupying all the rocking chairs in the mall. Still, the life expectancy for the Philippines is among the lowest, ranking 123rd in the world as of 2018. The top country in life expectancy is still Japan at 83.7 years for both sexes. (Can you pass the sushi?)

Tidying up the clutter

NOTHING CONCENTRATES the mind more than contemplating closet space, especially when this has clearly run out years before. Even when it first looks capacious, the space is finite (you can only push hangers together up to a point). What we hang and fold there can be totally beyond the closet’s capacity to hold without groaning.

What we aspire for

RESENTMENT DRIVES envy. But it can also be a goal-setting mechanism to focus action. Therefore, insurance and property companies publicize their top performers and how much they made and why they should be emulated (and, yes, envied) by the peasants. Promotions for senior positions also enumerate the achievements of the fortunate few, even amidst the grumbling of those passed over -- he was just in the right place at the right time.

Bidding for the business

WHAT BANKS, management consultants, financial advisers, digital platforms, or ad agencies bidding for an account call a “pitch,” their prospective clients privately refer to internally as a “beauty contest.”

Is there a need for Plan B?

CONTRARY TO the mantra of motivational speakers that you can always be what you want to be... if you wish it, and work for it hard enough, life usually hands out rejection slips. Plan B is the back-up strategy to provide an alternative route to a goal or to modify ambitions towards something completely different, and more attainable. Often, the “best case” scenario miscarries. Plan B is supposed to get you somewhere else, without changing your wardrobe.

Covering tycoons in media

TV interviews of businessmen used to be drab. The set was dull, a gray background with the program title: None of your Business. Only the red necktie of the interviewee splashed color to the scene. The two talking heads cover such topics as GDP, fire insurance options, talent retention programs, and the cost of lost productivity from traffic, given various assumptions -- Are you riding in an ambulance?

What is really being said

COMMUNICATION CAN be indirect. Words uttered especially by leaders need not be taken literally. They may be coded with body language emphasizing (pounding on the table) or contradicting (wink of an eye) what is being ordered with a loud voice for eavesdroppers to hear.

The madness of crowds

IF YOU have no idea what the phrase “Season 82” stands for, you can skip this piece and move to another page for more salubrious topics like the gender wars, the senator’s next boxing match, and the recounting of votes for an election held 42 months ago. It’s the final four of college men’s basketball. No additional details are needed.

In sickness and in health

THESE are the words fervently and publicly proclaimed in marriage vows. They promise steadfastness in times of tribulations brought on by failing health (you forgot your walking stick, Hon).

Mobile connections

THE PENETRATION rate (a marketing term, Sir) of the mobile phone is almost 100% of the population and that includes infants and nonagenarians. It’s the double-SIM card phones (counted as two) and the multi-gadget culture that have made this jarring statistic possible.

Can there be too much of a good thing?

THE CHARTING of pleasure and boredom is covered by an economic principle that says that the enjoyment of even the most wonderful experience is bound to fade, as is our initially hearty appetite for certain subjects in the news like released prisoners, pyramid schemes, and love triangles.

Have a nice day!

It can be startling at first to be greeted by strangers with a hearty, “Have a nice day.” The appropriate riposte is, “You too” (and not, “too late”). So routine is this exchange while visiting North America that we even initiate the salutation ourselves just to try it out, and expectedly get from the natives the expected “you too” reply.

Owners and managers

THERE IS some truth in the statement that the difference between an owner and a manager of a business, including a conglomerate, is that the former manages his own money and the latter, other people’s. This then presumes that between the two types, the one less likely to be prudent to the point of being reckless in spending, including in the pricing of acquisitions of assets or other companies, is the one who is managing other people’s money.

What instrument do you play?

THE ORCHESTRA has been employed often as paradigm for the effectiveness of organizations, including of course a performing group of musicians.

Does name-dropping still work?

IN OUR status culture that reflect wealth, power, and celebrityhood (entertainers and sports figures), claimed associations with icons is an indirect way to achieve instant status. So, knowing somebody, even tangentially, is a bid for reflected glory, a sort of “gilt by association.”

Doing a good job?

PERIODICALLY, the media report the latest survey on the approval rating of the leader and other public servants on prime time and on the front pages. The quarterly exercise by two survey companies is intended to rate government’s performance, as perceived by the governed. A high approval rating is presumed to indicate wide popular support for the accomplishments and programs of the ratee.

You haven’t changed

IT is customary to compliment someone not seen for many years and almost forgotten (don’t tell me you don’t know who I am) with the ready greeting: “Hey, you haven’t changed.” Is this a flattering remark? Maybe the greeter has used the aging app to approximate how a former classmate is supposed to look now? The present apparition is not at all gaunt and withered, with caved-in cheeks -- yes, a bit plumper.

The countries they call home

THE BREADTH of the Filipino diaspora hits us whenever we travel abroad. Isn’t there now a Filipino in every country in the world? We bump into these expats in unexpected places. She may be a receptionist in a Bratislava hotel or a chef in a restaurant in Athens.

Gone malling

THE REPLY, “malling,” to the question on what one is planning to do on a weekend needs no elaboration. There is no follow-up question, “what will you do there?” The mall has become a destination as a leisure activity. Maybe the only obligatory part which can serve as a purpose for going to that air-conditioned symbol of consumerism (buying things you don’t really need) is dining. Here the choices need to be discussed as if embarking on a trip -- do you feel like sushi? It is after this lunch that malling really starts.

Are you comfortable?

ONLY in our country do we refer to toilets as “comfort rooms.” I can only surmise how that came about. Was it the relief expected from a visit there? Ask for directions where the comfort room is in North America and you get a quizzical look, unless the party being queried happens to be a compatriot.

Before you leave

MANAGEMENT wants to understand why employees leave, especially when the resignation is voluntary and not forced. (Did you not like the cafeteria food?) The exit interview is designed to draw out the motives behind a departure not reflected in a dry, maybe angry, resignation letter, sometimes just one sentence long. It is supposed to guide management on gaps in its retention policy.

No need to avoid stress

HAS THERE ever been a doctor who informed you that stress is good for you? Not too many. Still, a little stress can be beneficial.

Staying in your lane

CHIEFS are averse to getting advice too willingly proffered by subordinates or peers, especially when these are neither solicited nor welcome. Routine pronouncements that the chief is always open to suggestions from the ranks, and that his door is always open for peasants to walk in unannounced are mere lip service to participative management. (Are you here to water the plants?)

Checking lifestyle for unexplained wealth

IN ECONOMICS, one can look at any issue from either the demand or supply side. In case of unexplained wealth, for example, one way to check its existence is to see how it is spent. Lifestyle checks are premised on a simple assumption. A person, especially in public service, is expected to live within his known legitimate income which includes his monthly salary, net of taxes and the practice of some other profession, like boxing, property development, and TV hosting.

Lowering the bar

BEING UNDERESTIMATED, even to the point of being dismissed with contempt, can be an advantage. The key to being rated well does not entail working longer hours, but just exceeding expectations. This can entail pushing the starting line forward, or moving the finish line back, or both. The race belongs to the one with a shorter track to run.