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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?)
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.
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.
CEOS AND THEIR direct reports deal daily with proposals, studies, and evaluations requiring decisions, often urgent. The approving authority relies on subordinates to study proposals in detail. Staff assistants, technical consultants, compliance officers, and lawyers indicate their recommended course of action with an initial.
LET’S NOT call it influence peddling. The practice of using connections, or “pulling strings” to get ahead is a cultural thing. Of course, know-who cannot replace know-how, but what if they come together in a package? Or if only one of them is available, which one is more important?
GOOD intentions, especially when backed up by political will, can have unexpected results, not all of them beneficial to those they intend to benefit. The “Law of Unintended Consequences” in economics states that a policy intended to promote the common good can have the opposite effect when implemented.
Big crowds filling up the stadium, the din of rhythmic chanting, and the sheer enthusiasm of urging a team to victory make up the cheering factor in an event, be it a competition or a rock concert. Can companies use cheering to help the team achieve targets like claiming back market share, raising customer care indices, and bringing up the bottom line numbers?
IT MUST be our digital culture that compels us to think of life as binary. Most things, including organizational charts, relationships, diplomatic courtesies, invasions, fishing accidents, and working arrangements in families cannot be neatly categorized as either on or off, zero or one, win or lose, black or white. There are many shades of gray, and not just 50.
PARKING LOTS, especially in building basements of condos, have their share of little accidents. Because of the tight slots allocated even for small cars, as well as the constricted turns allowed for backing into or out of parking, mishaps are bound to happen. Entries and exits may cause dings and whacks on side mirrors and such. It’s a maneuvering challenge, especially for inexperienced drivers. Maybe some financial settlements for repairs and detail-work are quietly negotiated, if these incursions are admitted in the first place. And the matter is quickly forgotten.
GADGETS, with their “planned obsolescence,” promote the impulse to have the latest model with ever more features, including features for clearer selfies. This promotes an almost Freudian “phone envy,” arising from a feeling of missing out on the latest phone. (How big is yours?) Gadget series numbers become status symbols. However, declining sales of new versions coming less than a year apart show a waning appetite for upgrades, or a longer embrace of the status quo.
CHIEF Financial Officers (CFO) are not hired for their communications skills or verbosity. Their task is to submit the data on time, and translate corporate operations into numbers. They thus tend to just let the numbers do the talking when explaining corporate performance. The new function of investor relations, which listed companies now give importance to, requires the ability to also highlight numbers with the right words.
FOR HOST COUNTRIES, one desirable trait of Filipino expats working there is their ability to adapt to the local culture, with its unwritten rules and taboos. This integration involves the right accent and peculiar turns of phrase. (How you doing? I’m good.) Beyond this verbal skill lies the adoption of the local work ethic (Filipino time is thrown out the window), attire, and observing special holidays like Thanksgiving and getting excited over the Super Bowl.
AFTER the Bay of Pigs fiasco, John Kennedy famously noted: “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” It seems this quote was originally from Tacitus which in Latin has a slightly different tone: “This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone.”
IN A NON-PLUMBING CONTEXT, a leak refers to information secretly divulged to the public (just between the two of us) even when intended to be kept private. Embargoed news items are the stuff of headlines, even when the source is not identified. A question mark will suffice.
IT’S THE DIFFERENT interpretations of time and the meaning of punctuality and tardiness, along with the social stigma, if any, attached to either one, that account for asymmetrical expectations with different cultures. While time for developed economies is numerical and inflexible, Filipino time is determined by ritual, and thus ruled by an accepted ambiguity. Time is not considered a precious resource that needs to be conserved and wisely managed, since there’s too much of it available to most.
IN SURFING THE NEWS, we often skip items that do not affect us directly or pique our personal interest. So, a winter vortex in Northeast America is merely noted in passing, unless relatives are caught up in it in their travels there. When reporting international crises, the local news slants the coverage in terms of compatriots that were injured.
A REGULAR SEGMENT in the news involves an interview of the “man (or woman) on the street”. This everyman opinion is supposed to reflect the common sentiment of the populace on the news of the day, like the integrity of the election process, the impact of a water shortage, or the safety of public transport.
WHEN JOINING a new organization, be it a company, a board, or a legislative body of twenty-four nationally elected bigshots, there is the awkwardness of trying to fit in without looking like an eager beaver. For the lower levels of new hires, mostly straight from school or with just a few years of work, companies have an orientation program that covers work hours, proper office attire, and health coverage (you need to get your own insurance for personal trips).
IN TERMS of packing efficiency for travel, no category of tourists beats the backpackers. These travelers seem to hew to the doctrine of minimalism, that less is more. They are able to pack clothes and essential needs in luggage strapped on their backs. Thus are they considered the quintessence of economy and efficiency. Suitcase on wheels? How do you drag this through potholed streets in search of cheap rooms or perch it on a park bench?
THOSE who enter contests are usually confident of winning, even if only by a stroke of luck. Getting ready with a victory speech (let’s take it one game at a time) may be considered bad luck. But do candidates even mull over the possibility (sometimes a big one) of losing and what to say in a concession speech?
PAUL SAMUELSON, Nobel laureate in Economics, and the author of the basic textbook, Economics (first published in 1948 with at least 19 editions since then) which we used when I was taking up the course in college, explained economics simply as the allocation of scarce resources, using the famous two choices of guns and butter and the trade-off this process implies.
INATTENTIVE participants at meetings ignore the speaker and quietly amuse themselves by offering running commentaries to seatmates and asking questions on the side. (Does he know what he’s talking about?) Side conversations between participants in a meeting or conference are distracting to those trying to listen to the speaker. Loudly whispered comments are not meant to be overheard by the one presenting: “note how he says “actually” before every phrase. I’ve counted 23 already.”
DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES in traditionally autocratic hierarchies like corporations are always a challenge to implement. A participative management style requires a lot of meetings. Decisions are arrived at by getting all or a majority to discuss an issue and buy into the agreed course of action. The approach involves consultations with all those affected, which in big decisions like parking assignments, reporting relationships, acquisitions, and inclusion in foreign trips involve emotions and lots of raised voices.
AN ITCH is medically considered the lowest level of pain. Even as it sits at the low end of the agony ladder, the itch cannot be ignored. It can be annoying when lodged at a hard-to-reach part of the body when in the company of others. All the same this pain is easily relieved with a simple scratch.
EVEN as PR advice to what is seen by a client as a burning issue of crisis proportions, the admonition to “do nothing” is received with grave skepticism -- what are we paying you for? And yet, leaving things alone can prevent a crisis which too much attention will actually create.
MARKETERS are now paying attention to the growing “gray market.” As a marginalized group, old people with lots of money (OPLOM) may not qualify for party-list inclusion. In the 2015 census, the age group of those over 65 years old comprise only 5% of the population. The wealthy segment of seniors can embarrass their cohort age group, such as old people supported by their offspring (OPSBTO) who may have a better chance of party list representation, with a sprightlier acronym like: Just Old Leftovers and Grandparents Society (JOLOGS).
MANY of our communication habits are cultural, and sometimes non-verbal. Such expressions take both forms (receptive and expressive). In a restaurant when asking for the bill, an imaginary square is drawn in the air with both sets of thumbs and forefingers. When one gets the waiter’s attention, he understands the message and the bill is promptly delivered. He can, of course, turn off his receptive skills by looking up at the ceiling and then at his fingernails looking for a stray cuticle to declare -- are you talking to me?
DEMOGRAPHICS show that in the 2015 census, the segment for age 0-14 was 35% of the over 100 million population in the country. If the age group is stretched to the segment 30 years and below, the number goes up to 70%. Those over 65 years old comprise only 5%. Some of them are candidates.
IN TERMS of evaluating a company’s performance, there’s no better number to look at than net income, or the “bottom line.” Even with the cash flow approach, another measure uses Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortizations (EBITDA). Companies use the bottom line for comparing one period with another, whether success so far is sustainable or whether it is declining. Others in dire straits with the bottom number embraced in parentheses check to see how much time is needed for a turnaround and what steps need to be taken.
PR PRACTITIONERS traditionally hired to raise the profile of clients to move them from zero to hero (especially in an election year) may also be employed to do the opposite. They work to cast a high-profile individual who is extremely wealthy or politically powerful, or both, into relative obscurity. The effort to keep somebody out of the news cycle (no news is good news) can entail “spiking” or killing negative stories before they’re posted.
IT’S NOT just wakes and weddings but also open seminars on leadership, corporate governance, and team-building sessions involving groups of companies as well as chance meetings at the theater or restaurant where one needs to introduce himself, sometimes to strangers. (Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.)
CAN AN ECONOMIC BRIEFING be complete without introducing such political topics as the impact of China’s growing influence, the stalled infrastructure program, the short-lived water shortage, or the impact of the coming elections, even if this is just a mid-term one? Are politics and economics intertwined like two snakes doing the tango?
IT’S TRITE ADVICE to give anyone coming out of a hurtful situation to just forget it all and move on. Too much remembering of a painful episode is sure to keep one in a deep hole of despair -- she was wearing the necklace I gave her when she left and loudly slammed the kitchen door. And then she worked for a neighbor.
THE BOSS always thinks his word is law -- when I say jump, you can only ask: how high? But is the boss always followed? Being a subordinate doesn’t mean doing exactly what the boss orders, even when the latter is evaluating performance -- “subordinate is disrespectful, surly, and exhibits mutinous behavior.”
IT SEEMS easier to make a list of don’ts than to-do’s. The negative list is shorter and easier to follow. Laws are usually a list of unacceptable behavior, a list of no-noes’. Customs forms for instance specify only goods that are prohibited entry to a country like illegal drugs, fresh fruits, weapons, or currencies above a certain amount. A declaration of non-possession of these banned items is part of the usual immigration form. Anything not found in the negative list is allowable -- did they list pets?
PERIODIC surveys that check how respondents feel about the future show that as a people, we are an optimistic lot. Our scores on having a positive outlook rank us consistently in the top three in the happiness index. The results favor those who are full of hope on what’s coming ahead. This positive outlook persists even through the bad times we find ourselves in.
PRIVATE BANKERS have included investment in art (paintings and sculptures, and now installations) as an asset class. Diversification of the investment portfolio beyond fixed-income securities and equities may include art pieces as a component. The dynamics of art as an investment, with its characteristics of scarcity and greed, can best be observed at an art auction.
IN CHANGI Airport in Singapore, the toilets have a small touch screen by the entrance with emoji symbols for users to rate the quality of the facility -- from grouchy to jubilant in a scale of five to one. The customer just presses the appropriate symbol to register his rating. He is assured that the screen is regularly cleaned to be properly hygienic, considering what the fingers have just been up to before the voting. This instant feedback, tracked digitally, serves to evaluate customer feedback.
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