Lessons from surviving the workplace

Like my usual opening line, I don’t have intentions of blogging today. However, an incident triggered me to write.

On the way home, I had those recurring thoughts again. When will I find the courage and opportunity to leave my present work? I have all the reasons to leave. I’m on that stage when horizons are replaced by limitations. I have reached the finish line of my career and no other competitive race awaits me. All my cards lead me to the losing end. It doesn’t help that I often see my former colleagues and friends having the time of their lives.

Typing this, I remember that I’m about to reach my 13 years of working.  Maybe a milestone but as of now, my prevalent sentiment remains the same.

I’m overstaying for nothing.

Of the years I spent working, (cliche dialogue ahead) I have my own set of learning experiences. Things I never learned from school. Things I thought only exist in movies. Only to later find out, reality is way painful than those portrayed in movies and TV series.

One advice I heard from a superior was a classic

Always do your best. Keep on doing your best. People, particularly the management, will eventually notice your hard work and value.  Eventually, it will not be difficult to achieve that much prayed promotion.

I was less than 25 years old when I heard his advice. I believed and adhered to such principle in my 20s. Over time, I realized that surviving the workplace goes beyond working hard and working smart. Fine, sometimes it’s working smart > working hard. But based on my experiences, workplace survival entails a myriad of lessons you will only understand once it happened.

A few that I experienced and taught me a great lesson include the following

  1. You will lose friends at the workplace. It may or may not be your fault. But some situations will force you to burn bridges. A little lesser evil outcome would be a cold war with someone you once trusted and respected.
  2. You will embrace plasticity to some extent. In Filipino parlance, being plastic means showing off a friendly and heart warming image to someone you are dying to hate.
  3. There will always be bootlickers. You will always have that colleague who survives by kissing someone else’s ass. Unfortunately, some superiors love being patronized by this one-of-a-kind workplace prostitutes.
  4. Sometimes, you have to flatter or patronize someone to get a job done. Hell, it’s more than promotion and self-advancement. It’s making things happen for a particular project.
  5.  Once in your career lifetime, someone will backstab and use your name as a scapegoat for some selfish endeavor or mistake.
  6. If there are teachers’ pet in the classroom, the workplace has its own equivalent.
  7. You don’t adjust and cope with the demands of your workload. You adjust and customize based on what your superior desires.
  8. Someone will lie to you. Even those who came from the best universities in the country are capable of doing so.
  9. Once in a while, you will have better ideas than your boss. But because you want show some respect or you’re afraid of being tagged as “pabibo” kid, you will hold on to your silence. On the contrary, those who contradict this principle will end up being transferred to another department, outcasted by colleagues and experience a once in a lifetime superb promotion. The possibility of getting promoted is as blurred as your chance of winning the lottery.
  10. Like those usual scenes in drama series, you will wake up being framed up and accused of a workplace crime. You will be blamed for something beyond your control. You will be accused of something you don’t even knew was happening. It goes with saying that someone will always refuse to admit inefficiency. The person will drag everyone to the crime of workplace inefficiency. You will try to defend yourself, but in the end, you’ll clean up somebody else’s mess.
  11. How to get promoted at the workplace entails an algorithm of work place politics and minimal quantity of hard work and intelligence.
  12. Being smart will never be enough.
  13. The person with the loudest voice is always right.
  14. Consequently, my favorite thought and observation is, empty cans make a lot of noise.
  15. The person who can fluently and seamlessly speak in American English will always look as the smartest person. Although upon further analysis, I realized that most of them are nothing but hollow and empty cans.
  16. In different drama series, workplace quarrel meant confronting each other and hearing all those kinds of curses. In reality, you seldom see confrontation at the workplace. The battle entails complaining the person to his superior, writing a hate mail anonymously forwarded to the immediate superior, ranting in Facebook, tagging friends to plant hatred against another person, making the art of deadma and avoiding each other forever.
  17. Someone or some situations will make you feel demoralized and demotivated.
  18. It’s alright to feel demotivated, stupid and pathetic once in a while. Trust me, this will eventually make you stronger.
  19. The playing field will never be fair. It’s a sad reality. You can leave the organization, get used to the system, transform the culture which is near to impossibility.
  20. Being Filipinos, we turn these situations to a source of comic relief. We laugh about colleagues and the management involved. Bottomline, you still wake up in the same reality. There’s no guarantee that this will never happen again. It’s reality among all organizations
  21. I learned over time that  making other meaningful ventures other than your job works both as a defense and survival mechanism.
  22. Gossips are like appetizing dishes. Admit it, we love to hear it. Unfortunately, being an expert gossiper is not a good idea. Even though colleagues are benefiting from it, don’t ever earn that position. It’s tantamount to becoming the least trusted colleague.
  23. Fine, gossiping cannot be avoided. However! However, there’s a proper way to unearth or discover gossips in the most discrete and dignifying way.  Use your analytical and research skills. :p
  24. Secrets, secrets and secrets. A secret only remains as a secret when you keep it to yourself. Once you leak it to another person, even if that person is your most trusted friend… trust me, it is no longer a secret. You have opened the door to its explosion.
  25. Petty workplace offenses are punished while major offenses aren’t. Take it from a personal experience. I have colleagues, who were proven to commit fund malversation, used benefits of their position for personal gains, and committed something that led to the oppression of another person. Most of the time, people who made serious offenses are given the option to make a graceful exit. They were simply eliminated.  In another case, an employee who struggle with punctuality, failed to beat a particular deadline, will be subjected for painful disciplinary action. This makes me sad because more employees will feel the presence of equality, justice. In the end, everyone is demoralized.
  26. Frugality, prudence are great attributes. But don’t overdo it … Once in a while, treat your colleagues apart from your birthday. Give small gifts to a colleague who has been very supportive and contributing in accomplishing a project.
  27. Once in a while be a hidden angel to a deserving colleague. Help someone secretly. 🙂 Trust me, it will feel so fulfilling in the end.
  28. Use your vacation leaves, even if you don’t have the money to fund an out-of-town trip. It’s good to detoxify once in a while. There are a number of non-money wrecking activities you can do during a paid vacation leave.
  29. Don’t bring everything in social media. You can rant using a Facebook status message, but please.. filter its reach. Don’t semi-backstab someone in your Facebook account. You equally dislike people talking behind your back. Trust me, that semi-backstabbing session through status messages and comments will reach the person concerned.
  30. One thing you will never regret, always do your job. Accomplish your responsibilities, even on situations when you feel demoralized and demotivated. If accomplishing a task meant indulging to an expensive Starbucks frappe, huge bag of potato chips, sweetest slice of cake, oiliest burger … by all means, have it. You will gain more than enough respect and confidence from your colleagues. If the management does not recognize employees within your rank, the least you can do is to deliver even in the most hurtful and disheartening situations. You’ll never know, a colleague whom who have once assisted or served well will pave the way for a better opportunity. Great reputation is priceless. We all have that colleague, classmate, friend or popular celebrities, whose reputation cannot be salvaged even by hiring the best image enhancement company. Reputation is like virginity.  🙂 Once lost, you’ll never find and return it again.
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That unfair job application process at GSIS (Government Service Insurance System)

I never thought of writing this post. Documenting my experience of applying to this government agency.  However, a previous similar post is generating hits in my blog.  I once wrote my degrading experience with Metrobank. I figured out, a lot of people are trying to exploit the internet to secure tips, reviews about job application on particular companies.

I applied at GSIS twice. My first attempt happened three years ago. I browsed their website for careers and saw some vacancies within my field. I submitted my application via email and expected nothing. Months after, I received a response. I was asked to report for an examination. Unfortunately, my first attempt was unsuccessful. While it was a sad experience, I appreciate the agency’s gesture of reaching out to applicants. I was also told that I could reapply after six months.

Two years after, I went for a second chance. I checked the job postings and submitted my application via email. Same old story, I didn’t have high hopes. Two months after, I was surprised with another invitation to take the examination.I conditioned myself not to expect anything. In the middle of a busy work day of March of this year, I received an SMS. I passed the examination. Finally!!!! I was told to wait for further notice, as they will forward my application to the department concerned. Months passed again. It was only around May when I received a second invitation via email. There will be a second leg of pre-employment examination. This time, the examination will be administered by the department that holds the position I’m applying for.

June, July and August passed, I never received any word from the government agency. I took the initiative to send an email. I was feeling optimistic because I was able to satisfactorily answer all the questions. Added to it, the entire examination came in full essay type questions.

Just when your hopes are going up, a sad news will break everything

I received an email containing these words

We have given careful considerations to your application against the criteria we have specified for this position. However, we regret to inform you that on this occasion, you have not been shortlisted for interview.

Pardon my words, wtf!

I just had another case of an organization who doesn’t understand the proper system of recruitment and selection.

First, I was asking for the results of my second examination. I was not told whether I passed or failed. I’m beginning to believe and adhere to the idea that the second examination was designed for nothing. I will later explain how I landed on this conclusion.

Second, “careful considerations to your application against the criteria we have specified for the position.”

If my credentials were not sufficient for the position, I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ASKED TO TAKE THE EXAMINATION.

One does not have to be an HR practitioner to understand this basic principle. You don’t reach out to applicants who are not qualified for the position.  It defeats the purpose of making applicants submit a comprehensive resume and answer a lengthy personal data sheet.

It appears to me that the agency doesn’t really screen applicants. They probably accommodate all applicants for the examination. Those who pass the initial examination will be forwarded to the respective department and voila, same process again. Email and ask everyone to come over for the second leg of the exam.

True enough, I discovered insider information from HR practitioners of other government agencies. Here’s what I learned.

  1. There are government agencies that don’t really screen applicants. They just ask everyone who submitted applications to report for the date of the examination. It’s a stupid practice they have to follow so they have proof / documentation that there was allegedly a fair selection process that happened.
  2. Internal applicants and kins of employees are given favor against external applicants.

Let me tell you the usual scene I experienced when I attended the two examinations. I noticed the the bulk of my fellow examinees are employees of GSIS. They usually arrive together, wore uniforms, have IDS and are being cheered by the employees in the Human Resources Department.  The same went during the second leg of my examination.

The second examination, which was administered by the department that holds my applied position, contained questions that are biased to internal applicants.

I applied for the Corporate Planning Group and was required rank and explain the core values of GSIS. I remember browsing the GSIS website a few days before. I never saw the core values posted. Obviously, the internal applicants have an obvious giveaway advantage. Nevertheless, I tried my best to answer all the “biased” questions.

I don’t think it’s fair to pair internal and external applicants under the same recruitment process and standards. The internal applicants will always have the advantage. If GSIS intends to favor internal applicants, then they should initially offer vacant position to internal applicants. Those that are not filled by internal applicants should become the content of job postings for external applicants. I believe a lot of BPOs in the Philippines implement this practice. They offer junior to manager positions to their internal or existing employees. What is left is later offered to the public. This is also the BPO’s way of giving opportunities for night shift employees to gain the much awaited day job.  Hey GSIS, it’s also  good to benchmark.

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I would like to believe that people currently reading this post are attempting to explore information about GSIS’s job application process. Unfortunately, I was not given the opportunity to reach the interview phase. Hence, my knowledge extends to the “biased” examinations I took. Instead of feeling frustrated, I might as well share the few details I remember.

The first examination I took contained multiple choice questions. I can’t exactly remember if it went from 50 to 100 items. It was a standardized examination developed by the Civil Service Commission.  Topics ranged from vocabulary, reading comprehension, reasoning and mathematics.

For vocabulary, the test evolved on finding the best synonym or antonym for a give word. A few of the words I remembered was woot, contrite…

In the case of reading comprehension and reasoning, I remember being tasked to arrange sentences to formulate a comprehensive paragraph.

For Mathematics, the classic find the missing pattern / values and some word problems were given.  It would be better if you can still read figures in exponential forms, divide and multiply decimals… manually.

Recalling how to solve age, coin, distance and vector problems in Algebra will be of great help as well.  Age problems that goes like, if John is twice as old ad Peter in 10 years and the sum of their ages is 10. What is Peter’s current age. I also remember answering questions about distance, time, speed and vectors.

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My job application to GSIS may not be as worst as my experience with Metrobank. It went bad and frustrating on a different aspect. Bottomline, the playing field was not fair and equal. There are loopholes in their recruitment process.