Etiquette, Please.


You’d think that all recruiters or headhunters are eager to pursue candidates and generally would spend time and effort to “woo” them. After all, their job is typically commission-based (or KPI-based for in-house recruiters), so the quicker they secure and place a candidate, they quicker they get their reward.

Through the years, I’ve had my share of duds, ranging from those who don’t know anything about the role they are selling to those who naively think that their role is such a wonderful opportunity that someone out there will be willing to take a pay cut to join them. This one headhunter with no EQ or manners (why are there so many people like that in the world?) really took the cake.

We had arranged to meet at a cafe near my office. She was late. Strike One.

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Unexpected Employee Reactions During A Layoff.


Layoffs are a serious issue for the individuals involved. Losing a job through no fault of the employee’s, and in most cases, having to leave the office premises immediately in front of colleagues, can do a number on their ego. For those living paycheck to paycheck, the consequences are much more serious than just saving face.

As a HR practitioner, I’ve sat through sessions with sobbing employees, those who threaten legal action, and others who are so shocked they clam up immediately and refuse to utter a word. But sometimes, we get really unexpected reactions. Here are some of the more “interesting” cases I’ve encountered.

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The Delusional Hiring Manager.

Magic Mushrooms

Sometimes you get that rare breed of manager who is utterly clueless on how to sell a job, and worse, thinks that the disadvantages of the job are its selling points. I once met the top HR person of a company for the final round of interviews whom I was convinced was high on magic mushrooms or something.

She started the conversation with “I give you my personal guarantee that you don’t have to take a pay cut to join us.”

Huh? I’m not sure about you but if I’m going to take the risk to leave my job to join a new organisation, I’m kind of looking for an upside in pay.

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What’s Wrong With Having Career Gaps?

Looking for a Job

Employers are notorious for having a bias against candidates with breaks in their career history, and I admit I’ve been guilty of that same sin. In fact, whenever I saw a long break on a resume, I jumped straight to one or more of the following assumptions about the candidate.

  • Well, you obviously don’t need money since you can afford such a long break, so you won’t be a motivated employee.
  • You must be an impulsive/irresponsible employee who will quit at the drop of a hat.
  • There must be something wrong with you. If not you should have been able to find another job while still employed. Like everybody else.
  • If you’ve been out of the workforce for so long, your knowledge and experience are likely to be obsolete already.

Then, I would wait to see what “excuses” the candidate made to explain away the breaks. My list of acceptable reasons included retrenchment, end of contract, illness, taking care of family, and relocation. Yep, that was it. Any other reason was, well, “unreasonable”. But after I took a few breaks myself, I now know the error of my ways and want employers to keep an open mind.

So employers, please consider the following.

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I’m Underpaid Compared To My Peers. How Do I Bring This Up To My Boss?

“I’ve just found out that I’m being under-compensated. When I speak to my boss on this, should I bring up how my peer is being compensated vs myself given that we hold similar job scope / responsibilities?”


Unless your company has a policy of salary transparency or your country has an Equal Pay Act, using your peer’s compensation can be viewed as unprofessional and get yourself (where did you get that information?) or your peer (if he/she is supposed to keep his salary confidential) into trouble. Also, you want your employer to see that it is right for you to deserve a higher pay because of the value you have brought and can bring to the table. Not only because the person next to you is being paid more.

That’s not to say you should stay silent on the matter. Here are my three cents’ worth on navigating this tricky conversation.

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I Just Had Another Kid. How Do I Ask for A Pay Rise?

Baby Romper

“My stay-at-home wife just had our third child, and we’re feeling it financially. I’m thinking of asking my boss for a pay rise so that we can have a more sustainable lifestyle. Is this a no-no?”

Well, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous when employees come with a sob story (however true it may be) and use it to justify a salary increase. A company hires you to do a job for a price that you agreed on. It’s largely a money for labour transaction. Expecting it to compensate you for your personal issues is just not reasonable. If I have a penchant for expensive cars, I wouldn’t go to my boss and ask for a raise so that I can afford one right?

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The Sleeping Beauty.


Once in a while you meet people in the workplace that truly amaze you. And not in a good way. I once knew someone who kept falling asleep at his desk. I’m not talking about a catnap during lunch. I’m talking complete lights out, loud snoring during office hours. AT HIS FIRST WEEK AT WORK.

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Why Does Everything Have To Be Called A Project?


Companies love labelling anything and everything a “project”. It’s almost as if by slapping on that word, the task gains a certain prestige and therefore suddenly becomes worth spending time on. Otherwise, it’s just stuff that people have to do, but don’t get recognised for.

And this phenomenon is particularly prevalent in companies that hide under the guise of “collaboration”.

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The Over-hiring Hiring Manager.


Hiring managers always want the best candidates. That’s their prerogative, and I’m all for it. Until they decide to over-hire. In simple terms, over-hiring is when they want to hire Barack Obama to operate rides at Disneyland. And worse still, is when they then complain that the pay range for the job is too low to accommodate Mr. Obama’s expectations! If they eventually get their way, the candidate often ends up being hired at or beyond the maximum of the pay range.

Fast forward a year, their now-employee is demotivated because the job isn’t challenging enough and he is ineligible for any pay increases.

It’s a daily struggle to talk sense into these managers, so when I heard how brilliantly my recruiter handled one of the more unreasonable ones, I was impressed. This hiring manager had insisted on only shortlisting degree holders for a low-paying dead-end administrative job.

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Is Being Market Competitive Good Enough?

Data Analysis“Where’s the market data to support your proposal? What are other companies doing?”
“Why do we need to give this benefit? What’s the market prevalence?” 

A part of being a HR professional, particularly in the rewards or compensation functions, involves analysing market data to support any updates or changes to policies, with the ultimate aim of ensuring the company remains “market competitive”. What that means is management always wants to be assured that their compensation and benefits are on par, or better than other companies and ergo, they will be able to retain employees and attract talent.

This practice of market benchmarking is a PITA (pain in the ass), and although it keeps people like me gainfully employed,  I do caution companies about overly relying on it for policy-making. Even when all the data points to you being market competitive, you might actually not be. Here’s why. Continue reading