On Saturday 5th December, I attended the inaugural Lean In Malaysia Summit. For many years I have been part of Young Corporate Malaysians (YCM) where we too organised summits. With that in mind, I know the challenge of organising a summit of big speakers and I must say, I was very impressed with Lean In. From the format of the opening sessions (no seats, TED style), I was impressed with the combination of the speakers’ charisma, the format and the quality of the participants where the energy of the summit was well retained throughout the day.
The speakers were great and speaking on the topic of women empowerment, all raised very valid points which made great points for reflection, especially for men.
One of the points that I felt worth discussing was a point raised by Raja Teh Maimunah, which was “Do not become the person you dislike.”
This point may sound like common sense but unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to succumb to this trap given the environment.
I recall speaking to my colleagues who handle clients from private companies and authority bodies on unreasonable demands. Stories that came out include how a breakfast meeting arrange for 2 people had the client inviting his whole department forcing my colleague to pay for them, another was how when my colleague visited the client, the client announced to the department “Ok kontraktor dah sampai, bolehlah dia top-up Touch N Go kita” (“Ok the contractor is here, now he can top up our Touch N Go cards for us”). A more common one was how clients who are invited to workshop (read: going to the workshop is part of their work), can demand business class travels and 5-star hotel rooms as ransom to not going.
One thing that fascinates me is how people think and how people, over a course of time, can change in their thinking and behaviour. Naturally, I asked my colleague, what triggers such an extortionist mindset? My colleagues unanimously agree on this point: it’s what their bosses do and it becomes validation for them.
I believe fresh graduates new to the workforce are impressionable and the younger generation have a default strong sense of justice and what is right and what is wrong. However, when one enters an organisation and remains for a long time, the values of the company (both positive and negative), what is perceived to be acceptable, overwrites one’s own values. Here, the fresh graduates and younger staff see the act of bullying contractors for personal gain as a perk of a senior position. Even if they may think this to be a dirty thing to do when they were younger, when promoted to positions that be, they tell themselves “my bosses did it and everybody is doing it anyway, when am I going to reap this benefit?”
While the above is about professional conduct, another point worth mentioning is on religious observation. A colleague told me how in his early days of working in a non-Muslim majority company, because he feared justifying long lunch for fear of being thought lazy and incompetent, he simply did not go to Friday prayers, which in hindsight, he regretted.
I personally believe that the workforce should not force you to change your beliefs. There are many underhanded values in the professional world today and if the young professionals turn out to be just like the past generation, what hope is there for all of us? If you look at your bosses and you cannot see yourself becoming like them in their professional conduct, you know it’s not the right place to grow and it’s about time you think of leaving.