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April 29, 2008

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Aaron

Hi Richard,
Thanks for your valuable insight about how an effective and healthy working culture works and not becoming victim of any circumstances especially in a corporate environment. Recently there is such an online platform called Singapore Boss Bitching for people to express their frustration.
I think one of the surviving skill to learn in the corporate world is to know what is the `right thing' to say to `which kind of bossess' in a `right moment'. Of course there is no such an absolute right moment to say what.

cheers,
Aaron.

Richard yong

Good to hear Andy,

Nowadays I work longer hours too. I think it's great for people to do what they love, because the hours stop mattering, you can wake at 4:30 and start working and it's awesome.

That's why I find the lady in the picture intriguing, she's like a painting, a moment stuck in time and you can't quite figure why she's there.

Andrew

I started work at 4.30am this morning and I loved it.

Richard yong

Aaron, thanks for the feedback, I always appreciate honest feedback like that.

Accounting is a funny profession, year end closing of accounts often sends accountants working late into the night. I used to watch accountants at client sites locked in rooms working till 2 - 3AM every day, until either budgets or accounts had been completed and signed off.

Doing the right thing is a really hard thing to do. because it sounds like a couple of changes need to happen:

1. Management behaviour (poor worker/manager/CFO communication)

and

2. Process re-engineering (bad accounting system)

While fixing this is sometimes considered in the realm of Human Resources or Business Consultants, I think that every employee has the responsibility to voice their concerns and make things right. This is a scary, courageous thing to do because the other 99% are happy to shirk responsibility.

So here is my take:

1. Sit the boss down, maybe even the CFO. Talk about expectation management and expected behaviour.

* Below the neck discussion. Ron Heifetz in Adaptive Leadership talks about discussing things plainly, including how people are feeling. It has to be both ways though, and sometimes senior management find it hard to break down the 'face' they put on everyday.

Once past the 'face' though, you'll see very different conversations start appearing, I encourage you to read the book to understand more about having a constructive dialogue with management.

* Expectations on work, what is fair and what isn't? What are the behaviours you expect to see from workers, from managers and from the CFO? I would expect a good manager to fight for my rights rather than the CFO's, but maybe nobody told the manager that!

One of the most successful behavioural change projects I've seen was simply listing down 10 things expected from management, and telling them. One of them was simple, 'Say Hi!'

Perhaps the CFO expectation is just the truth, but the manager believes the CFO just wants a pretty picture so he doesn't get fired. If no one ever discusses expectations, pressures build.

2. Business reengineering

It sounds like this $100,000 system that doesn't work is causing complication and time problems. Without going into too much detail, I'll just pose this one notion:

The cost of 2 accounts clerks for 1 year is equivalent to $100,000 in Australia.

As a manager, if I could be shown a proposal that outlines:

1. How much is the complexity and slow down actually costing the firm? If it's more than $100,000 in wasted productivity, I can guarantee you that management will buy a new system in a split second.

2. What are the alternatives? Perhaps more upfront planning, giving the manager an assistant who is problem solving focused, there are many alternatives to consider.

3. Are there non-cost issues as well? Stress, sick leave, happiness of staff or high turnover? No firm wants to lose a hardworking employee.

Aaron, overall, it sounds like there are some 'elephants' in the room that need to be discussed between everyone in the division, are there frequent open discussions between managment and staff?

The culture of a firm can impact the quality of discussion, some firms have very open cultures that expect people to be empowered Google) while some firms have entrenched fiefdoms, expectations to shape up or ship out or to toe the company and management line (1990's IBM).

To your wife, I would say the most important thing is to not become the victim. Even though she might be working hard, the moment we take on a victim mentality, we stop believing that we can save ourselves.

Good luck, stay strong! Please let me know how you go.

Regards

Richard

Aaron

Hi Richard,
It has been encouraging for me to read your website and input you have shared. My wife have been working in the account department for a listed oil and gas servicing company since Oct 2007. Now the company is rushing to close their account for the end of the financial year. She is working late almost everyday plus sat since many weeks ago. She has shared with me the frustration over work when her boss promised her boss's boss (CFO)to finish and hang over the account at certain deadline. However due to the inefficient accounting software system installed (costing S$100,000) which make everybody's job (data entry) more difficult, complicated, and time consuming. Her manager is not a problem solver even though she knows there is a problem but kept painting a good pic to the CFO that everything is ok. Any advise from you in dealing the issue above?

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