Thursday, July 06, 2006

On organizations that are less than world-class

This very short essay presents my views about a type of organizations that I call 'organizations that are less than world-class'. There are 4 characteristics of such organizations:

(1) They pay peanuts and yet they expect the people working for them to devote 300, 500, or even 800 percent of their energies. They tell you to be 'professional', to put in extra effort, to be 'prepared for long hours', and so on, conveniently forgetting that they are actually under-paying you (hoping that like a small child you'll forget)...They do not care if what you earn using all your time will not be enough for you to pay your bills or take care of your family, because what they care about is only the question of how to extract everything out of you (or in Mandarin, 'ba2 ni3 zha4 gan1'), like the way the SugarCaneDrinks Man puts the sugarcanes through the extractor-machine repeatedly until every drop of the sugarcane juice is squeezed out, and the sugarcane promptly discarded....

(2) Not only do they do (1), they also have the cheek to say this aloud and with a straight face - for the employees, temp staff, and the public to hear. It's obvious that such organizations (especially their useless HR departments) think that they are doing the right thing. The most sinister thing about such organizations is that they under-pay you but they tell you that it's 'a fair wage' or 'market rate'. The term 'market rate' is abused by these unethical organizations and their agents to justify the practice of paying peanuts. Ironically, these organizations tell you that you're really valuable to them and you play an 'immensely important role' in upholding the image of the organization and in delivering the goods; yes, you are crucial to the organization, without all your 'good work' the show cannot go on. Indeed the show cannot go on, for this is hypocrisy well-performed - co-acted by the employees who are sufficiently brainwashed...

(3) Following from (1) and (2), you might think that only people with low skills are affected by such unethical practices. This is not true - even highly skilled people are affected. The rhetoric of the knowledge-based economy may give the public an impression that 'ah, finally people with Knowledge are going to be recognized and rewarded more!' But this is a misleading image which masks the actual realities of organizational HR practices. In the knowledge-based economy, what happens might be the opposite: the highly skilled people are rewarded less, or at least less than what they deserve, because the transformations towards the KBE involve the mass production of highly skilled workers, to the extent that the plentiful supply makes each of them a cheap commodity. Have I shattered your dreams? No fear, my friend, for shit happens... :)

(4) They do not have the ability to recognize good people, including job applicants and existing staff. So if great applicants apply, they are promptly rejected, precisely because a mediocre or lousy organization simply cannot recognize greatness (If they could they wouldn't still be mediocre or lousy, would they?) Existing staff who add value or are rare gems are not treasured, and they are sometimes even treated with suspicion - precisely because of their greatness. Greatness sometimes manifests as a form of 'deviance' (without deviating from the crowd, how does one be great?), and mediocre and lousy organizations are entities that cannot tolerate deviance, so they remain just ordinary players in whichever industry or sector they are operating in. When the nail that sticks out gets hammered and only conformist 'yes-men' fill all the professional roles, how can such organizations ever hope to become 'world-class'?

So this short essay has presented my views on a certain organizational type. These organizations are liabilities in any knowledge-based economy, but Singapore has failed to recognize the threat that they pose collectively. The tricky thing about these organizations is that they are lousy but not lousy enough to die off, and so they go about their businesses as usual, projecting the image to outsiders that they are 'doing quite well'. But in their lastingness they do even more damage to the country as a whole, as they silently finish off on a massive scale all the great people or do things that extinguish their creative excellence, slowly but surely.....

21 Comments:

Blogger sei-ji rakugaki said...

well, they are always companies/organization that take short cuts or cut corners..and the best way to save money is to pay employees less, as manpower take up the bulk of overhead costs.
The problem lies more with organization asking the employees to bite the bullet in bad times, yet when the company is doing well, continued with the policy of making shareholders happy, and not employees, and taking a myopic view. but there are geninue companies out there, who asked the employees to take lesser pay, and reward them when they do well..and thank them properly for sticking through with them.but well..those are far and in between.Greed often sets in..unfortunately...

Thu Jul 06, 12:00:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Dorothy said...

Bravo, my dear! :)

And I'd say that the time is ripe for the next proletarian revolution!

Workers of the world unite! - against peanut pays and 'less-than-world-class organisations'.

Okay, I'm kidding! (don't catch me and put me on a off-shore island).

No, really I am :)

Thu Jul 06, 02:13:00 PM 2006  
Blogger bigsurf said...

SPOT ON!!!

Fri Jul 07, 02:48:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Merv said...

if all companies in Sg are world class, where would all the mediocre people work?

Fri Jul 07, 08:31:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Sei-ji, good point. :] Also, we need more of the 2nd type of companies you mentioned...

Hi Dorothy, thanks. You'll be fine... :]

Thanks, BigSurf!

Hi Merv: Quite true...However my belief is that many pple are the 'neutral' types - i.e. 'trainable' to become talented if they work in orgns that realize their full potential, but at the same time likely to become mediocre if they work in organizations that are less than world class for too long... :]

Sat Jul 08, 09:15:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous DT said...

I like to add one more! Such companies use the wonderfully extensive job scope and job exposure to many things as a reason to pay you less as you can learn more. This is priceless!

Sun Jul 09, 04:39:00 PM 2006  
Blogger trisha said...

My heart surges with emotion when I read your article because I feel you are articulating my thoughts about my current profession!

And just when I thought I have a right to complain, I hear more horror stories about the misery in other schools run by draconian, narrow-minded bureaucrats. Save our teachers!!

Tue Jul 11, 03:19:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi DT! :] You're absolutely right! They will package the deal in such a way that makes it sound as though 'the-one-being-paid-peanuts' is the one who's getting a bargain. They're really good at this.

Hi Trisha, how about giving feedback to the authorities?

Tue Jul 11, 07:08:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Cobalt Paladin said...

Are you actually talking about Singapore Inc.? ;)

Actually, if I find time, I'll try to blog about my view in this, drawing parallelisms of Singapore Inc to a big organisations and corporate company.

Wed Jul 12, 12:05:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Anthony said...

The corollary to this is, of course, that many average performers believe they are "above-average". I point to the spiking executive compensation after the SEC required average executive compensation to be disclosed.

I don't think it's so easy to quantify the qualities of a person destined for "greatness" - until he actually performs the great deed.

Given this, isn't it much easier to (1) pretend to be one (2) claim credit when a great deed is actually performed?

I've got a theory about organizational behaviour and super-performers than I will get round to writing after I'm done with my bar exam, but it's essentially this - hiring superperformers is less efficient than creating them, given the difficulty of creating them, organizations get what they deserve, and it's all about peanuts.

Wed Jul 12, 01:44:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Cobalt Paladin, hm...you're the third person to ask me if I'm indirectly writing about Singapore Inc...This is so interesting. :)

Actually I wasn't. I wrote this essay because I really feel that many talented Singaporeans are being suppressed or discouraged by these types of companies/organizations. So the main targets of criticism in this essay are these types of organizations/companies, rather than Singapore Inc, although the latter might suffer some collateral damage... :)

I would certainly like to read your essay once it's written...

Hi Anthony, I do agree with you. There will be problems (that you've rightly pointed out) if we want to implement 'no peanuts' policies in practice. Is there a way to strike a balance?

I look forward to reading about your new theory. :]

Wed Jul 12, 02:11:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U've expressed what I have thought.. thanks!!!!!!

Sun Jul 16, 09:57:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Heavenly Sword said...

Hi Anonymous, you're welcome! :)

Fri Jul 28, 09:01:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous estamun said...

Hi Heavenly Sword,

Just thought that what u wrote abt describes my previous employer quite well. May be I am not a "great" employee, nevertheless I have had consistently received positive feedback from our clients (to whom my company outsourced me); clients who also had been consistently complaining abt my managers (shuffled through 3 managers in the space of 2 years).

The URL below was the situation under which I left my previous employer. It started from my manager scolding me at the top of her voice for not taking her feelings into consideration (that she was at office despite her son's illness). Since I felt she was being ridiculus in her expectations, I did not respond, which made her even more furious. After she left the office, I blew my top.

The "best" part of the managers' incompentence [and perhaps their true nature] showed when 3 layers of managers were in cahoots to fire me on grounds of AWOL... 3 days after confiscating my company and client access!

http://www.renotalk.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=4507

To cut a long story short, I went to MOM to find out about my rights, checked the merits of my case (and whatever supporting evidence I needed), and then negotiated with HR for a fairer closure. As far as I know, those incomptent managers stayed on with the company and the bullying continues.

Tue Sep 05, 06:48:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous estamun said...

Hi Heavenly Sword,

Just thought that what u wrote abt describes my previous employer quite well. May be I am not a "great" employee, nevertheless I have had consistently received positive feedback from our clients (to whom my company outsourced me); clients who also had been consistently complaining abt my managers (shuffled through 3 managers in the space of 2 years).

The URL below was the situation under which I left my previous employer. It started from my manager scolding me at the top of her voice for not taking her feelings into consideration (that she was at office despite her son's illness). Since I felt she was being ridiculus in her expectations, I did not respond, which made her even more furious. After she left the office, I blew my top.

The "best" part of the managers' incompentence [and perhaps their true nature] showed when 3 layers of managers were in cahoots to fire me on grounds of AWOL... 3 days after confiscating my company and client access!

http://www.renotalk.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=4507

To cut a long story short, I went to MOM to find out about my rights, checked the merits of my case (and whatever supporting evidence I needed), and then negotiated with HR for a fairer closure. As far as I know, those incomptent managers stayed on with the company and the bullying continues.

Tue Sep 05, 06:48:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Male or Female?

Farmer Brown had been screwing one of his pigs for 5 years, when all of a sudden he was hit by pangs of conscience.

It bothered him so much that he decided that he just had to tell his priest about it in confession.

The priest was shocked and could only say to Farmer Brown, "Well, was the pig a male or a female?"

"A female, of course," shouted Farmer Brown!. "What do you think I am... some sort of queer!"


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