January 22, 2009

Siapa makan cili, dia rasa pedas

God must have liked corrupted people. Why? ... because he made so many of them. In my working life, I came across too many. Who are they? Well, whoever it is, like the Malay proverb goes : ‘Siapa makan cili, dia rasa pedas’.

A good friend of mine was given hell by his new supervisor for the last several months and finally he decided that he has enough of it and left the company. Why did his supervisor gave him hell? Because he did not used a supplier which was ‘recommended’ by his supervisor. My friend did not use that supplier because the relationship of his supervisor and the supplier were very suspicious. And from that moment onwards, his supervisor starts to find fault on everything he do in the office. Finally he just gave up and resigned.

Why he did not bring up the issue with the MD or the CEO? Well, as I have said, it was just a suspicion. I am sure his supervisor is clever enough not to leave any evidence which can be used to hang him. Just like what we all heard not too long ago that someone was getting kickbacks in millions of dollars in a submarine deal … just hearsay, no concrete proof. What can we do?

This type of situation exist everywhere and everyday in many organisations, big or small. Nepotism, cronies and kickbacks ... I have come across them many times and like my good friend, I walked away from it because I just cannot do anything and cannot proof them. You know very well that something fishy is happening but you just cannot proof it and if you ask too many questions, you will be ‘marked’ and headed for hard times.

I used to work under a guy that every time when our department needs to procure something for our marketing activities, he will ask me or other managers to seek samples and quotations from various suppliers. After that, he will instruct us to submit the quotations and samples to him for verification and his approval. What he did was take the sample and ask his choice of suppliers to copy almost exactly and provide a quote to match. This was done without informing us. Then he will issue purchase orders to the suppliers that he has chosen. And when we question the process, he will always say he has worked with the chosen suppliers before and they can guarantee quality and prompt delivery. He always has some sort of justifications. This happened 9 out of 10 times when the department made procurements. Fishy? Did he receive any kickbacks? Nobody knows.

There was another guy who within 2 weeks of becoming my immediate boss has given me a list of suppliers that he ‘highly’ recommends to the company. He said that he has worked with those suppliers and they were very good and reliable. I was instructed to meet with them and provide them with a list of our activities that we have planned and have them provide quotations for their services and products. When I told him that we already have existing suppliers working with us, he said that one of the changes he want to bring into the company was to enlarge the current pool of suppliers to increase competitiveness and cost efficiency. He has given my contact to his ‘recommended’ suppliers and asked them to call me. When I refuse to meet with the suppliers, I was reprimanded and accused of giving favours to existing suppliers. Of course he is clever enough not to accuse me directly but from the tone and manner as well as the words he used, you can read in between the lines. There were times when he asked me to accompany him out for market visits or go for lunch where he has already made arrangement to meet up with various suppliers during these outings so that I can meet with them as well. He was always checking on which supplier I used and what the price was. I almost asked him if that was all he do as a marketing head. I am sure he will say that it is for the good of the company. There was one time when he threw his weight on me and insisted on giving a project to one of his 'recommended' supplier. I refused to allow it and did not use the supplier he recommended. It was just one of his cronies. I knew his blood was boiling but of course he is clever not show it.

Once he got over his probation period, I can immediately sense the 'troubles' coming my way. I knew I was 'marked' and later things got from bad to worse. Then I started to count my days in the company.

Then there are managers who favour certain suppliers because these suppliers have beautiful girls servicing the account. Working day in and day out with these managers you can see how they are so bias towards the suppliers who are beautiful and sociable after work. I have seen managers who have different female suppliers sending them to work almost every morning. Not just one time or one week … I have seen too many times to be suspicious. Then you can see that it was always those suppliers with beautiful account servicing females that got the orders or contracts whether it was for media campaigns, PR projects, advertising jobs or event managements. Now you tell me if there is nothing fishy here. If this is not nepotism, what is it?

But what can the people like us do? You know something fishy is going on … should we bring it up to the MD or CEO? Without any proof, what can we expect? Many will keep quiet to avoid direct confrontation. I walk away from these people and sometimes even if I have to leave a good career. I walked away not because I am afraid to fight but because I do not want to fight in an arena that I cannot win. My friends told me that I was absolutely stupid. Maybe from their point of view but from where I stand, that is my principle.

January 12, 2009

What are you missing?

I would like to share with all the below article which was taken from The Star, Sunday January 11, 2009. It was contributed by Mr Benedict Lee. This is a great article and I am sure we will all benefit from the wisdom of this article.

What are you missing?

A MAN sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a three-year-old boy. His mother tagged him along, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time.

This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk at their normal pace. He collected US$32 (RM112). When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth US$3.5mil (RM12.25mil).

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston and the seats average US$100 (RM350).

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organised by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.

The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognise the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

This article reminds me of what I always say : “Live a live rather than just stay alive”. We are so engrossed with the ever increasing challenge of staying on top of the materialistic world that many of us forgot to take a moment to appreciate all the things around us. In the madness of the rat race, we never know how much we missed.

I would like to thank Mr Benedict Lee for this valuable contribution.
Link to the article in The Star :