The Snitch

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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No, it’s not yet Christmas. And no, it’s not my birthday (but that’s in about three weeks, in case you were wondering) but it is one of my favourite celebrations ever – April’s Fool Day.

Now, if you haven’t gotten anything planned for Sunday, I reckon it’s still all right to pull off a prank at work on Monday (let’s keep the party going). But although all work and no play made Jack a dull boy, I would still be careful planning that next big prank.

There are a couple of points you need to think through before deciding what prank you’re going to pull. Is your company culture fun and open to a shenanigan every now and then, or is your boss someone who likens the office to a military boot camp? Also, make sure you choose your prankee carefully. And be sure to at least be clear on your company’s code of conduct. While some may be all right with you shrink-wrapping someone’s desk (been there, done that), others may not be too thrilled if you decide to hack into someone’s email or change their PC passwords.

While doing research for this post (and getting ideas for my prank next week. I’m thrown between putting sticky tape under everyone’s optical mouse or recording a kitten’s mew, hiding the recorder in a drawer, and setting the thing to loop all day long), I came across a pretty interesting article about how pulling a prank can display your strengths.

But just to be safe, here are a couple more things to take note of:

And if you’re on the management team, remember not to take things too seriously. Most pranks are going to either happen today on Friday or next Monday, and it’s never a bad idea to end or start a week with a couple of laughs.

As long as rules aren’t broken, dignities are left intact, and office property isn’t destroyed, there’s really no need to get uptight about April’s Fools Day.

You know what? I don’t think I’ll get up to mischief this year. Instead, I’m going to sit at my desk, smile sweetly at everyone, keep glancing at my watch and make everyone think I’m up to something. Maybe I’ll throw in a couple of warning comments like, “Hey, you haven’t already gone into the store room today, have you?” or “You might want to get that” every time a phone rings. I might even sit up a little straighter every time someone opens a cabinet or drawer.

It’d be fun watching them squirm.

Let me know if you’ve got any memorable office pranks to share and maybe it’ll help me start planning next year’s joke. It’s never too early. After all, I do want to show my bosses I’m committed to long-term projects (might help me score my next promotion). Have a good one everybody!

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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

March 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

Small Talk on lying employees and coffee addicts

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Singapore – Some employees are so determined to not go into the office that they would spend days faking symptoms to appear more credible when taking sick leave.

A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found that two in five employees would fake symptoms before calling in sick. Worryingly, 5% even said they would resort to using things like crutches and make-up to be more believable.

The report suggested employers have to hone in on the underlying reasons behind why their staff are willing to go to such measures to miss work.

“Rather than a sign of laziness, unwarranted absence can mean people are under-used,” Neil Roden, human resources (HR) consulting partner at PwC, said. “Employers need to think creatively on how they can get people back in gear.”

Another top story that Small Talk is discussing this week is the top companies business graduates yearn to work for. According to a survey by Universum, Google earned the top spot for the fifth year running, with technology companies and consulting firms deemed most desirable employers as they can provide challenging work.

Russ Hagey, worldwide chief talent officer for Bain & Co, said young talent are concerned about “where they’re going to be challenged and excited”.

Additionally, Small Talk explores why Unilever’s HR boss says Asia’s supply of talent has to keep up with economic and business growth. John Nolan, its senior vice president of HR, suggests that companies have better chances of retaining their workforce if they hold a longer term view on investing in talent and coaching them.

Small Talk also reveals why coffee addicts are more harmful to a company’s productivity than smokers.

HRTV: Google and Sony on job satisfaction

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Singapore – Managers at Google are encouraged to help their staff achieve at least one non-work related goal in their life so every employee can foster better work-life balance.

Known as the “One Simple Thing” programme, Google employees are urged to focus on one personal target, such as an exercise regime or mastering a new language. Their managers then show their support through easy steps like keeping the employee’s schedules free or giving them time off for classes.

Sarah Robb, head of people operations for Google in Asia Pacific (APAC), said this helps staff feel that they can be equally successful in achieving both business objectives and personal goals.

Narihiko Uemura, managing director for Sony Electronics in Singapore and APAC, said it is important that companies engage their employees by listening to their needs.

Robb added when employees believe that the company is genuinely invested in their interests and makes them feel valued, attrition levels will fall.

The search giant also has a quarterly budget set aside for “fun” activities. “For us, it comes down to a culture of fun,” Robb said.

Other engagement initiatives Google has include activities such as after-work drinks on Fridays, and regular town hall meetings where senior leaders field questions from staff.

At Sony, employees would be asked to participate in regular surveys to help senior management determine job satisfaction levels and identify gaps within the organisation.

However, Uemura said companies should allow employees to write their own opinions or give honest feedback in the surveys if they genuinely want to improve their engagement processes.

Yet Uemura, who reads every single feedback form received, did once ask his staff to write about the “good things” in the company. “I need to read good things too so I will feel happy,” he joked.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

HRTV: Best coaches on diverse cultures

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Singapore – Instead of using classroom training to help new leaders learn and manage intercultural differences across diverse offices, the best coaches are found within the company.

It is important that companies find the right coaches to help leaders on understanding cultural differences, according to Fons Trompenaars, one of the top 50 most influential management thinkers alive as identified by Thinker 50.

The good news is Trompenaars says the best coaches are already available within the company. They would be senior leaders who are familiar with the business scope, who understand the depth of cultures they have worked in, and had experience managing both intercultural and international teams. Pairing them up with new leaders will help the newbie learn far better than in a classroom setting.

However, the managing director of Trompenaars Hampden-Turner Intercultural Management Consulting says improving a manager’s intercultural people skills is similar to grasping a foreign language. Both require the learner to invest time and effort in to learn and practise the skills on a daily basis.

“You cannot learn a new language in half a day. For some, it takes a lifetime,” Trompenaars said. “[It is the] same with cultural differences.”

Trompenaars suggests using a “modular approach” to help leaders understand cultural differences when they are posted to a new country. Breaking up the learning process into bite-sized modules will give them opportunities to apply what they have learnt in their everyday life.

The module should also include a process that allows leaders to exchange feedback with their internal trainers and the local teams. Trompenaars says leaders can then create their own case studies and share that information with others when it’s their turn to coach on cultural diversity.

Which is your chosen work personality?

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Find out how the demands of your chosen career have a major impact on shaping how you behave in a meeting. By Kathryn Ellis

With work taking over the majority of our waking hours, it is not surprising that the unique demands of a career can play a major role in shaping one’s behaviour in the workplace. These tendencies tend to be more obvious at meetings and other professional interactions as these sessions are such a crucial part of getting things done. Here are the top six distinctive personalities found in a meeting and the types of professions they are likely to match:

1.       If you are a project manager, an event planner, an advertising executive or a public relations consultant, you’re most likely… The Multitasker.

You are not only a whiz at juggling multiple clients, vendors and projects simultaneously, but also one who thrives on the adrenaline rush of racing from deadline to deadline. Hands up, all those guilty of scribbling notes during a conference call while responding to emails on your Blackberry.

While you may be blessed with the gift of being a consummate Multitasker, do exercise caution.  A major requirement in your line of work is the ability to listen to clients and draw out important information. To keep your multitasking tendency in check, make it a point to keep your computer and mobile phone out of sight and pay attention instead.

2.         If you are a businessman, investment banker, stock broker or property agent, you’re most likely… The Mobile Meeter.

As your job requires you to be constantly on the move to find the next business lead, you probably spend your work day travelling from customer meeting to sales presentation to industry seminar. As a professional who is always on the go, you are likely to be familiar with dialing in to conference calls and web meetings from a hotel room, a roadside café, a taxi or an airport lounge.

As a Mobile Meeter, it is critical that you always have on hand an up-to-date calendar of meetings with indication of time zones. Every considerate Mobile Meeter should also invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to ensure the background noise in any location will not get in the way of a productive meeting.

3.         If you’re an artist, an inventor, an advertising creative or a talk show host, you’re most likely… The Disrupter

Your job is often an unstructured one which requires you to explore the full potential of your imagination and truly think out of the box. Does the mention of one thing tend to ignite 10 related ideas in your head? Do you find it impossible to hold back on sharing those ideas? If so, say hello to the Disrupter, for that is what you tend to become in a meeting.

While your ingenuity is a valuable trait, do make sure you are not derailing a meeting from its intended objectives. Wait until the most appropriate section in a meeting to share your thoughts. That way, you will not only be recognised as a creative genius but also an effective and considerate team player.

4.         If you’re an analyst, auctioneer, doctor, strategist or CEO, you’re most likely to be… The Maestro.

The unique demands of your career mean that you have the killer combination of a commanding presence, a razor-sharp mind and a results-focused approach. Your natural ability to look beyond complexity to get to the root of a problem means that you are probably The Maestro of meetings.

You are able to lead meetings towards concrete outcomes effortlessly, and inspire confidence and respect from others. However, despite the Maestro’s effectiveness at meetings, you have the tendency to get frustrated with personalities like The Disrupter or the Socialiser. Take care not to dampen their creativity by creating an appropriate time for them to speak and by considering their views seriously.

5.         If you’re an ambassador, a financial consultant, an insurance advisor or journalist, you’re most likely to be… The Socialiser

To reach the very top in your chosen career path, one needs to possess a charismatic personality, a vast network of contacts and the ability to draw critical information from these contacts.  Not only are you a master at networking, but you’re also capable of building trust with others very quickly. This is critical for getting that bit of political insight, signing another customer or achieving that exclusive headline.

Your likeability and skill at building rapport are likely to influence the way you behave during meetings too, making you The Socialiser. Even before the meeting begins, you are greeting each participant and chatting away with some of them like old friends. Your ability to put participants at ease, especially in a high-pressure environment, is highly valued.  While you usually create a positive impression, do exercise self-awareness so as to remain professional and avoid encroaching on personal boundaries.

6.         If you’re a digital strategist, technology analyst and communications professional, you’re likely to be… The Social Networker.

Find yourself itching to check Facebook during a meeting? Find yourself unconsciously tweeting about what an ugly tie the colleague sitting opposite you in the meeting is wearing? You’re probably the Social Networker.

As a social media pioneer whose work description includes Facebook-ing, Tweeting, blogging and Foursquar-ing so you can counsel clients about these platforms, you are probably connected 24/7.  You are also likely to feel the constant urge to update your networks about what you are doing, eating and seeing at all times of the day… even during meetings.

Take care not to get carried away, as not everything should be posted on a social network, especially if it concerns corporate matters. Don’t let your passion for the job land you in hot soup.

Kathryn Ellis is the communications manager for PGi in Asia Pacific. She is part of the team that drives PGi’s communications strategies throughout the region. More articles on engaging staff during meetings can be found here.

Written by Lee Xieli

June 9, 2011 at 9:00 am

HRTV: Reaching out regionally

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Singapore – As more companies choose to set up their regional headquarters in Singapore, managers have to keep communication flowing smoothly between employees based in different offices.

Andrew Tay, president for Zebra Technologies in Asia Pacific, advised managers with regional responsibilities to make a constant effort to connect with their team members who are based in different locations. He said this can be done through weekly calls and emails.

Tay said staying in touch regularly will help leaders understand what’s happening in a particular office despite not being there physically. Tay added that managers have to be aware of the different work practices and cultures in different countries, and tailor their leadership style to address the local needs and growth opportunities.

But communication aside, companies have to first find the right talent on top of creating “a proper vision and business strategy for the organisation”. Tay said, “You can have the best plan in the whole world, but if you don’t have the best people to execute it, it will just remain as a plan.”


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Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

June 1, 2011 at 9:03 am

HRTV: How to spot toxic managers

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Singapore – Bad managers who manipulate and bully their teams will, not only corrupt an organisation’s culture, but also destroy workplace relationships, causing high employee turnover.

“Every employee under that bad manager will become ineffective and inefficient,” Terry Sheridan, managing director of executive consultant firm Guardian Angel, said. She explained the political and toxic nature of the organisation will cause productivity to suffer as employees will “spend more time watching their backs than actually doing their work”.

Sheridan said bad managers are a poison to the organisation as they bring down the morale of their colleagues and can cause many of them to resign. “People don’t leave just leave jobs, they leave bad managers,” Sheridan said.

According to Sheridan, bad managers fall into two categories – tyrant and mediocre. A tyrant, who believes he is superior to the rest of the organisation, tends to bully and overwork his employees. They would also use the organisation’s resources for their own needs, and a “master of office politics”.

While tyrants are easy to spot, Sheridan said mediocre managers are the harder to recognise as a problem in the company. “Mediocre managers are the tricky ones to find because they are the appeasers and the ingraciators.”

“They’ll use flattery to get what they want, and they’re very clever. They’ve been doing it for a very long time,” Sheridan said. She added these managers do the bare minimum at work, and “prefer to get on well with others than getting the job done”.

Sheridan added both types of managers are inconsistent with their work, and being aware of those inconsistencies can help HR identify leaders who should be dismissed.

Read the full article on our website.


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