Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Bryan's Cafe is moving to a new host at Wordpress. New branding, haha!! Click here to go to my new site.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why aren't you promoted?

This is my last post on Blogger as Bryan's Cafe has moved to a new host at Wordpress. New branding, haha!! Click here to go to my new site.


One of the fine blogs I like to read is Kathiroly Raj's Wise Life Advice. Maybe it has something to do with my past life I dunno but I can relate to the articles he writes. :-)

His latest entry is about why people don't get promoted. Although I'm not employed in the traditional sense of the word, I do have some opportunities to peek into that world. Since this is gonna be a bit long to write it in Kathi's comments section, I guess I'll just do it here.

Going by what I see, the scenario Kathi paints is a common one. You're the quiet type who work your butt off. You come in early and stay late every day, maybe even skipping lunches to meet deadlines. Your boss has no complaints about you and habitually pats you on the back for a job well done. But that's where it ends. You get passed over for promotion every time by someone who talks more and delivers less. Feeling frustrated and betrayed, you think of resigning.

If you're in this situation, I think you're victim to one of the greatest fallacies of the workplace, one that many companies want you to believe, and that is the more hardworking you are, the more you deserve a promotion.

Actually getting more things done only means one thing - that you can get more things done. It doesn't necessarily mean you are promoteable material. And if your boss isn't interested to tell you what it takes to get promoted, its because either they themselves are blur sotong or in all honesty they don't see much value in you.

I notice that people who believe in this work harder-get more reward myth tend to be either of low rank or are technical oriented people who are trained to relate to things mathematically. You know, that 1+1 must always be =2. Well if its as simple as that, employers don't need humans. They just need computers and robots. They're cheaper and they whine less summore.

Secondly, when this conflict of expectation happens and the first thing that comes to mind is to resign, then its just further proof that you are not promoteable in the first place. It demonstrates (a) an incapability to comprehend that business is more than just about the thing that you're paid to do, and (b) the inability to take the bull by the horns and solve a problem. Business after all is about solving problems isn't it.

I also noticed that people who get promoted tend to be loudmouths, jerks and rule breakers, seldom the quiet, compliant and "gwai gwai" types. By their very character, the former are often people who like to push the normal boundaries of the business to see where it goes. Testing fences is risky behaviour yes but someone has to do it and prove the old formulas aren't working very well any more. If I'm the business owner, I rather have an insider prove I'm wrong than have my customer or worse, my competitor tell me.

Compare that to compliant people who sit quietly behind their fences, minding their own business and doing as their told, believing that the more pages they type the higher they can go up the laddder. I've often wondered why such people never enquire why nobody has ever been promoted to CEO after a 20 year typing job.

For me, whether a person is the reserved or noisy type, promotable people have one special characteristic. They can see work as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. They demonstrate it by going beyond their roles, even if it means just talking over lunch, to show that with a bit of imagination, you can achieve the same result quicker or cheaper, or you have a better idea that renders that piece of work redundant. They do this consistently, even if it sounds like they're just whining and complaining.

Consciously or not, over time the message they send is that they've outgrown the little job titles on their business cards. The boss's antenna is a lot more sensitive to this attitude versus talent thingy than any statistic showing you've churned out 10% more work this month than last month. Talent as you know is easily bought or rented.

In the end, I think promotability comes from a state of mind rather than a dry historical record of physical achievements. Are you delivering the work you're told to do? Well and good, it guarantees you get to keep your job. But to climb the ladder, you need the guts and the imagination to push some boundaries for some tangible breakthroughs. If you do it smart you may get thrown upstairs instead of out.

Not all bosses will appreciate this though. If your boss was himself promoted to his position through the Peter Principle or he's clearly a buffoon, then I say you're better off bailing and looking elsewhere for a job.

p/s Thanks Kathi for inspiring me to write this post :-)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

5 golden rules for employees

I have a lot of respect for people who are in 9-5 jobs. They are indeed special people who abide by these employee values.

1. Compliant. This means accepting that the boss is always right even though you're laughing your head off about your bumbling boss during lunch. By extension it also means doing things you'd rather not do. You know, little things like showing up to work on time and sticking to dress code.

2. Charitable. This means selling your talents for a lot less than what you're convinced they're worth. For example when you find management pooh-poohing your big idea when you know that on the outside, the same idea can generate you a million bucks easy.

3. Patient. This means ignoring it when your colleagues are trying to subvert your successes by finding fault in everything you do and cc-ing your 'misdeeds' by e-mail to the entire company. It also means waiting for year-end promotions that never come.

4. Benevolent. This means having two or three person's jobs sneakily dumped into your lap for no increase in pay. Its like charity except here they tie you up to an enlarged job scope contractually.

5. Motivator. This means boot-licker or apple-polisher. Going out of your way to make your boss feel good (even if you actually despise him) and motivated to be generous to you during appraisal time. You understand that telling him he's wrong would flatten his ego faster than a nail in a tire.

But what if you're not the type who's compliant, charitable, patient, benevolent and a natural motivator? Well you have two choices: learn them up quickly or get out and set up on your own. You know what they say about leading, following or getting out of the way right?

But if you do set up your own thing and start hiring people as you expand, remember these 5 golden rules for employees. Marvel on the fact that not only are you on the other side now but on how you suddenly feel these rules are utterly justified. Hee hee.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Being Happy vs. Being Right, Which is more important to you?

You do know that these two aren't exactly synonymous don't you.

Anyway, I was at the airport the other day sending off my sis to Sydney when I witnessed a tense argument between a couple. It seems they had missed their check-in time by 10 minutes and the guy was ticking off his gf/wife for taking her time to pack, causing them to leave their house late. The girl retorted that they were late because the guy called the taxi late. They weren't throwing things at each other or anything but they were clearly pissed off at each other.

I'm sure there've been times when you were utterly convinced you're right but it did nothing to improve a tense situation. So what do you do, harp on the fact that you were right regardless or zip up for the sake of maintaining peace?

Some of my friends would say if you're right, you're right and you should never step back and lose face, even if it cost you your relationship. Some would say its not worth a fight, just relax and let your partner be victorious. Focus on the long term, he or she will discover the truth some day.

I dunno. Does being right actually have any value in a relationship? Would stepping back mean you're a chicken or a hero?

What would you do?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Is high IQ necessary for success?

Not in my books. There are far too many MBAs and PhDs from Ivy league unis out there who flunk badly in the real world. I mean failed businesses, trashed friendships, divorces and shit like that.

What I do know is that high IQ people tend to be unhappier than not-so-smart people. Whenever there's a problem, a not-so-smart guy sees one solution but a smart one will see five or six. The smart mind likes to spend all its energy pondering all the possible permutations and scenarios long after the not-so-smart guy has taken off and finished the challenge.

I've seen companies that are led by very "bright" CEOs who probably qualify to be Mensa members but cannot increase corporate earnings to save their lives. They suffer from too many meetings, analysis paralysis and basically a fear of making the wrong choice in a sea of too much data. (Haha, reminds me of my pal who's working in the CRM line).

So what is necessary for business success? Well, get a clue and look at our Asian millionaires. Ask yourselves how many of them might even understand the meaning of regression analysis and complex marketing theory.

My answer is simple. Two things - experience and foresight. Nothing beats having "eaten salt" and having a solid gut instinct. After all, the backbone of all business - risk - is an emotional number.

What about IQ? I think its somewhere around number 5, after capital and location.

I'm not saying that a good brain is useless. Far from it. Intelligence is just a tool and you can use it to solve problems that require the tool, for example a design problem. But try to use it to cool down an angry customer/lover and you might get beaten on the head with a handbag.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What type of friend are you?

Do you fall into any of these categories? Be honest now.

1. The Promise Breaker. You make promises to go for mamak or a movie and 9 times out of 10 never show up.

2. The Double Crosser. You have a habit of saying nasty things about your friend to other people until they stop talking to your friend. I think this one is for ladies only.

3. The Self Absorbed. You can't stop talking about yourself. You view your friends as a sounding board and find no worthwhile reason to listen to them except to impatiently wait until they stop talking so you can start talking about you.

4. The Discloser. The "this is just between us" promise lasts only until you reach the phone or email. I think this is another one for ladies only.

5. The Competitor. You like to show off your abilities, toys and bling-blings because you think they'll put you ahead of your friend in the race. A win-lose friendship that afflicts many men.

6. The Fault Finder. You find fault in everything your friend says and does.

7. The Ego Tripper. You want your friends to agree with everything you say and shut out those who don't and you want them to rally you to popularity.

The first 6 are from Dr Jan Yager's 6 Types of Toxic Friends and How You Can Deal with Them. The 7th is mine.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day: Why so pathetic

That was my response when I when to PPS & Sarawho expecting to see bundles of Fathers Day blog dedications but only found a handful. So pathetic compared to the oodles of well-wishers on Mother's Day.

So what does this mean? That most bloggers don't bother about Father's Day? I dunno but as someone who will be a father (hopefully) some day, it sort of got me thinking.

Unlike in my other home (the US) I notice father figures aren't very popular here. My friends would have a lot to say about their moms but almost nothing about their dads. In fact they don't seem to know much other than what time their dads come home and their annoying habits.

I confess that coming from a culture where most dads would take time to rail for their kids from the days of little league baseball to their first day in college, I find this a little strange.

I can think of a couple of reasons why this is happening. Firstly, probably due to work pressure, most fathers here tend to be a crabby lot. They don't interact much with their kids after a certain age and the bond is never strengthened. Whereas mothers tend to 'mother' their kids all the way to adulthood.

Digi has this great ad about a father sending off his young daughter to the big city seemingly devoid of any bonding. It underscores exactly what I mean.

Secondly, it could also mean that Father's Day is a western celebration that's alien to Asians. But if folks here can make a big deal of Mother's Day then why not Father's Day?

Whatever, I empathize with dads who didn't get that phone call from their sons and daughters on this day. They are no less important than mothers if you ask me.

What did I do on Father's Day? Well, firstly I drove over bright and early and fixed both mom and dad breakfast. I didn't burn the ham and scrambled eggs this time and they actually finished it! We spent the morning talking about his passion - the Business. We joined Uncle Shawn and family for lunch and after that they went off for golf.

I gave him no presents. I don't think material things are important to him any more. But he lighted up that I would choose to spend quality time with him and I could see he enjoyed our talk. I mean we actually connected. I think it meant a lot more to him than any present I could give.

So for all you would-be fathers out there, no matter how busy you are, please, please don't alienate your kids and outsource everything to mommy. Take time to bond. You'll appreciate the payoff much later in life.

This to me is the most important message of Father's Day.