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Out of the loop

THE system that allows for working outside the office is able to keep everyone in the loop, even when they’re out of town. The chat groups are not turned off for vacations. They continue in their different clusters and work groups, which sometimes include clients.

Lessening choices by default

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.

Numbers and words

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.

A culture of blending in

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.

Who gets the credit?

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.”

Leaks don’t always come from faucets

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.

Starting on time

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.

It’s not always about you

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.

Can we have your opinion?

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.

Can I talk to reporters?

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).

Minimalist travel

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?

The etiquette for losing

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?

Choices have a cost

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.

Comments on the side

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.”

Ending the discussion

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.

The lowest level of pain

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.

Neglect can be benign

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.

Discovering the gray market

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).

No storage needed

QUANTITIES of most consumer items now come in single-serve sachets. This recognizes the consumption patterns for the solo customer living alone, sometimes not even with an occasional drop-in maid service.

What is the body saying?

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?

Is there a youth vote?

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.

Should modesty be rewarded?

IS MODESTY considered a corporate virtue?

Straight to the bottom line

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.

Fate in the economy

THERE are just too many variables and events beyond the control of a corporation such as the price of oil, a new regulatory regime, entry of competition, disruptive technology, and rhetorical excesses from the top.

The benefits of anonymity

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.

Getting to know you

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.)

Politics and economic briefings

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?

The need to forget

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.

Bosses and subordinates

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.”

Almost winning it

IT’S NO LONGER necessary to be a winner to draw some benefit from an award not given. Ending in the “short list” can be enough for bragging rights. Almost winning the prize can be leveraged as an achievement in itself.

Reputation has financial value

IS REPUTATION considered in financial transactions?

A list of don’ts

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?

Is optimism a national trait?

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.

The business of art

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.

How was the service?

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.

The prophet motive

THE TV interview format has become quite a staple. These are now accompanied by visuals like graphs, charts, picture windows in the background with trees and moving traffic, and videos of people walking fast along the sidewalks to enhance the drabness of talking heads. The interviewer features a designated resource person to provide some expertise on the topic at hand.

Skirting the rules

ELECTIONS seem to bring out the creativity of candidates and their campaign supporters. Even before the list of official candidates was finalized, there were already tarps of likely aspirants popping up all over the place -- just a big photo and a short message. The posters are out there to greet passers-by (also known as “eyeballs”), extend congratulations to successful graduates, greet one and all happy holidays, or simply stake out slogans (daughter of the revolution). There is, of course, no mention of the position they are seeking. It’s presumed to be obvious. (Psst -- I’m running for mayor) The effort is merely to raise awareness of the brand.

Does winning a debate matter in the elections?

IN THE USUAL CRUSADE to “know the candidates,” academic consortiums, poll agencies, and media embrace the “debate” as a good forum to gauge the worthiness of an aspirant. This seems to presume that the candidate in such a setting who is best able to communicate his position in particular issues (say, the minimum age for criminal prosecution), and narrate his platform as well as recite his qualifications for office, then the voter is sufficiently informed of his worthiness to win one of the 18,000 positions he or she is running for in the 2019 midterm elections.

True or polls

THE STATUS of “frontrunner” has been bestowed on familiar-sounding candidates by polls that have recently come out on the senatorial race. (Jail time did not seem to damage the popularity of at least two declared candidates.) In these polls featured on front pages of newspapers with photos as well as on prime-time TV, the candidates are clustered in groups as: the top, middle, bottom, and “you can forget about them.”

Working from home

THE NEW BILL on telecommuting, allowing employees to work from home, has more implications than just employment status and traffic. What is its impact on office attire? Will working from home shift office attire towards sleepwear -- like boxer shorts and school tee shirts (Back-two-Back)?

Thinking out of the box

“THINKING out of the box” is a catch phrase for change and transformation, usually of the radical kind. The exhortation to throw out existing rules and let the imagination go bungee jumping is a common opener for strategy sessions held out of town. The idea is to look at the organization as an outsider: you have just acquired this company, and you want to shake it up.

No bullies in the office

BULLYING BEHAVIOR in the workplace is now a legitimate management issue. No longer is the head-biting superior the role model for an effective boss. (I don’t get ulcers. I give them out.) Such boorish behavior is considered dysfunctional and likely to erode an organization’s credibility and bottom line. An exodus of talent, arising from a corporate culture of bullying, is a red mark on a company as an employer of choice.

Social mergers and acquisitions

IN corporate mergers and acquisitions, “due diligence” is a must. It is a process that determines the value of a company. Aside from the usual financial analysis based on accessible data, there is the search for hidden risks like litigation, assets that are overvalued or booked items being occupied by the sellers of the company, like the family home. Accountants, lawyers, credit rating agencies, banks, and auditors together arrive at a valuation that determines the real worth of the company. This due diligence does not include that unquantifiable entry simply called “goodwill,” which the seller adds without any supporting data -- the brand equity is priceless.

Attached and dangling

REPORTERS and political analysts have foisted on us a now accepted linguistic option to be let loose on categories of potential candidates aspiring for an elective post. They have attached the suffix “-able” to every elective position imaginable. This verbal shorthand was originally limited to the highest position, with aspirants whether declared or not, being referred to as “presidentiables,” a word sure to prompt our computer spell-check to underline with its disapproving jagged red line, offering “presidential” instead. (Was this what you meant?)

Another new year

ECONOMISTS refer to the optimism that a new year brings as the “January Effect,” specifically relevant to the stock market which is traditionally given a boost in price and volumes on the first month of the new year. It is considered temporary and more behavioral than rational in its bullish mood.