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Malaysian Alien


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Thursday, March 13, 2008
When The Cat Goes Away, All The Rats Come Out To Play

You know what I hate most? I hate how complacent some people can be. Now I almost used the word “Malaysians” but decided against it since not all Malaysians skip work (or think of skipping work) the moment their bosses, wives or mothers are not eagle eyeing them.

I find this habit very troubling. I mean, aren’t you supposed to work because you SHOULD work? Or are you going about your daily work schedules because your boss happens to be staring at you while you chat on yahoo messenger? Do you constantly need someone to breathe down your neck in order for you to get your work reports done?

My experience managing my staff could be a reasonable example to use here. While I am away from the office, suddenly there is a spike of “I am not happy with (fill in the blank)” complaints. Now I check if the complaints are justified and obviously there are several cases where they were justified and were addressed.

The most recent “I am not happy with…” involves the dishing out of salary. We doubled our list of clients (because of strategic business strategies and research) and 6 new members of staff were hired in the last 4 months to help manage the sharp increase of clients. While I hired new staff, I thought that it was also a good time to reward my senior staff members in recognition for their efforts and contributions in growing the business. Basically it’s a separation and celebration of those who were with me from the beginning.

A junior staff came into the office and cried. Let’s call her Miss Tan. So Miss Tan claimed that she could not survive on the salary both parties agreed on when she began work 3 months ago. This junior member said between sobs “transport to work costs me RM400 and my car loan is RM500 monthly. I live on nearly nothing after paying the utility bills and rent.”

14 years in the position of “boss” I realised that enthusiasm (and a willingness to work) is often time even more important than any qualification or experience any employment can cough onto the interview table. Now Miss Tan is a fine girl and enthusiastic about work, so I suggested that we give her an increment as part of her confirmation package. Therefore instructions were given for her to receive an additional RM200 under petrol allowance.

Naturally Miss Tan was happy when she heard the news of her increment. Her tears turned into joy as she proclaimed that she needn’t work in Singapore (as suggested by her mother). Thenafter the 2 other staff members who were confirmed in March were given similar petrol allowance. The sum varied, according to their talents, experience and work attitude in the first 3 months of work. No problem there.

A senior staff then stormed into the office, telling the head of staff that she wasn’t happy that the junior members received petrol allowance. “I’m not happy that she has petrol allowance.” I am sure it was her polite version of “I want petrol allowance too!” Anyway her reactions pissed me off incessantly and here are the reasons:

  • Salary information is private and confidential everywhere – how did she manage to yank the salary information from the junior staff’s chest?

  • “I am not happy” is not good enough justification for the senior member to receive similar benefit. It is not acceptable, especially not when her 2008 salary is a 30% increment of her December 2007 take-home salary + increment of EPF contribution by employer + a holiday on gratis slated in August this year.

I’m upset that Miss Senior failed to see that her salary is still higher (in every single aspect) and she was already awarded and recognized for her seniority in the company’s hierarchy. In my opinion, she is being very petty for picking on little words here and there. Her reaction to the whole episode demonstrates to me how down right ungrateful she is, for the recognition and salary hikes given to her just 3 months earlier.

I cannot give into Miss Senior’s demands. I have given into my staff’s demands in the last few months in anticipation of the increased list of clients. Obviously they know that the company needs them to work in order to maintain and sustain the number of clients we have at the moment, so they are trying hard to squeeze as much juice out of me.

The most important reason however, is that increment comes with job performance and increased productivity. Increments are made and agreed during appraisals. You have to justify the increment. For example, if you demand a RM200 increment, you have to demonstrate to your boss how you have helped him/her earn more than RM200 in profit. You cannot demand as you please.

Maybe it's time the cat came out again. Keep the rats at bay.


Speaking of staff meetings, I nearly died reading the secretary’s minutes for January’s staff meeting. The whole bloody thing was just a big list of “What my company should buy for me, ME, ME!”. I am not bloody Google, who being best employer in the world, is able to provide its employees with crèche service, free food for whole family, games room for its staff etc etc. Having such facilities and benefits in Google attracted the best brains to the company.

While I am not Larry Page and Sergey Brin, my company does provide free meals for its staff - breakfast, lunch and te. You would think that my staff would roll on the floor, absolutely happy, isn’t it? Oh no, they are not happy. They actually think it’s their god damn right to have free meals served to them piping hot. These days they even complain what they do not want to eat for lunch and what should be cooked for them. In my book, what's good enough for the boss to eat is good enough for the rest. January’s list includes the question if the company reimburses staff’s lunch if they head out of office to buy lunch elsewhere when they do not like what’s served in the company’s canteen.

This all excludes the small budget for staff’s relaxation and entertainment. We encourage the team to organize an activity during one evening or the weekend, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. I thought it was an excellent way to build teamwork, trust and communication between fellow colleagues. So far, they’ve enjoyed it but I am yet to see an increase in productivity...


The big advertisement was meant to replace the torn one in front of the office. I had made the order before Chinese New Year and was told that I had to wait until CNY was over. And so the wait began. I received a copy of the advert the week after CNY and confirmed its design.

How long do you think it takes for an advertising firm to put up the damn thing?

It is still not up and the old banner is now flapping around the front of my office, like the torn flag of the Flying Dutchman. It’s more than one bloody month! Now I know this wouldn’t happen if I was around. The last time I ordered it, the banner turned up in less than 5 days. What changed?

Oh yes, the cat flew to Europe. So the rats are all out to play.

Last evening the cat told the rat that if he doesn't put up the banner by 5 p.m. today, he doesn't need to it up at all.


My third illustration examplies the Asian mentality. I really hate classifying everyone as “Asian” but I am so fuming mad at the moment, I can’t help it. I have similar encounters many times over, each a little different but yet all revolve around a similar theme – most people must have their balls squeezed till they turn blue or else they can’t function at work efficiently.

I wrote a letter of offer to a security firm for CCTV installation in one of my offices. I felt it was a good way to manage my business and showed transparency to my clients. It was also good timing and planning as the office underwent a major renovation and all the wires were laid into the building. Trouble started when they requested for a short delay in completing the installation due to a sudden huge order from a factory.

Since I manage a business myself, I fully understand the intricate works that goes into managing a business. I could wait just a bit, given the fact that the CCTV was not a life and death situation for me. It would help me manage my business better but one or two weeks later wouldn’t kill me either.

You would think that my gesture would be appreciated and my cameras + CCTV facilities set up within 2 weeks. It took them more than a month to fully complete installation in my office. I paid them with a cheque the moment the invoice came despite the company still owing my staff the necessary training to utilise the software and equipment. Oh how swiftly they bank in the cheque. But what happened to my staff’s training?

I waited until my face turned blue. Finally when I could not take it anymore, I placed an order on another product, which they promptly send to my office. With the products safely in my office and invoice in my head of staff’s hand, I refused to pay them until they settled the training and online access.

“I am utterly disappointed with the service rendered to me. It’s been more than a month since a full payment has been made for the CCTV and the training promised in the package is yet to be conducted. Please be advised that I shall only make payment for the new service when you have fulfilled your previous tasks. Thank you.”

I had to scold them and squeeze them by their balls before they did their job. They finally conducted the training for my staff. I had access to the CCTV online after more than 6 weeks waiting period. Why must people be squeezed and threatened before they are able to work?

I’ve realised that most employees (including my own set of friends) have very similar mindset. They will find ways to escape work, the very second their bosses are not watching. And most companies will stop follow up with the extra service the moment payment is made. How difficult is it to do your best because you want to be the best? Why must your boss beat your confidence down before you would move your ass?

‘Why should I work so hard since the company is not mine?’ seemed to be the acceptable excuse. I obviously have a different perspective since I am the owner and the boss. I want to treat my staff with respect and be generous with my praises for their efforts. However it looks like all these things are taken for granted here in Malaysia. People, or rather, employees, do not respond well to goodness and kindness. They respond very well to fear (of losing their livelihood), threats and self-esteem beating.

If you can’t work hard because the company is not yours, why don’t you open your own business and work hard there? The fact some people are born to manage businesses and others are born to be team players. Your attitude towards work should be the same, whatever the role you play at work – employee or employer. There is no excuse.


Do not take for granted when your boss is generous towards you. Celebrate when you are rewarded for your work. Be happy when your achievements at work are recognized. Do not gloat nor think that you are indispensable when your boss said, “Well done, good job!”. It means that you had done well. It does not mean that you can now parade around the office, thinking that you are one floor above your boss.

If your boss can train you, she can train another to replace you. It might be inconvenient but it is possible. Do not give your boss the opportunity to remind you how dispensable you are. Listening to how dispensable you are is degrading. Your boss does not want to be the bad person. Don’t let her be.

You should be the best that you can, whether you are an employee or an employer. Business is organic and continues to grow after you have completed the transaction. Where service is concerned, make sure you walk the extra mile. Your clients will remember you for the efforts you put into it. Do everything to the best of your ability. Respond to needs and complaints as fast as you can. Keep it simple, efficient and fast. Keep your customers happy.

Whatever you do, do not ever stop serving the minute you receive the money in your hand. It is common practice and it is bad taste. The level of sincerity of managing your business is reflected in the way your after sales service is conducted. Nothing will testify better of your priorities and objectives. It isn’t all about ringing the till.


The cat licked her paws. She has sharpened her claws. Wait a minute, I thought I heard a rat sneak by. Her ears perked up. How vigilant are her eyes. No more rats playing after tonight.

it's pretty cool reading what you've got to say from the perspective of a boss because all so often, we hear employees grumbling about what a bitch or bastard the boss is (pardon the language).
i think that it's interesting how you've arranged for meals to be delivered and things like that. but perhaps the employees are bored? as in perhaps they would prefer to buy their own food during lunch time cause they can get a change of environment for a short while and stuff like that?
oh wells. humans are weird.

3:06 pm  

For very obvious reasons, my staff can buy their own food during lunch time. They are asking me to pay for them to go out and eat out.

In my most angry moment, I dare say, "Why don't you tapau straight from some fancy 6 star hotel?". Obviously they are free to eat elsewhere whenever they wish. They could head out for a girl's meal if they wished but would it be wise to expect me to pay for their girlie lunch hour in Oriental Cravings?

(esp since I already prepare a budget approx. RM500 for the 14 of them to have girl's night out per month).

BTW my staff are muhibah, cannot eat in Oriental Cravings, hahaha.

3:14 pm  

heh.. wth. goodness. might as well ask the government to fund all school children's lunch money and whatnot.
and having a girl's night out budget every month beats having the annual DND cause i think that those nights out would be more fun than some annual thing.. -_-"

2:43 pm  


5:40 am  

hi otto,

your company able to provide breakfast, lunch and tea is really good already... lucky your employees. if u need fresh grads in business info. system... you got one here! hahaha

6:48 pm  

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