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.

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.


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.


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.


Before the day ends, all I wanted to do is cry.

I received my first suspension at work. Blame all the tardiness I’ve been accumulating over the past months. It’s payback time.

It hurts. Although I’m completely aware that there’s no one to blame but myself.

Of 15 years I spent in school, I was never given any form of disciplinary action. I never excelled in class but I can proudly claim that I’m well-behaved, disciplined and have been observant of rules and regulations.

Prior to this suspension, I can proudly claim that I have a very clean slate at work. In my first few years of working, I even collected monthly perfect attendance awards. I was almost a contender for the annual award, if only fever and flu did not struck me a month before the year ended. In terms of output and productivity, I believe that I’m doing well. I may not produce the best outputs but I’ve never been the source of worries and headaches of present and past superiors. I comply with deadlines. I produce what is expected from me. I have also been a good colleague. I hated a few, but I never committed anything against them. I had my share of petty misunderstandings with a few, but I was able to resolve things on my own.  I was able to iron out things even without the assistance of my superiors. I have been unfairly treated, but I’ve never avenged. I was never complained for inefficiency, insubordination and all those offenses against person.

Okay, I’m trying to uplift myself. I’m trying to make myself believe that I’m not a total mess. I screwed up myself but I’m not an embarrassment. But then again, no matter how much I convince myself, I will not deny that this has been the lowest point of my career life. I feel like a stupid and useless crap.

When my Boss presented the suspension order issued by the HR, I easily accepted it. I accepted my fate. I was even given the freedom to choose the dates of my two-day suspension. It will be next week. I was actually not surprised with the suspension. I knew it was coming. But like my other experiences, everything feels different once it happens. True enough, after  I signed and accepted my suspension order, I was  controlling my tears. My initial defense mechanism was to salvage my remaining self-esteem. I filed for week long leave immediately after my two-day suspension.

To console myself, I invited a few friends to eat out a while ago. I also have another source of frustration prior to receiving my suspension order. I just came home from a “failed” trip abroad. I should be blogging about this, but destiny made other plans. The suspension is obviously more compelling. I was laughing the entire time while having dinner with my friends. My friends probably felt that I’m fine. I’m not sure if anyone of them were able to sense it. Deep inside however, I wanted to cry. This is how it feels to become a stupid disappointment. It didn’t help that my friends counted all the privileges that will be taken away from me after the suspension. All the more I felt bitter and inferior. Before parting ways, one of them offered a stupid suggestion of going to Tagaytay.  I just smiled but deep inside, I wanted to scream. WTF! All the more I would look so pathetic. I love traveling but seriously, I wouldn’t use it as a scapegoat for my low moments. I even wanted to return the question, would you even see yourself going to Tagaytay on your own? Given that I will be losing my two-day salary, spending more will definitely not work.

Before I left the office my boss offered another working schedule. He told me to adjust my reporting time from 8:30 am to 9:00 am. I said yes or I’ll think about it. I’m not really sure, I can’t remember the reply I uttered. Truth to be told, I wanted to render a different response. I wanted to tell the real reason why I’ve been accumulating all those tardiness records.

I’m losing my drive to work for the company.

It would be painful to utter those words. But no matter how much I deny it, it’s the truth. I wish I was wrong. But this is where myself leads me.

I feel that it’s already mission accomplished for me for the company.

I’m no longer needed.

I don’t see future in my current company.

I don’t see myself growing in the company.

I’m on the dead end.

There’s no more for me in the company.

The company will surely survive without me.

No more promotion.

No more opportunities.

How I wish I was able to tell my Boss the real reasons behind my tardiness.  The motivation and drive to work is losing me. I feel like a candle that gradually loses its flame.

I don’t need an adjustment in my working schedule. How I wish my Boss is sensitive enough to figure out at least half of my sentiments. I doubt. All the reports I’ve submitted. All the presentations I successfully made. These can never point any clue about my real sentiments.

I don’t need another set of pathetic words of consolation. I’m not ready for unsolicited advises.

I wish my family, friends and Boss and people around me can sense and understand how I feel.

Teachers can’t teach everything

Some months ago a friend introduced me to her friend who also happens to be an educator.  Admittedly, I have very poor social skills and it would take a lot of effort from me to initiate and sustain a meaningful conversation. Good thing the person introduced to me was naturally articulate. Quite an irony for the educator in me. Consider me then as the rare exemption. Although I talk a lot in my part time profession, I’m not a good material for socialization.

I thought I was discovering a great acquaintance not until he uttered something that somehow demeaned and disrespected my field of discipline. He asked what subjects I handle in my years of teaching. Having been a major in Economics, I told him I handle Basic Economics and Research Writing related subjects. I even lamented that educators within my field are starting to get extinct at least in our college. There’s only a few of us left handling the subjects, added to it the fact that enrolment in our discipline is decreasing. He later expressed a self-proclaimed conclusion that even majors of other business studies such as Marketing and Finance are capable of teaching Economics. Hence, the need to have Economics majors to teach the subject is no longer needed.

If you quite know me, you can easily guessed what happened next.

I initiated an intellectual debate that turned to a drama series catfight.

Of course not, LOL. I faked a smile, turned quiet and left the conversation.

I allowed my composure to prevail and avoided an instant debate. Under the rule of etiquette, I might have acted right. However, under the unwritten rules of my field of discipline, I’m definitely a disgrace. I failed to uplift my specialisation. I disappointed Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and my other great grandfathers in the profession.

If I were PMSing or blessed with more debate hormones, I would have ditched out his lame conclusion by saying that I can also teach Accounting. Yeah right, I cursed to never study that subject again. But my general understanding is enough to transfer information and education to the non-business majors. I can teach Basic Accounting to the non-Accounting majors. In like manner, I can also teach Marketing and Finance because God knows I have been learning the two subjects from the books and in practice… my everyday life. Evidence? Read my New Journey Series. And I’m 100% sure that an Accountant or an Accounting major will equally feel insulted when an Economics major is given the license to teach even Basic Accounting.

Maybe an Accounting major like him is equipped with basic information on Economics. I don’t doubt his capacity to teach. Given him the reference materials and stocked knowledge from his college Economics, he can no doubt teach the subject. I however like to provide another approach to prove my point.

Consider a car being sold by two seasoned salesmen. Salesman X started his career in selling cards across brands and distributors. There’s also Salesman Y who shared the same years of experience with Salesman X. Salesman Y however is engaged in selling cosmetics and other beauty related products. Who can better sell the car?

Salesman Y can sell the car because he has the selling skills. He knows the approach in selling. He knows the general behaviour of the customers. He can sell because he knows the process of selling.

Salesman X can obviously sell because of his skills and experiences. However, what gives Salesman X the exclusive right in selling cars is the KNOWLEDGE about cars. More than the process of selling, Salesman X truly knows what he is selling. He knows the core information of what he is doing.  Something that Salesman Y does not possess.

In like manner, Salesman X may have the skills in selling. But give him the responsibility to sell cosmetics and other beauty products, Salesman X’s reputation in selling will surely be ruined. Salesman X can sell, but he cannot sell what he has not been selling.

Fine, I overreacted and made a fuss from something that should have been ignored. I will end my point with this simple statement that should have been my saving grace.

All teachers can teach, but they cannot teach everything.

For 2015

The holiday break is almost over. My two-week vacation is about to end in a few days. I enjoyed my slow and quiet time at home. I subjected myself to a full house arrest to avoid the expenditures. Although I was able to go out in between. I still have pending tasks, mostly self-imposed, to accomplish. One is the annual decluttering tradition. Before the year ends, I clean my room and collect all the useless items I accumulated. Mostly credit card bills, I decided to receive them online this year. Clothes, bags, impulse purchases and other items should be gathered and taken out of my room. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this tomorrow.

While most people are writing about resolutions, I intend to write down the things I look forward for 2015. Eleven months after, I should check back this post and verify the outcome of each.

1. The Major Project at Work – My major project at work was finally accomplished in the last quarter of 2014. In the previous years and based from the experiences of other companies, results are released before the year ends. In the case of my company, we are still hanging in the tree of uncertainty. While I’m trying to condition myself not to expect anything, I will not deny that part of me is wishing for positive results. If the Boss above will grant my prayer, it will create a win-win situation for the company and myself.

More than the success, another reason why I’m praying for positive results is the little emotional attachment I have for this project. We started the project with another President and CEO, along the way his health condition abruptly deteriorated. The Board was forced to designated an interim President and CEO. We don’t have problems with our new Boss.  In fact he was  equally supportive. Should the project yield positive results, I would like to consider it as my personal gift to our past President & CEO. He has done his share. He has the best intentions for the company. I’d like pay forward his purest and kindest intentions. Hopefully, this project will make it happen.

2. The new insurance – I got another insurance policy late last year. Since I don’t have an extensive HMO, I expect the new insurance to give me support and protection on health concerns. There will be another 10 years to pay and work for.

3. More time and new experiences with my family – If the belief that how you spend your 1st day of the year will reflect your fate for the entire year, then I’m more than thankful. I spent the first day of the year with my family and relatives. Although recently I’ve been frightened by news about death of friends, acquaintances and other relatives. I know that I will not spend my entire lifetime with my family. My only prayer is not now and God will give me enough strength, financial resources and support system.

4. The Credit Card Bills – The New Journey Series will hopefully come to an end. It’s all my fault, I know. But this year, I want to devote much of my freelance earnings to settle the bills.

5. More freelance works – I don’t do anything to promote my professional services and portfolio. I prefer it that way because I want my past and satisfied clients to speak and promote for me. Hopefully, there will be more for this year. Last year, I was abundantly blessed in the beginning and middle of the year. I have pending clients at the end of 2014, I hope they will push through with their projects.

6. Plans about my career – Everything is still uncertain today. I haven’t really decided. One thing sure though, I have to arrange my financial condition before anything else.  I was also fortunate to be granted an educational grant for a professional course. Hopefully, I’ll satisfactorily finish it before the first trimester of the year ends.