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 Performance Bell Curve – A Myth?

Bell Curve

Years of being in HR have engraved the concept of the performance bell curve into my brain. “It’s not possible that everyone in your team is a superstar” to “You must force rank all your employees according to a normal distribution” are phrases coming out of most HR practitioners’ mouths at performance appraisal time, and for the longest time, I believed and preached it. It wasn’t until I was rated an Average Performer because we had a small team – which meant only one person was allowed to be rated a High Performer – that I realised how flawed the bell curve system was. This Mean HR Lady can be (and has been) called many things, but AVERAGE is pure blasphemy.

This article by HR consultant Josh Bersin “The Myth of the Bell Curve: Look for the Hyper Performers” hits the nail on the head explaining the limitations of the bell curve. We should instead, look at a Power Law distribution, where there are very few Hyper Performers, a large number of Average Performers and a small group of Lower Performers. It’s easy to spot Hyper Performers. These are the folks that make the difference between a successful project and one that tanks. They are the employees that you would consider bending rules and making exceptions for because they are that valuable to the business.

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Performance-Values Matrix.

Performance-Values Matrix

More than half of the stuff written on LinkedIn by aspiring “thought leaders” are frankly nonsensical ramblings, but “Your Company’s Culture is Who You Hire, Fire, & Promote – Part 1: The Performance-Values Matrix“, written by Dr. Cameron Sepah really makes a lot of sense, and he’s not even a HR practitioner! He is, however, a trained psychologist and executive coach, which could explain some of his spot-on insights.

“Your company’s employees practice the behaviors that are valued,
not the values you believe.”

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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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Time Zone Differences In A Global Company.


I’ve worked for a couple of non-Asian companies and the one thing that gets me insanely irritated is having to adapt to the timezone of wherever their headquarters is located. If in Europe, that’s not too bad – Asia still has some overlapping work hours. If in the US, good luck – early morning conference calls at 6am or late night calls at 9pm are the norm. Although annoying, I do accept that these situations are sometimes inevitable for work productivity.

What I can’t accept is when companies take employees having to work in a different timezone for granted, especially in cases when the employees aren’t paid an early morning or night shift allowance, or allowed flexibility to come in later or leave the office earlier (i.e. “deducting” the hours from their normal working day).

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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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Stop Telling Employees To Speak Up.


I hate companies that insist employees “speak up” or “be vocal” in order to “raise their profile”. Now I get that if you don’t take the opportunity to interact with the higher ups, it’s a painful reality that they won’t even know that you exist. So come performance review time, you’d more likely than not be passed over for that raise or promotion. But speaking for the sake of taking attendance is just wasting everyone’s time, and good management needs to learn to recognise these airtime thieves who typically fall into three categories.

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Job Postings Don’t Have To Be “Cool”.

As part of the brand’s visionary evolution in meeting changing customer portfolio, they are seeking an influential change catalyst for this role, who will be empowered to lead the architecture of a refreshing strategy and implementations aligned to the expanding business aspirations.

This was the opening paragraph of a job posting I saw recently. I read it twice, and what went through my mind was this:


I’ve seen a recent trend of “innovative” job descriptions as companies try to make themselves stand out, and it annoys me to no end. A job description should do just that – describe the job. Throwing together a mishmash of big buzzwords does nothing to further that objective. The above ad tells me that (i) the poster wants to hire a psychic who can mysteriously understand what he wants; and (ii) the jobseekers who respond are likely only people who randomly apply to every job under the sun.

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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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