Friday, September 30, 2016

Who's an unhappy camper?

S'poreans show their unhappy side again, this time with their employment situation. That is, compared across the board against our South-East Asian counterparts, our employees are the most unhappy.

I wonder what we would see if we cross-reference our job happiness index against a corresponding survey on general income levels? My guess would be that S'poreans are educated, and have expectations of higher income and better job prospects that are set somewhat above realistic; whereas our neighbours are happy to have a job that puts food on the table for their families.

This observation is intended to be neither snarky nor mean. It's probably a human trait that when we have more we make ourselves unhappy by wanting even more; conversely when we have but a little, we are happy being grateful for that little.

We also seem to be looking at the wrong things to be happy about:
Singapore respondents felt that getting a new job (30 per cent), a higher salary (19 per cent), or receiving recognition from the company (9 per cent) would help increase their job happiness.
These perks offer immediate gratification. But they don't come around too often, and when they do, they usually also come with more work, more responsibilities, and more time spent in the office -- side-effects that make us more unhappy in the long run. We accept them anyway, in order to justify the happiness we feel from achieving these very temporary rewards.

We actually have a good problem. To be able to have and want more is a good thing. But it means that if we also want to be happy, all we need to do is realise that happiness is a choice we make for ourselves. Choose wisely!

An afterthought: perhaps the jobs of Management and Middle-management is inherently unhappy? Managers neither own the company nor do much of the actual production work, so they are sort of in-between, easily replaceable and sometimes even an obstacle to getting real work done. Who'd be happy in a job like that?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Getting through

T -1 day to promotional exams. The going metaphor is that the exams are like a door to get through, which makes sense. Once past that door, the successful get to face a new arena containing a new set of trials and tribulations to traverse before they arrive at the next door.

Some kids think that they need a 'passport' or a 'password' to get through the door, and that they can find it in the assigned reading materials or last-minute hints dropped by their tutors in the last days leading up to the exams. But they are being silly. The fact is, there is no one guarding the door to hear the password or stamp the passport. The door is simply locked.

Who has the key, then? The good news is, there is no 'Master' key, so there is no need to scramble for a limited resource that doesn't exist. There is also no need to acquire a key in a standard design, because there isn't one either. Remember the trials and tribulations mentioned above? They exist to train each student how to pick the lock for themselves. Yes, not a key, but a set of lock-picking tools unlocks the door to the next level.

I like the lock-pick metaphor because unlike keys; passports; and passwords that only work once per door, we always hold on to our lock-picks, find new ways to manipulate them and pick up new upgrades along the way. Lock-picks work on every door, and how they are used is unique to the user, as long as they consistently practice their skills, being in the moment and not constantly worrying about the next door ahead.

Cliched, but if people valued the journey rather than the destination, they'd have less anxiety approaching their exams.