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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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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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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The Delegating Manager.


The traditional corporate structure is set up based on hierarchy:

  1. Head honcho asks management to get something done.
  2. Management delegates the work to minions.
  3. Minions scramble to get the work done and send it back to management.
  4. Management submits it to head honcho.

If you have good managers, they add value every step of the way, like taking the effort to understand exactly what the head honcho wants and communicating it clearly to the minions, reviewing and refining the minions’ work, and then giving the necessary credit to the team. But there are many horrible managers who don’t do that. This delegating manager I encountered took it to the extreme.

She delegated EVERYTHING.

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The No EQ Colleague.

Farewell lunches. Great way to get a free meal from your soon-to-be ex-colleagues and spend official company time not doing work. Heh. Well, when I resigned from a company sometime back, the department threw me a farewell lunch at a nice restaurant. While we were sitting around and chatting, this socially inept colleague (whom everyone hated) suddenly stood up as if to make some grand announcement. I instinctively cringed, thinking “Please don’t make me give a farewell speech.” But what she did was even worse.

“Well, since I have everyone here, can I get some inputs on the training framework I sent out earlier this week?”


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The Office Fashionista.

Ugly Dress Baby.jpg

There’s always a “Christmas tree” in every office. You know, the one employee who takes it upon herself to dress up all glamorous for her mundane 9-to-5 job. I’m not against using clothes and makeup to express your personality, but this colleague’s fashion sense left many speechless. And not in a good way.

I didn’t know her well, but heard that her husband doted on her, and encouraged her to splurge on whatever she wanted. Which was apparently, ugly clothing. Her favourite travel destination was Hong Kong, where after each trip, she’d return with bags full of bad fashion – fringed crop tops, furry boots, sequin dresses. She used the office as her runway, displaying her loot to the detriment of everyone’s eyes.

What was truly baffling was the number of employees who complained to HR and expected us to do something about it.

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The “Non-Confidential” HR Intern.


Interns are boon and bane. At best, they bring fresh ideas and don’t mind picking up boring routine work (it’s new to them!) no one else wants to do. At worst, they think they are God’s gift to the world, and that the company owes it to them to provide a meaningful internship experience. Except sometimes, they are so dumb you start to wonder if the next generation is genetically defective.

I had a real dud once who did not seem to understand the concept of confidentiality. And he was attached to, of all departments, HR.

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Counting Pennies – The Corporate Way.

Office Stationery

Sometimes I don’t know whether to sigh at or applaud the “innovative” ways that companies come up with to cut costs. Instead of focusing on major expenditure items – like business class travel or copious quantities of alcohol for client entertainment – some of them take the saying “every penny counts” a little too literally. Here’s a compilation of  the most ridiculous ideas I’ve heard when it comes to penny pinching. I’ll bet none of these decisions actually shifted a single digit on the company cost sheet.

  • Not providing office stationery
    “My company was so stingy they refused to indent any office stationery. During the new employee orientation, we were told to bring our own from home, and even ‘encouraged’ to take the pens and notepads from hotels when we travelled.”
  • Stocking the office pantry with food employees don’t like
    “It had been weeks since a certain popular biscuit had been restocked, so I asked the pantry lady why. She had apparently been told by management that she could only order snacks people didn’t like, so as to cut down on pantry expenses.”
  • Storing all the copy paper in the CFO’s room
    “If we wanted to photocopy or print anything, we’d have to go to the CFO and request for a ream of copy paper. Yes, CFO approval was required for $5 worth of paper in a multi-million dollar revenue company.”
  • Rationing paper towels in the toilet
    “Our office toilets didn’t have hand dryers, but paper towel dispensers instead. One particular week, we realised that we were running out of paper towels by midday. It turned out that the facilities manager was ‘rationing’ paper towels to cut costs so only a certain number were put out each day. I guess we should be glad they didn’t decide to ration toilet paper!”
  • Booking a too small venue for the annual office party
    “My company booked a cheaper venue that clearly could not accommodate the entire office, and removed all the seating to make more room. No one was allowed to leave early so everybody was forced to stand around in the tight space for 3 whole hours. I’m sure we violated some building safety code.”

Cutting costs? More like cutting employee engagement.