Author: <span class="vcard">The Maestro</span>

A friend was recently headhuntered to work for a very well-known organization here in Singapore and was shocked to find that what was projected of the organization to the public is as different as night and day compared to what actually happens inside the organization.

Besides being a bloated bureaucracy with disparate systems and processes, one extremely glaring – and unprofessional – behavior stands out, and that is: management yells at people. The entire organization operates like the military with VPs shouting at the top of their voices at directors. When frustrated or when they are not being understood, (often due to their inability to communicate clearly), those in leadership positions would holler and scream even louder as though being loud will ensure that they will be better understood.

I have worked with many organizations over the past three decades and often, just walking into the office is enough for me to sense the type of organization culture permeating in there.

Some cultures are simply toxic. Strategy may be important, but culture, as they say, “eats strategy for breakfast.” Culture is “the way we do things around here.”

But the culture of any organization is usually determined by the worst behavior its leader is willing to tolerate. I wonder if the CEO of this organization is aware of his shouting and shrieking VPs. Perhaps he is one helluva screamer himself, and that sets the tone? Behavior modeling at work?

No matter how smart, or cool, or rich or powerful you think you are, how you treat people says it all. Start yelling at me, and in my mind, you are immediately a persona non grata. Period.

And idiots like you are the reason why people leave. People don’t quit companies, they quit bosses.

I encouraged my friend to consider leaving before he dies a premature death.

No job is worth dropping dead over.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said if you want to build a ship, don’t yell at people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather inspire them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Isn’t that awe-inspiring?

I wish my friend’s bosses know that.

Extrinsic Change

Four years ago as I was leaving the company I was with for ten years, a dear colleague based in one of our overseas office wrote me a weepy email expressing her sadness.

But well, out of sight, out of mind, I suppose it is for some superficial people.

Four years later – as a twist of fate, one might say – I was given the top secret assignment of analyzing her performance and even that of her superiors by the powers-that-be in her head office. Long story short: senior management was wondering if the existence of her department was justified.  Prior to my descending upon the city where she worked I contacted her and asked if she would have time for a quick coffee. I wanted to have a sense of things. Her reply was rather official-sounding “Unfortunately I won’t be able to meet you as work is in the way and over the weekend I am studying for a qualification. But I can make some time for you to have a telephone conversation, if you like.”

If that wasn’t a rebuff and a snub, I don’t know what it was. I supposed as far as she was concerned, I have outlived my usefulness. Why make time for me? I’m history.

Would she had responded differently if I had pre-warned her of the purpose of my visit?

Well, I am not mind reader – I make my living advising corporate boards – but what I do know is that this woman has burned all her bridges with me. What little shred of goodwill I had in my mind as far as she was concerned disappeared with that email of hers.

I have also since made my recommendations to her head office and whatever needs to happen will happen. I did take into consideration employees’ EQ and interpersonal skills as I made my recommendations.

To be fair she did end her email by saying “I can make some time for you to have a telephone conversation, if you like.”

Er, no thanks, I am not a dog waiting for bones to be thrown at me and you don’t schedule official telephone conference calls with someone whose departure you said had made you cry.

She also said “Let me know your thoughts and a suitable time.”

Well, my thoughts are reflected here and I now longer have time for someone like her. Yes, that very special list I keep in my head has just had another addition, in fact this new addition has moved right to the number one position on my list.

Goodbye dear ex-colleague, have a good life!

Intrinsic Change

Late last month, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced during his Budget speech that the duty for premium grade gasoline, or “petrol” as it is referred to here in Singapore, will increase by 20 (Singapore) cents to 64 cents a liter, while that for intermediate-grade petrol will go up by 15 cents to 56 cents per liter.

Pump operators reflected the higher duties within a day. A liter of 98-octane-grade petrol was raised by up to 25 cents per liter, and as much as 18 cents per liter for 95-octane grade petrol.

With oil prices tumbling, those who were hoping that petrol prices will fall were appalled that the government raised taxes, with the result that petrol prices went up literally overnight.

CASE (The Consumers Association of Singapore) has sent letters to the main players here asking each of them to justify the increases, which in some cases, were larger than the size of the tax hikes.

“Prices were increased beyond the tax increment without proper justification,” said CASE’s executive director Seah Seng Choon, adding that the association has received queries from concerned motorists.

(Granted, a day after CASE’s action, Shell reduced the price by two cents. While this is two miserable cents lower, prices are still higher than the Government’s announced duty hike of 15 cents a liter for intermediate grade petrol and 20 cents a liter for premium petrol.)

In any case, I wish Mr Seah good luck. Petrol companies are like robber barons of old – they are as unlikely to budge as airlines. In case you haven’t noticed, oil prices have nosedived, but airlines have yet to remove fuel surcharges.

Airline executives explained that it’s because of hedging and that they are stuck with prices that won’t go away. Airlines are still using oil they purchased months ago and for which they paid substantially more than today’s prices.

Fuel hedging has been a common practice among airlines in recent years because of rising energy prices. Typically, airlines sign contracts to buy fuel at a specific price range to protect themselves from excessive rises in oil prices. But now, as oil has shed many per cent of its value for some months now, airlines that hedged are missing out on the cheaper jet fuel. Many airlines are locked in on fuel hedges, months ahead and so cannot simply reduce prices as soon as oil falls.

Still, since fuel is as much as 50% of an airline’s budget, doesn’t that give us cause for some hope of cost cuts?

Nope, I suspect petrol companies and airlines are run by descendants of the Marquis de Sade and friends of Christian Grey or at least by those who are inspired by them.

As long as demand for air travel – and petrol – is there, airlines and petrol companies have no enticement to bring their fares down.

That says a lot about airlines and petrol companies, and the people who run them, doesn’t it?

And of course it says a lot about the government too.

Extrinsic Change

People sure seem a lot friendlier nowadays.

Ever wondered why strangers around you suddenly become overly sociable and courteous during this time? They seem to be able to do what countless years of courtesy campaigns complete with that hermaphrodite lion mascot couldn’t convince people to do. Random acts of kindness and consideration seem spontaneous it makes you wonder if there’s a need for the Singapore Kindness Movement. The cleaner who works all year with a scowl, now smiles from molar to molar and the normally half-asleep power-crazy security guards, armed with a clipboard, and using it like a weapon of mass destruction, now waves at you like a long-lost relative when he sees you a mile away and leaps to hold doors open and press lift buttons for you.

Well, I think I know why.

It is customary during the Chinese New Year period to give out little red packets of cash to friends and relatives. This “good luck” money, called Ang Pow in Hokkien or Hong Bao in Mandarin is very much a part of Chinese culture here.

In addition to relatives and friends, these little red packets of cash are often also given to janitors, domestic helpers, doormen, taxi drivers, service people, even workers in the local kopi-tiams that you frequent and – according to your generosity and cash flow – to just about anyone you wish to acknowledge or bless.

But recently the very clever bright sparks, smart alecks and geniuses at the Development Bank of Singapore have developed an app called DBS PayLah! which you can use to give what the bank refers to as “eAng-Baos” to relatives and friends virtually.

The idea is not new actually – China’s messaging app WeChat already started something similar last year. DBS is just being a copycat here.

Technology is a fantastic enabler and has served to disintermediate many unnecessary predatory middle-men. We all now enjoy the convenience of going online to choose our own flights and make our own airline and hotel bookings, for example, and often at very competitive prices and enjoying great bargains.

But imagine not being able to give or receive Ang Pows!

Some traditions are best left untouched – Chinese New Year is the time for family reunions, of visits to friends and relatives, of loved ones getting together to share meals and to fellowship, and yes, it’s the time to give and receive Ang Pows. Those who remember the joy and happiness that accompanied Chinese New Year when they were kids don’t want to deprive the future generations of similar experiences.

But in the past few years, elders have bemoaned the fact that many younger people have chosen to go away for vacations during the Chinese New Year period and skipping reunion dinners and visits entirely or of being stylish by dressing completely in black, which for some strange reason, is considered chic and fashionable nowadays. (Even waiters and waitresses are dressed wholly in funereal black in some eateries, which to me is such an awful color for restaurant staff.) So if the tradition of Ang Pow giving is also gone the way of fire crackers – firecrackers, like chewing gum are banned in Singapore – it will surely make many people like me sad at the further erosion of age-old customs and cultural mores.

Some xenophobic Singaporeans are even suggesting that something as insensitive and horrid a concept as eAng-Baos can only be because DBS’ CEO is a non-Singaporean. (Yes, strange as it may seem, there isn’t a Singaporean who is capable of running the bank, which makes me wonder how it is that this country is still functioning given that “foreign talents” and non-citizens aren’t allow to be part of the Singapore government, and thank goodness for that or we’ll probably outsource our presidency to India or the Philippines or some other country.)  Now, I don’t wish to speculate or to enter into a discussion over something I have no intimate knowledge about but I for one, don’t think virtual Ang Pows is necessarily a good idea at all.

Technology makes things happen, but it is not something positive if it destroys a culture or negate parts of it.

Unless you want a Chinese New Year during which people send their avatars to sit down for a virtual reunion dinner, a New Year during which nobody visits, no New Year cards are sent by snail mail, and people stay wherever they rather be, glued to their smartphones, and sending text messages and eAng-Baos through cyberspace, it’s best to let certain things remain status quo.

True, change starts with you. The decision not to change also starts with you. I hope you won’t change the tradition of giving real Ang Pows.

Intrinsic Change

Organizations dress themselves up to look good. A whole army of individuals – from marketing specialists to those focusing on corporate communications, plus all kinds of spin doctors – are dedicated to ensuring that organizations send out the right message to the public. The right message means more customers. More customers means shareholders can line their pockets with your hard-earned money.

But talking the talk is vastly different from walking the talk.

Organizations must deliver.

MyRepublic offers 1Gbps fiber broadband at an affordable rate. Clearly it has over-promised and under-delivered. I am not privy to insider information but MyRepublic obviously has a capability issue – for some reason or other, it is not able to deliver what it is promising.

I will spare you the painful details, but to say that my experience with the fiber broadband provider has been a horrendously bad one is a gross understatement.

Suffice it for me to just point you to MyRepublic’s Facebook page. You will not find another organization with a Facebook page that is inundated with so much negative feedback and vitriolic comments from customers. Look at Posts to Page to see what I mean for yourself.

MyRepublic claims to be “Singapore’s Bold New Internet Service Provider, purpose-built to deliver you the best Fiber Broadband experience!”

Yeah, and pigs can fly.

MyRepublic does nothing else, fiber broadband is its only business, yet it is incapable of keeping its customers satisfied.

In this era, the Internet should be regarded as an essential service much like water and electricity, and for my case, interruptions in service actually place my clients and patients in jeopardy. These are people who email me their charts and reports.

MyRepublic doesn’t seem to understand that. Comments on its Facebook are all about poor customer service, lack of response, long waits for resolution of problems, etc – the kind of issues one would expect in a third-world country. Despite public smackdowns on its Facebook, it continues to blatantly behave rather nonchalantly with regards to its customers’ plight.

What is even more shocking is that the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore seems rather toothless. IDA’s raison d’état is to pull the chain attached to loose cannons like MyRepublic so as to exert some control over quality and performance but so far it has proved disappointing. It is a body with first-world aspirations but third-world attitude. Just look at its fancy website. If only it delivers a tiny percentage of what it promises! This disrespect and utter disregard for end-users’ welfare permeates all the way to the top. My repeated emails have not resulted in any solution pertinent or effective enough to my liking; MyRepublic’s coordination with OpenNet, now re-named NetLink Trust (what a joke!) is also dismal at best, and customers are caught in the crossfire. Tales of frustration voiced by subscribers who sign up for fiber broadband but having to wait for months before OpenNet or NetLink Trust can do anything proliferate the web. Hard to imagine for a country like ours. Senior management at IDA does not appear to be interested in complaints by consumers like me and the minister in charge (Yaacob Ibrahim) has not even bothered to reply. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even acknowledge my email. Guess I’m just another nobody. Well, has he forgotten that even one vote counts? Come election time, many of these overpaid and inefficient bureaucrats seemingly more interested in high profile politicking that makes them look good on TV screens and the state-controlled media will get their comeuppance. I kid you not. In the first place, I shouldn’t have expected much from someone who couldn’t distinguish between a flood and a pond.

If organizations and their leaders are not serious about keeping their promises, it’s a matter of time before someone finds out. In this day and age, it will go viral in a moment of seconds.

Dissatisfied customers can bring an organization to its knees.

That will be so satisfying.

When MyRepublic promises “Satisfaction Guaranteed” on its website, is that what it means?

That it will be such a satisfying experience bringing it down.

Never in my professional life have I been so flummoxed and exasperated by an organization as mismanaged as MyRepublic.

Organizations cannot thrive on lies.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

For those considering going to MyRepublic for fiber broadband, my advice is a one word “don’t” and for discontented, existing customers, do stand up for your rights and send a warning to those who try to deceive you and not deliver that they promise.

And when politicians you elect don’t have your best interest at heart, make sure they don’t ever get elected again.

Mark my words, MyRepublic is a ticking time bomb that will one day implode. Unhappy customers have already put MyRepublic at the precipice of losing its reason for existence.

The company is at a tipping point – all it takes is a few more disgruntled customers for things to boil over.

I have already set aside a bottle of  Krug Clos du Mesnil 2000 to pop open when that day comes.

Extrinsic Change

Once upon a time there was a marketing genius who sold much-coveted products at astronomical prices. He was of sound mind, that is, if you overlook his fashion sense, but he would strut around like a megalomaniac on a darkened stage, wearing his trademark black Issey Miyake turtleneck and jeans and showed off those products to a drooling, adoring audience who worshiped him as though he was God.

That man is dead and gone, but emulating him, there is no shortage of copycats, who also do their impressions of that great marketing man. These shameless imitators – many are just snake oil salesmen – would also pace all over a darkened stage and expound on the features of their latest gizmos.

Come on guys, there is only ONE Steve Jobs, for goodness sake.

It’s time corporate leaders start to come into their own and stop mimicking others.

Few companies can ever come close to being another Apple and there can never be another Steve Jobs!

If you claim to have produced the latest invention since sliced bread but have to be so unoriginal when touting and hawking your wares to the world, then where is that ingenuity and innovation that you want people to believe you possess?

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but imitation is imitation – there’s nothing clever or original about it.

In fact, the moment I witness yet another CEO showing off his latest product while walking about on yet another darkened stage, I am completely turned off; time to switch channels! Not only that, time to boycott those products!

Those who boast about how pioneering they are with ground-breaking products ought to have more unique and imaginative ways of introducing them other than modeling themselves after a dead man in black.

Intrinsic Change

At a mall one evening I came across four morbidly obese individuals – one male, three females. They were not just overweight, they were grossly fat and had difficulty walking and breathing. One of them was eating furiously at a fast-food restaurant (I’ve observed that most overweight people gobble down their food really fast); the other three were shopping and walking with obvious difficulty.

I have no idea what made them the way they are but I wondered if they are doing anything to reduce their burden and their health risks?

Is their condition, I wondered, a part of our narcissistic world where people exploit social media to show off anything to boost their ego, so that “friends” can “like” them – from pictures of themselves flying first class to pictures of branded goods they’ve purchased to photo after photo of the tons of food they stuff in their faces. (Confession: seeing those saliva-inducing food pictures often make me crave for some really unhealthy food!)

Or do senseless TV shows like Epic Food Empire anything to do with this? (For the uninitiated, Epic Food Empire is about going to the butcher to find the fattiest slabs of bacon and slapping together the most outrageous, unhealthful meals possible. Such horrific wastage of food should not be allowed to be shown on TV, honestly!)

As I looked at those four humongous-size individuals, I also wondered if their families and loved ones are helping them? What are their friends saying? What about the companies they work for?

Indeed do organizations have a responsibility to ensure that their employees stay healthy?

Not long ago the CEO of a local hospital group made headlines after he was quoted in the newspapers as saying that, for his staff, weight would be a consideration for career advancement.

This ruffled the feathers of unions and human resource practitioners, who felt that such a perspective bordered on discrimination.

However, an academic from the National University of Singapore’s sociology department, applauded the hospital’s initiatives.

But to be fair, she did caution against attributing blame to those unable to conform.

She said staff who work long hours and do overtime may have little chance for regular exercise, resulting in poor health outcomes.

“Now, is it fair then to punish this individual for not being able to conform to an ideal lifestyle? You may end up punishing your loyal employee.”

Indeed not everyone can be like the CEO mentioned – he runs marathons and eats mostly vegetables.

CEOs and leaders of organizations can set the pace and must indeed be exemplary in conduct and behavior.

An unmarried marriage counselor is often not qualified enough to advise those in need of marital counseling.

Those with no children often have no idea what it is like to manage one’s offsprings and to ensure that they are well cared for and are happy.

A bald man trying to sell a hair tonic he has concocted hasn’t much credibility, has he?

If you preach about love but go home and abuse your domestic helper, what credibility do you have?

Apart from being exemplary, leaders must be prepared for the consequences of their words and actions.

If you insist that the BMI of a high-performing star employee must be tied to his promotion despite his fulfilling all his KPIs, are you saying you will withhold promotion just because he is overweight? Are you prepared for this employee to become disgruntled and leave? Are you prepared for a confrontation with the union?

Similarly if you publish a magazine seemingly devoted solely to insulting people’s religions, you had better be prepared for the consequences.

BF Skinner said that people learn from the consequences of their actions.

But some people never learn.

If your cartoonists draw a roll of toilet paper and caption it “Bible” or mock Prophet Mohammad by depicting him in a negative light via insulting, incendiary and disrespectful comics, can you look people in the eye and claim that you are only exercising your right to freedom of expression, and then groan and moan when those insulted strike at you?

Surely no leader would want on his or her hands, the blood of those who have died because they were gunned down for drawing blasphemous cartoons deliberately  intended to offend religious sensibilities.

Freedom of expression is not a license to insult anyone and everyone. You may claim to be an “equal-opportunity insulter” and an entire nation may mourn for your loss but does that make you a hero?

Today’s worlds are interconnected. A butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world, it has been claimed, can affect the weather in another part of the world.

Despite past criticism from the White House and from the French foreign minister, those behind the publication in question have persisted in continuing with their poke-in-the-eye, xenophobic approach.

The result is carnage, a national tragedy.

If leaders continue to live in a vacuum and choose to deliberately become cross-culturally insensitive and oblivious to the world around them, they have lost their sense of realism.

They have lost their right to lead.

Leadership is not just about executing what you have decided to do.

It’s also about preparing for the fallout of your actions.

And being accountable for it.

Extrinsic Change

This is the time when people make new year resolutions.

Like many others, I’ve never been able to completely resolve to do what I had vowed to accomplish at the beginning of each year.

It has come to a point where I used to joke that my new year resolution is not to make any new year resolutions.

That was in the past, now I’m better at it.

The trick is not to impose unreasonably difficult goals on yourself.

Sure, have yourself a challenging enough list of resolutions but forget those BHAGs coined by what I suspect to be used-car-salesmen-or-journalists/writers-turned-motivational-speakers (usually Americans). In case you haven’t heard BHAG, is an acronym for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Sounds great as a marketing term. You must know that many of these comedians who write books and spout wisdom which you must pay to be exposed to had never project-managed any measurable, trackable professional engagements in their lives, so don’t be distracted by fancy marketing terms concocted by jokers sitting in front of their keyboards. (Most of these people just make money via the generation of words – be they spoken or written.) The fancy terms they create are not going to get you to realize the attainment of your resolutions.

The key is to change the way you manage resolutions. Start by being realistic. If you are an 800-pound gorilla and you want to become a svelte 80-pounder, well baby, it just ain’t gonna happen ok? At least, not overnight.

If you’re thinking of going on yet another new diet, forget it. Why enrich writers of diet books? I am not a gambling man, but I will bet my last cent that you will break your diet before Chinese New Year, which is the next big festival coming up. (Supermarkets are already selling Chinese new year goodies.)

Most diets are deprivation programs, rather than diets. Say you always eat 5000 calories at a meal, yeah, really pigging out, like lots of people do today, especially at eat-all-you-can buffets, but if you were told that you should consume just 500 calories per meal instead, what would happen? You will feel absolutely deprived. You may be disciplined enough to force yourself to eat just 500 calories per meal, but it’s a matter of time your resolve gives way and you end up bingeing and stuffing your face to make up for lost time and as a result, putting back what little you have managed to lose in the last few days when you were on that diet in addition to adding on more weight!

But if you adopt a more realistic approach and try shaving off say just 200 calories off each meal, you won’t feel deprived.

All you have to do is to make a conscious effort to eat just 80% of the amount of what you normally eat and over time, that 20% you put away at each meal will add up and result in your losing weight.

It’s a gradual process which can be helped if accompanied by a slight increase in physical activity, replacing sugar with sugar substitutes and cutting down on carbohydrate intake.

Your success will inspire you to maintain your new eating habit. And soon you may well transform into a svelte 80-pounder. Who knows.

Monumental change is often the best way to bring about quick, if not, brutal results, and is often necessary, but for most individuals, when it comes to personal challenges like losing weight, often, a slower, more realistic, incremental type of change is what is needed for change to stick.

With that, I wish you a very happy and successful 2015!

Intrinsic Change

A: I’m a hugely influential blogger. I’ve been involved in several successful pop-up projects and I’m currently crowdfunding a very exciting artisan venture!

B: Yeah, I can’t get a decent job either.

The dialog above in a cartoon I read in Private Eye really tickled me.

Individuals tend to twist facts to put themselves in better light. Words are the weapons of choice.

Organizations are equally guilty.

Take job titles.

There are no longer morticians or undertakers; they are now all called “funeral directors.”

Garbage men are now referred to as “sanitation engineers.”

Most unemployed call themselves “consultants.”

“Guru” or “master” is often a synonym for “charlatan.”

Some titles are just meaningless and way too funny to be taken seriously – such as one I came across recently: Influencer Relations Director.

Years ago, I worked for an organization flooded with “Regional Vice Presidents” – a fancy title bestowed on those in charge of “business development.” Translation: sales people who make cold calls, knock on doors and pound the pavement trying to sell to the gullible.

Nowadays people don’t lie anymore, they are “economical with actuality.” When Hillary Clinton was caught fibbing, she said she was “mis-speaking.”

When companies say things like “We have entered into multiple mergers within the last 12 months” most likely it means “The idiots who run this company are unable to grow it organically.”

When a company press release says “The CEO’s and CFO’s compensation is more highly weighted toward incentive compensation than base compensation” the truth is probably “Management is ignoring long-term sustainability in favor of short-term gain.”

When annual reports say that “A repurchase of company stock has taken place in the last 12 months” it simply means “Management boosted the share price via a buy-back rather than improving operations.”

Outside the corporate world, prostitutes are known as “personal services providers” and housewives refer to themselves as “domestic engineers.”

Cockpits in airplanes are now called “flight decks” and “runways” are actually catwalks where fashion models sashay. Planes don’t land, they make “final approaches” (how morbid!) and passengers don’t get off airplanes – they “deplane.”

There are no floods, only “ponding.”

People who go to casinos are not gambling, they are “gaming.”

Second-hand goods are referred to as “pre-loved” and in reality it means they have been used and are probably in bad shape and the original owners are hoping that they can sell them off to some suckers.

The term “senior citizens” refers to old people. They may not even be citizens.

Those “downsized” or “rightsized” are employees who have been fired.

“Voluptuous” or “curvy” simply means “fat.” No two ways about it. Fat is fat no matter how you put it.

A “pre-emptive strike” is simply an “unprovoked attack.”

“We are working on our inventory/stocks” usually means “we have no funds to purchase goods to sell” or even “the stocks we brag about do not exist.”

Some of these word changes are harmless but when truth is twisted, then things become a lot more insidious.

“Enhanced interrogation techniques” means “torture.”

Real estate agents are good with words, or rather, with playing with words.

“Convenient location” could mean that the house is located in a busy area, near a major intersection or thoroughfare, or close to bars and nightclubs. All of that means noise.

“Charming, vintage charm” means the house is old and in need of repair or modernizing. It has probably never been repaired since day one.

And this one should ring an alarm bell – the word “cozy” or “SOHO” (Small Office Home Office). It means the house or apartment is very small, probably the size of a closet.

Consumers, however, seemed easily hoodwinked.

For instance, it is practically impossible to grow back lost hair, yet, Singapore’s consumer watchdog has received 15 complaints against a hair-restoration outfit named Beijing 101 so far this year.

This includes the one made by a 75-year-old woman who walked into the place, enticed by a free S$50 voucher. In the end she was pressured into signing a S$15,600 “package.” Greed for 50 bucks turned into a massive loss of 15,000 bucks. Merchants prey on that greed. Everybody wants something for nothing. In the end, they got swindled. If something is too good to be true, it usually is.

Most of the complaints about Beijing 101 were about its hard-sell tactics to persuade consumers to buy more hair-related packages, said CASE (Consumers Association of Singapore.)

In fact, Beijing 101 and other similar outfits such as spas and beauty salons receive lots of complaints for misleading advertising and for high-pressure sales tactics.

Apart from Minoxidil which works extremely slowly and is effective only with very few people, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can make a person grow back hair that he or she has lost, no matter what the advertisements says.

Yet people are so gullible.

All the more reason we should be wary of the power of words.

And more crucially, we should be careful how we use words ourselves.

Extrinsic Change

BKQ told me about a cabinet minister’s divorce; he also revealed that another minister’s son had leukemia. He has a habit of raising an eyebrow and whispering “Have you heard the latest?” His greeting, when he meets anyone is “What’s happening?”

BKQ is the chairman of his own corporate advisory company, a retirement job after many years in the financial industry.

Yes, BKQ is male and an incessant gossip.

Most people think that women are gossips.

We couldn’t be more wrong.

Last month a survey in the UK concludes men are by far the worst culprits when it comes to gossiping.

A fifth of those asked said they spent at least three hours a day gossiping – mainly at work – with the main topics including women colleagues and who is in line for promotion.

One in 10 men like to dish the dirt on other people, compared with 4% of women, while more men than women are guilty of spreading rumors, according to the poll.

Some 55% of men said they gossiped at work, compared with 46% of women whose top topics were family feuds, followed by the latest storyline in EastEnders, a British soap opera, old school friends, fashion errors and what neighbors are like.

Among men the favorite subject is old school friends, then the sexiest girl at work, promotions, salaries, and finally their best friend’s conquest, the survey found.

At home, 17% of men confess they were more interested in pillow talk than sex, with only 10% of women saying the same. However, a fifth of girlfriends and wives said they preferred to gossip with a mate than their partner.

The poll of 1,033 adults was conducted across the UK.

It was carried out by BMRB Research on behalf of BT’s new Buzz-In facility, which allows up to 20 people to talk with one another on the same line at the same time.

David Sales, director of BT Conferencing, said “Our research shows that, as a nation, we’re fascinated with gossip, whether it’s about work, our love lives or the latest soap.

“Yet it’s men who are more likely to gossip the day away, dispelling the myth that women are the only ones who like to spend hours chin wagging.”

Whether in the UK or anywhere else in the world, the mindless gossip of men in high places can be more lethal than any other gossip.

So before you show off with some juicy information that you can’t wait to share, consider Rotary’s Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Intrinsic Change