this recognition we’ll take anytime :)

employee of the monthAMININ MAN natin o hindi (whether we admit it or not), we all crave and enjoy recognition.

From the humble certificate recognizing volunteer barangay tanods (or night wardens), to Oscar nominations and awards watched by billions on TV and the internet, recognition of excellence, effort and energy in whatever form or shape, is not only a reflection of achievement, but is sometimes a goal in itself.

How many times have you gone for the extra sale, extra points, or extra work, just to get the award and the “victory march” to the podium?  I know I have.

Except that, shortly after my training for a higher position at work, I had no right to assume that I was due for any recognition, in view of my less-than-stellar performance.

True, I was just getting my feet wet and allowance had been made for rookie mistakes and slipups.

But I was fast wearing out my welcome.  Each hour that the factory was not running meant that around 4 tons of product was not being manufactured.  And each mistake I made, counting shutdown, startup and down time, translated to minutes that led to hours that led to, well, tons of product unmade.

Because I was responsible for the whole factory, each shutdown, however minor, was on my hands.  The dozens of dozens of machines, all tied together in a network, usually functioned well, but the inevitable snag, breakdown or blockage, although not fatal, frequently stopped the whole operation, if not checked ASAP.  And it was up to me (and my assistant) to make sure this happened, accompanied by the appropriate response.

*****     *****     *****

A few weeks after Christmas, I didn’t need to be psychic or supersensitive to know that my colleagues were starting to doubt if I was up to the task.  Already, the production manager was asking if I wanted retraining or if there were areas in the training I wanted to refresh.

Only my confidence and everything in the training, I wanted to tell him, but I was afraid everything would crumble if I said so.  Everything was riding on my job, as you may know.  My well-being, my migration status, in fact life as I knew it was dependent on me doing my job well.

Nothing to do but soldier on, Noel.

*****     *****     *****

Crucial to me was pushing up my work ethic, repeating and practicing without fail the procedures taught to me step by step without short cuts, speeding up my reaction time, and learning through my mistakes.

I wasn’t about to let management think that it made a mistake reposing their trust in me, and I didn’t want to let down everyone who had confidence in me.  All my life, I’d never been a mechanically inclined person, but no job can’t be done at least to a decent level with hard work, hard work, and hard work.  I was prepared to do all three.

*****     *****     *****

That was three months ago.  I still make mistakes now, but they’re less and they’re not as huge (touch wood).  I react faster to potential breakdowns now, and I do my best to learn from said mistakes.  Every time he has a moment, the production manager takes me aside to tell me I’m doing a better job.  I appreciate everything he says.

Tipping point was Friday, when unfortunately I couldn’t attend the weekly meeting.  After averting a potential factory problem, I entered the meeting room to catch up, where the plant engineer sternly told me :

You missed an important announcement, Noel.  Especially for you, actually.  You were voted Employee of the Month.  How could you miss your moment?  Congrats, now get out of here.  

Sarcastic lang pala. 🙂

Flabbergasted, I quickly thanked the engineer and quickly reported to my Number One Fan, the production manager, who obviously already knew:

See Noel?  It’s not just me who’s appreciating you now.  Your production is going up, you don’t call the engineers in the middle of the night as often now (touch wood), and you’re making life a little better, for yourself and everyone on site.  Pat yourself on the back, Mr Employee of the Month.

In my understated way, the recognition is a bit premature, considering that I’ll make many more mistakes and I’ve got so much more to learn, but it’s recognition I’ll take any time.

Thanks for reading!



bakit di laging masama ang kaplastikan sa trabaho


[ Hi there: I can’t apologize for the wry or pessimistic nature of the post; but I hope you’re not too put off by it Precious Reader.  Most of the time we celebrate the positive aspects of the Pinoy personality.  Just not this time.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the plasticman pic to and  happy workweek ahead, everyone! ]

YOU KNOW it, I know it, we all know it.

“Kaplastikan” (the first and last time I’ll mark the word with quote marks, it is, after all used almost universally where Filipino is spoken) is as much a part of Pinoy existence as rice, videoke and halo-halo.  It is time to acknowledge it, at home, in the workplace and in public life, and to accept it for what is: something that all of us use, recognize and live with.

As a working definition, let me offer one: behavior or speech that is often insincere but more or less acceptable to the listener or person/s around, designed to avoid awkwardness, unnecessary disagreements or minor misunderstandings which do not affect the result of the current interaction “facilitated” by such plastic behavior (the adjective form of kaplastikan).

Frequently we all deride or disparage our countrymen or women kabayan of kaplastikan but the truth is, all of us, no exception (unless you’re a living saint or a hermit), behave with kaplastikan regularly, occasionally or once in a while, as the need arises.

We do this to smooth things over, to please or mollify our superiors, or because we need a favor or two from someone we’d rather not interact with.  No one can deny the utility of kaplastikan, where we (1) avoid making statements that, although true, would hurt or criticize the listener, (2) exaggerate the qualities of the listener in order to make him/ her feel better, (3) make white lies to avoid conflict between the speaker and the listener, or even third persons not around.

I won’t say these are personal experience/s (wink, wink), but here are a few specific workplace situations where, in my humble opinion, kaplastikan works :

Your co-worker doesn’t observe hygiene at a level you’re used to.  This is probably one of the most common instances where kaplastikan is observed.  Someone doesn’t brush or floss regularly, is very lax on deodorant, and shampoos the hair only during holidays.  You would love to tell that person even ONCE that he or she is exhibiting oppressive behavior making life difficult for everyone around them.

But you don’t.  Moreover, you pay compliments that are likely to distract, confuse or divert attention to the real problem of the co-worker’s lack (or total absence of ) hygiene.  Reasons?  You work with this person 8 or more hours a day, five days a week, and 50+ weeks a year.  Whatever satisfaction you might derive telling that person off,  you have to live with the consequences because you will continue to co-exist with that person, who has now realized you can’t stand his/her bad breath / body odor / hair odor.

So you (try to) focus on the positives and compliment that person on his/her cheerfulness, work attitude, and clean uniforms.  You have to, because the alternative would be to hurt the person’s feelings (even if your sense of smell has long been offended).  That is kaplastikan.

Listener doesn’t take criticism well and is in a position of authority over you.  Specifically, in a position to make life miserable for you, all because you mentioned that person’s lack of fashion sense.  That’s just a random example, but a similar trifle or minor detail is enough to wind up this type of person enough to put you in his/her crosshairs, just because you were a bit too candid for comfort.

The solution?  It’s a bit drastic, but never mention anything negative, and only mention something when it’s positive.  If it means being less than truthful, then you’re doing it in the spirit of self-preservation, which is after all one of the pillars of kaplastikan.

Obviously, this takes a lot of discipline, self-restraint and with some persons, denying what you see right in front of you.  But keep practicing and with time, it will become second nature to you.  Trust me, kaplastikan works with a lot of Pinoys.

when the evil avoided by kaplastikan is greater than being honest or sincere.  You admit to everyone present that you are dismayed by your colleague’s quality of work. But in the process alienate yourself from everyone.  You withhold your praise for your supervisor (and thus deny him/her the unanimous approval of his/her team he needs for full bonus / incentives), not the least because he/she doesn’t deserve it, but because you’re the only one who withholds, you’re a moving target for extra work and sh*tty shift hours.  What to do, what to do?

Simple lang yan, bro / sis.  DON’T be dismayed, DON’T withhold praise, in fact go the other way and tell everyone within earshot that your work mate is the best and praise your bisor to the high heavens.

Why? Because that is the way of the world, and that is how things get done.  You go plastic, and you prove yourself a team player.  Yung nga lang, truth is the first casualty.  But you know what?  In this case/s, there are things more important than truth.

Just a few specific situations, but you get my meaning, kabayan.  Kaplastikan goes a long way, sometimes nga lang at the expense of truth.  But everything balances out in the end.





running the whole show, walang tulugan

lost in the machine

[Happy 3rd Anniversary to my favorite Kiwi-Pinoy publication, a true community paper, KABAYAN magazine!  thanks and acknowledgment for the pic above to! ]

IN MY late, so-called adult life (so far) I’ve learned to work into the wee hours of the night, with the owls, crickets and bats (and other night creatures), trained myself to get by on less than the usual hours of sleep after shift, and not the least, learned to sleep during the day.  Adjusting to change, the needs of work, and the vagaries of migrant living is a must, as simple as that.

But to do all the above, while running the whole show?  It’s something new for me, for the last few months at least.

[ It’s also the reason why I’ve hardly been showing up here and sharing your company Precious Reader / kabayan, something which hopefully will be corrected by coming back here more often.]

*****          *****

Positives first: there are obvious advantages to working at night.  You work under little supervision, actually none, work at a pace that is your own, and you take as many breaks as you want, within reason.

The disadvantages?  If things turn to sh*t, as they sometimes do especially in old factories like the one where I work, you get no help from anyone except your assistant, you rely only on your training (very basic, in my case), your ingenuity and initiative (even less, in my case) and any help you solicit (from the production manager and/or plant engineer, usually quite tired and already asleep) will be viewed with a jaundiced eye and much annoyance, and which will almost surely affect future requests of assistance from you.  Malas mo lang. (Tough luck for you.)

I previously didn’t care too much about running the factory when I was the assistant not too long ago, content to running my own machines and taking responsibility for my tasks and chores during my shift.  This didn’t always sit well with the shift supervisor, and now I understood why.  Not only is it the shift assistant’s priority to assist his supervisor the best way he can, it’s also ideal to show interest and initiative in running the factory with the ultimate goal of improving himself.

I only learned this when I was already training to be the shift supervisor, and now unless I do it diplomatically and constructively, I can’t very well tell the assistant to show more initiative.  Mahirap sumaway ang pasaway.:)

*****          *****

I’m responsible for all four storeys of the factory, including 11 roller machines on the ground floors, two giant sifters on the 2nd floor (each the size of a small bahay kubo or nipa hut), and a complicated network of spouts and negative pressure suction machines on separate floors.  As a single operator, I can’t monitor them all constantly, so I go between floors and inspect most of them every hour on the hour, throughout the shift.  Hard, but someone has to do it.

I also need to do tests on the product at least every two hours, more often when the production is special, or a bit on the high-end side.  Spot-checking, trouble-shooting and measuring of the silos are all also part of the job, each taking a few minutes a time, but taken together comprise a huge slice of my eight-hour shift.

*****          *****

I’ve had good shifts, I’ve had bad shifts.  The only difference with my previous position is that the buck stops with me, I’m the one and only gatekeeper between smooth production and chaos.  And also, it’s usually in the dead of night, when I’m torn between trying to (1) find out the source of the problem, (2), decide if I can fix the problem on my own (unlikely) or ask for help from the production manager (usually the latter), and (3) gather myself and tell the irritated person on the other side of the line the nature of my problem.

Oh, it’s happened.  More than once, I’ve let a little teeny-weeny bit of a problem evolve into a giant mountain of poo-poo (literally), all because I wasn’t on the ball.  Legally, I can take a break every two hours, and because there’s only one other person on site, no one really cares if I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace during my break, but believe me, if I leave my machines unmonitored for more than 10 minutes, let’s just say I’m asking for trouble.

*****           *****

There.  Just my way of telling you I’ve bitten the bullet and accepted a new role at our worksite, more hours, more grief, but I get to be a bigger member of the production team.  Quite a turnaround, because in stature I’m the smallest person around.

Joke lang po.  It’s always nice to assume more responsibility, if you’re not afraid of hard work.  In my case, I’m more afraid of being less needed, which as you know is not a good thing when you’re a skilled migrant worker.  Wish me luck in my work journey, thanks.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!