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Advice on employers attitudes in Singapore

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Costas
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Advice on employers attitudes in Singapore

Postby Costas » Sat, 07 Jan 2006 3:37 am

Hi all,

I am a Financial Analyst, currently working in the UK. I am seriously considering moving to Singapore. This question should ideally be answered by westerners who have lived and work both in Singapore and in Europe/US.

What is it like to work in Singapore in terms of attitudes from Management and in terms of Employee Rights? My Singaporean friends often get surprised when i mention things like ... complaining about a Manager to HR etc. Is a Westerner due for a cultural shock on this front?

I would really like to hear some opinions on that. Anything you can share will be much appreciated.

Thank you very much
Costas

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Postby riversandlakes » Sat, 07 Jan 2006 4:20 am

Non-ideal answer here, but interesting Q 8)

Why would you bypass your Manager straight to HR? Is that not considered a disrespect to him? I think this is universal? Would you want your subordinate to do the same unto you?

Employee rights tantamounts to be free to resign in protest of poor conditions, e.g. <insert whatever here>. Universal too?

In American MNCs, I've seen a white American slamming his laptop into the wall in huge direct disagreement with his boss - and I heard got away scott-free. Another who emailed "This is a piece of shit" to the workgroup was asked to leave.
So which is which?

Are you looking for personal career fulfillment/advancement or an agreeable place to work? For the latter is Utopian.
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But the world is full of fluffier ones.

Costas
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thank you but it's not the point i was trying to make

Postby Costas » Sat, 07 Jan 2006 5:13 am

Dear riversandlakes,

Thank you very much for taking your time to reply, but sadly you have completely missed my point. All I am trying to establish is if attitudes in the working environment in Singapore are different compared to those in the UK (for example).

Resignation is the not the universally accepted way. I have seen times and again managers getting the sack because some member of staff raised a grievance against them with HR. This is not by-passing as you put it, but simply escalating a matter if you feel your line manager has offended you etc.

The above example is on my mind, not because I am more interested in arguements at work, but because this happened recently with a colleague of mine in the UK and when i relayed the story to my friend in Singapore she was completely shocked. She told me that it is generally not acceptable for employees to disagree with managers, even when they (the managers) are completely incompetent or offensive. This is just not on here in the UK and I am just interested in what others have to say about it.

Personally I have always maintained excellent relationships with all my colleagues, subordinates and managers. I am now very keen to explore the possibility of relocating to Singapore and I am only trying to familiarise myself with the mentality there.

I meant no offense in any way, you don't have to get defensive.

Thank you,
Costas

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Postby novaflux » Wed, 11 Jan 2006 6:20 pm

Having worked in many countries before (UK Included), you have to understand if you are non-asian that the communication mode tends to be different. This was something that really opened up my eyes. People tend to be direct and more open in London where I worked and even in the US. But Asians tend to be more reserved and would speak up less often. In a team environment this will be a bit of a shock for non-asians trying to manage an asian team for example. In Hong Kong, writing emails to colleagues to ask for a favour is considered rude as it is impersonal etc.

But in general when it comes to working attitude and general work practises such as chain of command, mode of complains etc, they tend to be universal...

These are just my personal views. Hope you get a brief idea.
All I know ... is that I know nothing.

Costas
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That's what I was trying to see...

Postby Costas » Thu, 12 Jan 2006 2:05 am

Thank you Novaflux, this is exactly what i was trying to establish. This is the kind of advice I am looking for. Much appreciated!

Cheers :)


To all: People, I think differences in mentality in the working environment are an interesting topic, I would love to see more postings on this topic.

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Postby novaflux » Thu, 12 Jan 2006 11:33 am

No worries mate. There are just too many stories and experiences that I am sure many of us here can share with you. I am SIngaporean so maybe my views might be biased. But I love working and living in Singapore. Many of my non-singaporean colleagues love Singapore having been here for a while now. I am sure you will have a great time here should you decide to take the plunge heh heh

if you wish to find out anything specific, just ask away and i'll share if I can.
All I know ... is that I know nothing.

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Postby sassette » Wed, 17 May 2006 8:46 pm

You'll sure be in for a thrill. I also come from Europe and am used to working in an environment where we are all very open and direct. Working in Singapore is quite different (though the US would be too considering you can get the sack there for sending a joke on religion). Get used to saying "Thank you so much" to everyone and for everything, get used to hearing how you must be earning such a big salary even if you are paid on a local package (which with the tax rates being so low here still means you earn a good deal), before sending off a meeting invite it is better to phone them up. I was told that was the polite Asian way to do it and apparently questioning things is not a good thing to do either. Hierarchy is important

Besides all that - it is absolutely wonderful - people are really friendly and welcoming. And don't believe the myth about people in Singapore working their butt off and doing nothing else - I surely have not seen it yet.

Cheers.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 17 May 2006 9:22 pm

I can mostly agree with sassette. Some others to note, if your superior is a local be very careful how you approach him, if he hasn't worked extensively with western expats he/she may well be highly offended in our normal very frank way of discussing things. Offense will be taken at the least little thing.

Also, get used to having your local colleagues usurping credit for any and everything you have done, designed, mooted or otherwise should have been given credit for. It will not do any good to complain and no, it is not good to go around your supervisor without their express permission - which generally will not be given. The local culture (here I mean Asian culture in general) it "to protect you ricebowl" and pad it at others expense if you can get away with it.

Also agree with the working the butt off sentiment although for different reasons. They DO work long hours because they're generally inefficient and moreso the bosses attitude is just the opposite. If they are on salary there is no overtime so the bosses think they are getting something for nothing so lots of them stay long hours to appear company men. Oh yeah, along those lines, unlike the US (can't say for Europe) you don't work an 8 hour day, but a 9 hour day but are only paid for 8. Lunchtimes are not paid for by the company so normal office hours are 9 to 6 and not 9 to 5. Additionally, most local do not eat breakfast at home, they waste the first hour of the workday eating their breakfast at their desks.

There are other quirks as well but you will get used to them all eventually if you are to survive here. Oh yeah, I'm a Yank and in 2 weeks I'll have been here for 24 years. So it is do-able! :wink:

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Postby Left Wing » Mon, 22 May 2006 12:12 pm

Additionally, most local do not eat breakfast at home, they waste the first hour of the workday eating their breakfast at their desks.
that is so true and just hate that habbit when the morn is the most productive time of the day....

wait till the day the boss is not in the office or out on biz travel every one will leave at 6 pm sharp...next day when the boss is back every one is "working" till 8 pm... :mad:

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Postby Oriental » Wed, 24 May 2006 6:53 pm

"O"
Last edited by Oriental on Tue, 13 Jun 2006 9:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby T2K » Thu, 25 May 2006 2:18 pm

It would be nice to list down "the way things are in Singapore", but you really can't. Some of the above applies sometimes, but not all the time.

Key points are:

1. Are you working in an "international" environment or a local one? This has NOTHING to do with the origin of the company. Some local companies, ok admittedly a minority, have a very international mindset. Some MNC offices, primarily run by old school Singaporean towkays, are like Chinatown trading shops.

First, figure that out. The "local" management style has a strong hierarchy, a disdain for open disagreement (meetings are to announce and ratify decisions, not to discuss what the decision should be), a lack of questioning, etc. All the stuff mentioned above. Be ready for your name to be removed from email cc lists, not being told about important meetings, blatant talking about you behind your back (or in front, if you don't know the language), etc. All this and more can happen. Negative experiences abound. If you are the boss in this environment, and your subordinates sense your position is somewhat insecure, you will have a tough time.

International style working environemnts are more what you are used to.
They exist in Singapore in abundance (happily, I work in one) so don't be discouraged. Typically, this will happen when you have lots of overseas-educated or Western bosses around. Sure, there are still cultural issues (they will work all night but NEVER suggest skipping lunch) but you learn and deal with them and life moves on.

2. Sycophants run rampant. Ass-kissing can be blatant. Be wary of that.
It can get really embarrassing sometimes. Learn to deal with OTT compliments in a modest way.

3. Are you the boss, a manager, or a peon?
If you are white, and you are the boss, life will usually be good. At least to your face. You may have to throw your weight around to effect real change. But, for whatever reason, Singaporeans react well to a hard-hitting foreign boss as long as they know he is in a secure position (ie appointed from the foreign HQ). As mentioned above, if your position is unstable, it will be bad.

If you are a mid-level manager, play your cards carefully. Learn the local style and adapt before you start trying to change things. Otherwise, you may never get off the ground. Don't use the "back in the UK" line which you keep mentioning, that will piss off everyone, locals and other foreigners.

If you are a foreign peon (yes they do exist) then you better go with the flow. You are a threat and shouldn't rock the boat unless you have a good plan and/or reason.

4. Work is life. Little attention to work/life balance exists. Don't expect to get much sympathy when you mention it is your wife's birthday or your dog is sick. Work is the most important thing, everything else comes way later. Some Singaporeans have their relatives and/or maids raising kids so they can focus on their careers.

There's more, but really this place isn't that hard. You aren't in Thailand or Japan, you're still in the same ballpark. Most of us just came here and hit the ground running, learning as we went. You can do the same.

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Postby Oriental » Thu, 25 May 2006 5:44 pm

"O"
Last edited by Oriental on Tue, 13 Jun 2006 9:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby T2K » Thu, 25 May 2006 10:23 pm

That's my point. Foreign bosses aren't as connected with the local standards of face saving behaviour, so they can be more direct and local staff write it off to "aiyo, ang moh like that one". Just an observation from my experiences, yours may of course differ.


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