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March /A


We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again… Public Enemy #1: Revert

“I cannot find any explanation in the dictionar y that says ‘revert’ is similar with ‘reply’ or ‘respond’. ‘Revert’ always refers to ‘returning to a former state or condition’; or ‘returning/going back to something mentioned or discussed earlier,” says Judith d ’S il va, Deput y Director of N EX U S, M I N D EF. ( ‘ M i n d Your Language’, Challenge Nov/ Dec 2009)

Fro m t h e C h a l l e n ge archives Pointers on how to

improve everyday language:

FAILSAFE ALARM If you’re constantly late for work, get yourself the most annoying wake-up c al l e ver invented. Clocky leaps off the table and finds a new hiding place in your room every day, which means you actually have to get out of bed to turn it off. From S$79.90.

pril 2011


Office Affair pages of tips to get you ahead

19 -26 Want to ace the rat race? Pick up humour tips, and learn how to network with this handy pull out. Have an office spouse? Get tips to keep that relationship uncomplicated. Oh, and check out the Snakes & Ladders game we’ve created just for public officers. It’s a corporate jungle out there: eat or be eaten!

EYES WIDE SHUT Depending on how far away you sit from the boss, these stickers could be the best or worst idea of your career. Buy them as a cheeky gift for notoriously sleepy coworkers.

Do what you love and work for whom you admire the most, and you’ve given yourself the best chance in life you can.

An anthology of civil service lingo (or, Bad English Masquerading as Bureaucratic-Speak) This irreverent blog is winning fans who are sending in their e x a m p l e s o f ga h m e n s p e a k , making it a treasure trove of made-up words, abbreviations, a n d o t h e r m i s ad ve n t u re s i n English, Singapore-style. “She will inform you of her available by Tuesday.”; Can I have your inputs, pls?”; “Pse eyeball changes in the paper.” ???!!

WHAC YOUR BOSS… NOT This tongue-in-cheek online game – recently renamed DON’T Whack Your Boss – is the next best thing to letting off steam at the gym… just don’t get caught playing it at work.


OFFICE PRANKSTER A little harmless fun can take the edge off the daily grind. Check out these ideas, or cook up one of your own…

Our favourite: A q u i c k t r i c k t h a t w i l l l e ave t h e l e s s te c h s av v y a t yo u r m e rc y. J u s t c l i c k C t r l + A l t + t h e d ow n a r row a n d t h e d i s p l ay w i l l f l i p ve r t i c a l l y a n d t h e m o u s e co n t ro l s w i t h i t .

The Old Screen Flip Routine

– Warren Buffett,

one of the world’s richest men


GADGET MANIA P&P Office Waste Paper Processor makes pencils out of your waste paper.

Set a plan for the year: one main goal to achieve by year-end, and a series of short-term objectives to help you reach that goal.

04 Do something creative or relaxing during your regular commute. If you’re on the train, read a book, or play a game. Don’t think about work.

07 Give yourself small rewards for accomplishing tedious tasks. Perhaps an extra-large mocha frappe with cream?



Livescribe Smartpens are almost



Wa ys

n to stay focused a

Instead of overworking and clocking more hours, accomplish more in less time and leave at 6pm on the dot – it’ll boost your self-esteem.

05 If a meeting isn’t necessary, don’t go. Watch Jason Fried explain why meetings aren’t always useful.


t ge

Set a routine – find a regular time to perform daily tasks like email clearing and must-do phone calls. It helps to streamline the work process.

06 Invest in ergonomic office gear – keyboard, mouse, seat enhancers. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to enjoy being at the office. There are free programs like WorkRave which force employees to take a break.

something right out of Harry Potter – don’t miss a beat with these as they take notes on everything you hear, write and draw. US$99.95

Optoma Pico PK-101 Pocket Projector helps you showcase presen-

tations right off your iPhone or iPod – a little pricey, but well worth it to win over a difficult client or demanding boss. From US$158

PLUS: In the future, wireless cook-

ing may become a reality – packaged or canned food could come in builtin technology that heats itself in the container. Never leave your desk again! On second thought…

08 If you’re easily distracted, try using a program like RescueTime to help you become aware of how you spend your time at work.

09 Emailing may be “easier”, but reaching someone by phone is always a smarter, faster way to get immediate results.

AM-PM Go from day to night in a flash

Day: Braided hair and an office jacket keep the office look professional.

Day: No one would ever guess you’re quite the party animal in this suit.

Night: Let your hair down literally, show off that top, and you’re ready for your night out.

Night: Dump the jacket, roll up your pants, and let that flamboyant shirt wow the crowd.

BLOG New York Times’ Corner Office This regular NYT column offers insights into the minds of major movers and shakers.

l U nofficia ^FAQs on

I need to send a screenshot of a web page to my boss, but I don’t want him to see the half dozen chat windows and the Facebook, Twitter and LiveJournal tabs on my browser! What do I do?

SOEasy From the manual you never received

Why can’t I install World of Warcraft (WoW ) on my SOEasy computer? Due to security requirements, any additional software installations must be requested through the SOE Service Desk. But really, you do know that your SOEasy computer can’t support the minimum requirements for WoW right? Maybe you should try some Solitaire instead.

Why are we still stuck at Windows Vista when the rest of the world is on Windows 7?

Close them before you press “Print Screen” or you could use the “Snipping Tool” in the Accessories folder of your Start menu. It isn’t as sinister as it sounds. Just select the area you want by dragging your cursor, then paste (CTRL-V ) the image anywhere you want it. Job done!

My email server’s definition of “almost full” is unbelievable. There’s more than 50% of free storage space and I still get warning emails daily. If clicking the “Delete” button is not your ideal form of exercise, you should consider moving emails to your computer’s local archive. But you might want to keep the more important ones on the server though, in case you ever (touch wood) lose your computer!

While most people agree that Vista should never have been released, Windows 7 (like all new products) will have its fair share of bugs and stability issues at launch. There are plans to introduce Windows 7 for the SOE Programme once the software is more mature and stable though, so look out for it around June 2011 or later.

Email Submission 101 From: Challenge Editorial Team Date: March 2011 To: Public Officers Subject: Email Submission 101 Attach: Tips from two public officers Tay Li Shing and Ang Wee Keong

01. Start with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve? Draft the email to tell your story and lead the reader to the conclusion you’re aiming for. 02. Write with the audience in mind. Ask what information they would need to better understand the situation or to make a decision. 03. Use a succinct title that best describes the submission. 04. For long submissions, star t with a summary of the email’s aims. 05. Don’t assume the reader knows what you’re talk ing about. Your bosses are busy people. So always give background information in your submission. 06. Next, describe the issues being raised, and considerations for each issue. 07. I f y o u s o u g h t i n p u t f r o m o t h e r departments or agencies, make sure you reflect these accurately. 08. If seeking a decision, always provide a recommendation. Your role is to add value and offer your opinion. 09. Write concisely and in clear, simple English. Watch for grammatical errors and punctuation. Be consistent in referring to similar terms throughout. 10. Always spell out acronyms in full at first mention. 11. Watch the formatting (e.g. regular indents, correct paragraph numbers) – you don’t want to lose your reader.

ToneCheck A handy email tool to make sure you’re not getting too nasty… good for discussing constructive criticism, personal issues and other touchy subjects.

12. Use sub-headers to help focus on the key points of the paragraphs that follow. 13. Always spell-check!

SEEING IS BELIEVING Four tips on visual presentations

04 Flipcharts are a good idea if you have diagrams or images – don’t look at them during the presentation, unless you’re drawing or writing to emphasise a point.

Don’t read the tex t directly off the slides – they are a supplement to your message.

Bullet points are important, not full sentences – make it as simple and easy to read as possible.

If you’re using more high-tech equipment (digital slides, projectors), always use a remote control or a laser pointer to stay in control.

46 Post pictures of yourself partying when you should be on MC that day.

GO to


Misspell your boss’s name in the media release.

GO to

Procedural lapses are detected during an internal audit.



GO to







43 Observe your boss and his or her skills and adapt your own skills to fill in a weakness he or she has.

GO to


Take the initiative to attend courses or learn new skills relevant to work.

GO to







Accidentally CC your boss when you email your friends complaining about him.

Throw up on your boss or in your boss’s car.

GO to





GO to



Send personal Thank You notes to anyone who has taken time to help you along the way.

GO to

Communi and direct as poss offic




26 22


Get recognised at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.

GO to



Suggest an idea that results in substantial cost savings .

GO to





On Your Mark, Get Set...


3 Make an effort to remember names. All of them .

GO to



4 Clean out the communal office fridge without prompting. GO to






Get drunk at the annual D&D and spill office-related secrets you shouldn’t even know about.

GO to


Snakes &


Ladders 37


f i ce Edition The Of

Download a virusinfected email, crippling your agency’s server.

GO to


33 35



icate as clearly tly with people sible to avoid ce gossip.

O to



Fall asleep during that important presentation to the boss.

GO to 15


14 Take a leap of faith and propose a potentially risky idea – with big returns.

GO to

13 Complain about the boss on Facebook .


GO to

17 Talk about your subordinates’ personal weaknesses in front of other staff. It’s unprofessional.

GO to


5 11



6 Share your copy of Challenge magazine with someone else!

GO to


Own up to your mistakes on a team project, showing that you’re responsible and mature enough to handle real world troubleshooting.

GO to









b e co m i n g

BEST BOSS The difference between a good boss and a great boss is in the little things: remembering a name, paying attention to details, or simply knowing when to step back and delegate. Three Tips on Improving Memory

Play word or image association games, or think of memorable acronyms to keep an employee’s name fresh in your mind at the annual office party. Try some of these tricks here:

Take breaks to walk around, or do a quick workout – it has been scientifically proven that the more active you are, the better your cognitive performance. Some bosses find it useful to keep a name chart with thumbnails of their team next to their desk.


Neat Office

Freaks How to handle overly fastidious coworkers obsessed with neatness

Psychology Today says it’s possible to get along if the neat freak is made aware of his exceptional need for order and eases up on his judgements of those less inclined. You could suggest he makes a list of the “costs and benefits” of his overzealous cleaning, and get him to relinquish one neat demand a week. That said, neat freaks can impart some useful tips for messy people to declutter their lives, and desks, for the better.

Three Caricatures



Ditch the stereotype? There’s been a lot of talk on how to “deal” with the Gen Y-ers. They’ve been labelled anything from needing immediate feedback and communication, to having an inflated sense of self-importance. But BNet’s Steve Tobak, a management consultant, thinks it’s time for managers to ditch generational profiling and focus on each and every individual and their qualities instead. What say you?

Mental Exercise The Harvard Business Review’s fictional scenario to help you imagine how to manage younger employees or the Gen Y-ers.

the Fussy Groomer

the Germophobe

the Nitpicking Nester

This breed of neat

It’s reasonable to dis-

The most unbear-

freak takes fastidious

l i k e d i r t a n d t r y to

able cubicle-mate you

care of his appearance,

be clean, but germo-

could ask for, this sort

which can sometimes

phobes take hand-

of neat freak can’t bear

dwarf more important

w a s h i n g t o t h e e x-

to have an object out



of place.

OFFICE NO -NOs Obvious tips but important ones!

Never talk about looking for a new job. Instead of bad-mouthing a competitive colleague, put your own strengths on display.

TRIVIA WORKING HARD BUT NOT SO SMART? According to The Conference Board, the average Singaporean put in 2,307 work hours in 2009 – making us the most hardworking – but least productive East Asians.

Learn to say no to interruptions like smoke breaks and snack expeditions when you’re on a roll.


Avoid using technology (email, instant messenger) to communicate with coworkers – more often than not, a good face-to-face chat is far more effective.



Dating in the off ice isn’t always the best idea...

Eat your own food

The office refrigerator can be the source of many a passive-aggressive cold war. Survive the melee by: Getting everyone to agree on basic guidelines. E.g. how much food to store and for how long. Storing food in airtight containers to prevent smells (never ever store durians!) from affecting others.

But if you can’t help but flirt with the ‘danger’ of workplace dating, here are a few tips:

So it didn’t work out? Here’s how to deal with the dreaded workplace ex:

Labelling your containers clearly or risk theft.

Find out if there is a formal policy on intra-office dating.

Agreeing on a regular period to ‘purge’ stale (or rotting) food.

Be discreet and professional. Voice your own opinions and avoid “siding” with the other person.

Work hard. And by hard, we mean you should devote all your energy to doing a superb job.

TRIVIA “In a 2008 poll conducted by career site, 97.8% of (American) office workers agreed that the most heinous of office sins was stealing others’ food from the fridge.”

Don’t be afraid to discuss the impact that work has on your relationship, and vice versa.


8:30 9:00



Do’s & Don’ts


AWARE’s list of verbal, visual and physical harassment includes:


• Making cat calls, lip-smacking and kissing sounds • Conveying sexual gestures with hands or through body language or movement


11:30 12:00 12:30 13:00 13:30 14:00

• Deliberately touching, leaning over, cornering, and pinching


• Speaking with sexual innuendos or stories


• Turning work discussions to sexual topics



16:30 17:00

TRIVIA A 2008 AWARE study showed that 54% of respondents had experienced workplace sexual harassment in Singapore.

17:30 18:00 18:30

Don’t ever trash-talk your ex to your colleagues or clients. Be mature and professional if you have to interact for work. Don’t rebound with a colleague.

THE 9 TO 5 ‘MARRIAGE’ Do you have an extremely close platonic relationship with a colleague of the opposite sex? Here are tips to keep that ‘off ice spouse’ relationship kosher.

Anti-theft lunch bags Give the appearance of mouldy food to repel itchy fingers!

1. Avoid discussing problems in your marriage.

2. Socialise as a group, but don’t go out for a drink one on-one. 3. Use a social event to intro duce your real significant other to your office “other”. 4.

Don’t be afraid to bring up your office spouse at home with your husband or wife… just not too often.

TIP Say it right Macmillan has audio explanations for tricky words. Always go through and practise enunciating these words before an important meeting.

Tips on

Step out from the wallpaper and mingle at social events. Do smile.

effective networking

Ask for introductions from someone you’re comfortable with, to help break the ice.

Over time, establish a reputation for being a good resource and people will start turning to you for contacts, suggestions, and ideas.

08 Keep your work and personal life separate on all social networking platforms. Some people find it especially useful to have separate Facebook accounts for work and for play.

Ask open-ended questions to get conversations going. Avoid those that elicit only ‘yes’ and ‘no’ replies.



It’s not about the number of people you know – it’s who you know. When looking for help, categorise your network contacts and target specific appeals to specific sub-groups of people.

Be yourself, be authentic and listen closely to what others are saying. This helps to maintain relationships, so that when it comes to asking for favours, you won’t seem too opportunistic.


05 Be confident and selfassured – never apologise for calling on people in your network for help. One day, they might look to you in return.


06 Follow up after the event, with emails or phone calls, especially if you’ve promised someone something.

As Sun Tzu would say, keep your friends close, and your competitors even closer. Get to know them, and pick up tips from them.

Podcasts Bloomberg Businessweek

Comprehensive podcasts that cover broad topics from management style to interviews with industry innovators.

The Office Professional

Perhaps not the most exciting delivery, but worth a listen for practical workplace advice. Podcast.php

The Anywhere Office

Great for telecommuters and people with flexible work arrangements.

The Green Office Design

Insight into what makes eco-friendly offices tick.

Dinner Party Download

While this isn’t a corporate podcast, it has a wealth of invaluable tips on socialising and networking to enhance your profile at events and conventions.



Get That Job!

A podcast series from local radio station 93.8 Live that offers career advice.

If this multi-touch experimental desk were standard equipment in every office space, we’d actually look forward to work every day.

TRIVIA It sounds too simple, but it works: coming to work early helps eliminate stress – the feel-good factor at being “on top of things” has a marked effect on your productivity.

Challenge March - April 2011  

Want to ace the rat race? Pick up humour tips, and learn how to network with this handy pull out. Have an office spouse? Get tips to keep th...

Challenge March - April 2011  

Want to ace the rat race? Pick up humour tips, and learn how to network with this handy pull out. Have an office spouse? Get tips to keep th...