Category Archives: Work Life

Work Life: Age Limits

(Originally published on August 17,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

When you are young and free, your career possibilities are endless. Opportunities abound. You can experiment a bit and hopefully find a career that is best suited for you.

As you grow older, however, your choices begin to shape your career and you’ll find yourself in a set line of work. By the time you are in your late thirties, you’ve gained enough knowledge in your chosen field and you should ideally be moving upwards in your industry.

This is also the time when you would have already taken on more of life’s responsibilities. You may have gotten married and begun to have children. You may need to take care of ailing parents or other siblings. All of these are reasons why you want to work to provide well for your family.

But what if, all of a sudden, you find yourself longing for a change of career? Or what if life suddenly threw you a curveball and you find yourself out of work and in need of a new job?

You then open Manila Bulletin’s classified ads section. You look for job listings that are suitable for your knowledge and experience since you want to capitalize on what you’ve mastered in the last decade. You find a couple of job advertisements that suit you.

Good reputable company, check.

Good position, check.

Skills required, check.

Competitive compensation and benefits, check.

You’ve found your next job…but wait! It says in the job ad that the age requirement is from 25 to 35 years old. And you’ve just celebrated your 40th birthday. Bummer. You then look at other job ads and notice a similar pattern. There is an age limit specified in the job ads. You’re way above the age limit.  You then start wondering exactly what another reader questioned in this letter:

I’m an engineer by profession and I also finished EMBA. I currently work overseas for a power plant. The pay is good and knowledge advancement is great. However, I miss home and have been exploring the possibility of coming back for good. I’ve been looking at job advertisements, but I have noticed age limitations that are, well, limiting. We say that experience plays a big part in true learning, and you can acquire this through years of working as you also age. As I browsed job listings, I saw that I am qualified for most of the openings, but I always end up frustrated because of the age requirement. So I have a few questions regarding this issue: Is the age limit mandatory as a minimum requirement for all hiring companies? Does HR have an influence on this? Is this what we call “Equal Opportunity”? I hope you can enlighten me.—A Mature Engineer

My Response:

Before HR practitioners post job advertisements, they usually conduct a job analysis wherein they try to define the required skills, competencies and scope of work needed for the position. They also determine what age range and, sometimes, even the gender the manager in need of staffing prefers so that they will have a clear set of criteria for recruitment. As much as possible, HR confers with the manager on his or her preference since s/he will be the one working directly with the new hire.

Although age limitations and gender specification do not exactly reflect the ideals of  equal opportunity, which has been made into law by some first world countries, it is commonly practiced in our country for practical purposes.

From an employer’s point of view, younger employees are seen as less costly and tend to demand lower compensation because they do not have that many family obligations or medical health problems yet. They also have more years ahead, so investing in their training offers the chance for longer service time. On the other hand, some companies are also aware that older and veteran workers have more experience and knowledge. They have already been trained by their previous employers. They have first-hand practical experience and are usually more emotionally mature to handle work concerns and issues.

In the end, it really depends on the company’s culture, needs and financial capacity. Some companies have strict age requirements while others are more flexible. If they can afford to, they hire veterans for higher positions; if they cannot, they get consultants to help out and train their younger work force.

I understand how difficult it is for older people to find jobs. Usually, the older you become and the higher your position gets, the opportunities seem to get narrower. But older people still have a lot of options. You just have to go out of your comfort zone, think outside the box, and explore other ways to pursue your career.

Stay tuned for my next article to get ideas on how to conquer age limits. Meanwhile, you can read up on past articles at


Jhoanna O. Gan -So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, visit or You may also call (632)6874645 or e-mail your comments and questions to


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)



Work Life: Ten Characteristics of Great Employers

(Originally published on August 14,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

In my last column, I wrote about “Ten Characteristics of Star Employees.”  This time, I’d like to explore the flip side and discuss what makes great employers.

See, your happiness and contentment in the workplace is directly affected by how the you work for company is run. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the salary that people look at when they choose employers. Money is not the end-all and be-all of job satisfaction. So if you want to be part of a great company, aspire to find or even help develop these 10 characteristics in your workplace:

1. They have a clear vision. Great employers have direction. Their leaders have a clear picture of what they want their company to stand for and where they want to go. We’re talking here about full enculturation of the company’s vision, mission and values that employees live by as guiding principles. It’s not just about putting a mission statement in a frame and hanging it on the wall. It’s about building a culture that employees are proud of and can easily identify with on a daily basis.

2 . They have a good recruitment process. Great employers know that top notch employees equal an excellent company. So they establish recruitment systems that are

designed to get the crème of the crop, not the bottom of the barrel. They seek out people who are skilled with the right attitude to fill in key positions in their company. They

are organized in their recruitment efforts and have done the necessary homework for finding competent employees.

3. They have adequate compensation and benefits programs. Once they’ve hired their employees, great employers are able to keep them longer because they provide not just competitive salaries, but also benefits and perks. These benefits may include essentials from healthcare and allowances for uniforms or food, to fun stuff like workshops and outings, to cool perks like transportation assistance and mobile phone loads.

4. They train their people. Great employers also ensure that each employee grows professionally by providing training to help enhance their capabilities. As soon as an employee is hired, they are given an orientation. Then as they settle into their jobs, they are provided on-the-job training. This is also followed up by seminars, workshops and learning materials that will help employees develop further.

5. They monitor their people’s performance. After all the training, great employers make sure that their employees are able to apply what they have learned. This is done by continuously monitoring performance. Managers and supervisors constantly look at how their subordinates are doing. They provide guidance and immediate feedback. Then this is followed up by regular performance evaluations that are documented by the company’s HR people.

6. They recognize and reward good performance. The reason why performance is monitored is so that the company can reward the good ones and correct those that need improvement. To encourage and motivate employees, great companies provide rewards and incentives. This could range from simple treats and tokens to elaborate programs like “employee of the month” recognitions and sales target bonuses with gifts like gadgets and trips abroad.

7. They equip their people with tools that help them work better and faster. If you want to double or triple your team’s performance, it is important to equip them with the right tools and equipment. Great employers understand this, s o they make sure that their people are given the best software and hardware. More importantly, they are trained to maximize them. They understand the tennet that, “When you give a man the tools and know-how, you can step back and see the ingenuity that may come after.”

8. They have safe and conducive work environments. Great employers understand that a person’s environment affects his or her moods. So they take care to provide a workplace that’s conducive and safe for work. You can easily determine if a company is great or not by how clean and well-maintained the place is. So gather those waste baskets and purge unimportant items, clear your desks and organize! A clean work station will improve your mood and make you work better for a great company.

9. They care about their people. Great employers are able to provide programs that ensure their employees are well-taken care of physically, emotionally and spiritually. The company has heart and they show it to their people with kind words, caring leaders, firm and constant guidance. They understand that “when you care for your people, your people will take care of the company.”

10. They develop leaders. Lastly, great employees develop leaders. They encourage initiative and innovation. They allow their employees to shine and provide opportunities for star performers to develop themselves as leaders. From the group of star performers, they choose and hone select people to lead the company to greater heights. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a perfect company. Great employers are simply built by the people who work for them. If you want to work for a great company, it is in your hands to make your company a great and happy place to work in.

If you are looking for a job, seek to find a company that has these qualities. If you are already employed, make your company a great place to work in. If you have influence in your company, seek to develop these characteristics to make your company great and reap the rewards of a happy and productive workplace!

Jhoanna O. Gan -So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, visit or You may also call (632) 687-4645 or e-mail your comments and questions to


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Ten Characteristics of Star Employees

(Originally published on August 10,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)


By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

In the workplace, there will always be star employees who shine. These people are well-liked by their bosses. They reach their targets and accomplish notable achievements. They are star performers, which is why they get promoted faster than the rest of the staff. It’s pretty cool to be a star employee. So let’s all aspire to be one.

If you are currently employed, I’d like you to take a good look at yourself. From a scale of one to 10, 10 being the highest, how would you rate your general work performance? If you were your boss, would you point to yourself as a star employee?

If your answer is yes, then keep up the good work. Kudos to you! But if you are not quite there yet and would like to become one, let’s take a look at the qualities that separates star employees from the ordinary ones.

1. They are always present. Star Employees are always present physically, mentally and emotionally. This means that they have good attendance records. They understand that quantity affects quality of time—that no matter how brilliant you are, if you’re not present for work, then you can’t really do a good job. So they come to their place of work, alert and ready to face the challenges the day brings. They leave their personal issues and problems at the door, which allows them to focus on the job at hand.

2. They are results-oriented. When Star Employees are busy, they really are. They do not spend time doing meaningless tasks just to look busy. They actually do tasks they deem instrumental in helping them reach their goals. These people look at the end results all the time. They measure their performance with targets and actual results. For example, star sales officers know their sales targets by heart. They find the best use of their time that will get them the desired results.

3. They are self-reliant. Star employees do not need to be micromanaged. They require very little supervision as they are capable of making sensible decisions. They are not too dependent on their bosses or co-workers. Unlike some people who ask their bosses to solve everything and decide on the littlest of things, they are well-capable of managing themselves and dealing with everyday work issues. They are also self-motivated.

4. They are reliable. Star employees carry a sense of dependability about them. They look and act responsible. Bosses feel at ease assigning them to important projects because they are diligent and consistent with the quality of their work. They are steadfast, which is why they don’t make their bosses worry too much about project completions.

5. They are progressive. For most employees, change is difficult to swallow. They like doing things that they are comfortable with. They like things to be the way they are. Star employees, on the other hand, adapt well to change. In fact, they initiate it. They constantly look at how their work, the procedures and systems in their office can be improved. In the process, they find innovative solutions that increase their company’s  profits or generate huge savings for the company which their employers appreciate.

6. They give updates and don’t need to be reminded about what to do. Star employees are on top of things. Bosses often get frustrated with constantly reminding their subordinates about things they need to do and they often waste a lot of time following up on projects. Meanwhile, star employees get there first. They regularly update their bosses and teammates on what’s happening. You don’t have to ask them what’s up with a certain account, because chances are, they’ve already told you before you even thought of asking.

7. They can communicate with ease. When star employees talk to people, they are not tense and uptight. They communicate in a comfortable and enthusiastic manner that makes the other person feel immediately at ease. They can talk to bosses, co-workers, suppliers and customer in a conversational manner. They are naturally personable, which draws people to them.

8. They are confident. Many people equate confidence as being extroverted and outspoken. But not all star employees are made that way. There are many star employees who are quiet and not so gregarious. Confidence is about knowing who you are and your selfworth. Star employees know their capabilities and limitations. They courageously face challenges and are not afraid to seek assistance if needed.

9. They go the extra mile. What sets star employees apart from regular folks is they go further than what is expected. If they are expected to know a specific product of their company, they go the extra mile in learning the whole product line, the competitor ’s product, pricing and promos. If they are expected to reach a sales quota, they don’t stop upon reaching the quota. They go for more.

10. They are grateful Most important of all, star employees are grateful. They are not brats who feel entitled to all the benefits, rewards and incentives given by their company. Instead, they sincerely appreciate what is given to them. The reason they perform better than the rest and why bosses like them is because they value their jobs, their employers and colleagues.

Given the 10 characteristics above, take a look at yourself: which of these traits do you have? Which ones do you lack? Are you a star employee? Aspire to be a star employee because it’s pretty cool to be recognized and appreciated by your bosses and colleagues—not to mention the perks and rewards attached to it. Everyone has the capacity to become a star employee; all you have to do is hone yourself and build on the ten characteristics of a star employee.



Jhoanna O. Gan -So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the  seminars and services that they offer, visit or You may also call (632)6874645 or e-mail your comments and questions to


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)


Work Life: Effective Motivation

 The Nice Stuff Works Better

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 10, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By: Jhoanna O. Gan-So 

Bosses have different ways of motivating employees to improve their performance.

Smart ones use several methods of reward and punishment and adjust their approach according to circumstances.

In my experience, I have found that rewards and punishments are equally effective depending on the situation and the type of people you manage. But in general, people respond more to rewards, incentives, promotions, recognition and all the nice stuff. Occasionally, however, punishments or “threats” may be warranted; but using these can become counter-productive and dangerous, too. If you threaten and put people down often enough, they might get paralyzed by fear and begin to lose focus. Instead of finding ways to improve performance, they might get caught up with just fighting the perceived threat.

Such is the case of a reader of mine:

I’ve been connected for two years to a real estate company as an AVP in Marketing. My position gives me a basic living subsidy, over-ride commissions and the use of the company vehicle. In the previous year, I used to be no. 3 among the 15 Marketing Directors. At times, I would even be no. 1 and no. 2. But two months ago, my Marketing Directors were transferred to another group. Hence, I am now in survival mode and currently at no. 3 among four AVPs. My concern is that our EVP has been threatening to dissolve our group if we don’t increase sales. As a result, we have been under tremendous pressure for the past few months. Although I am determined to fight, the threats are becoming worse. What should I do?—Threatened Abe

My response:

From a relational perspective, it would be great if you can talk to your EVP and calmly explain to him that you understand how critical sales is for the company and that you are doing many things to increase sales. However, his approach (or “threat of dissolution”) is becoming counterproductive to your sales team’s morale. Point out gently that you would appreciate it very much if he tries a different approach. You need to do this in such a way that he won’t feel offended or alienated by you.

From an emotional perspective, it would be great if you can find some sort of stress release. I know Sales is highly stressful since you have quotas to reach. Two of our own company’s top sales people actually had a very difficult time getting the numbers the beginning of this year and it almost paralyzed them. To solve the problem, one of them opened up to management and sought support. The other one took a short retreat to reenergize herself. With the help of our Mancomm and some smart changes in their sales routine, things eventually improved and they are back on track.

From an HR perspective, I think it’s wise to revisit the Employment Contract you signed with the company, as well as the company policies for Termination as it pertains to Sales People. Much of your protection will come from what type of employment you have, the provisions in your contract, the HR policies and processes in your company and the Philippine Labor Laws. Since a sales job is highly quantitative, much will be based on your sales results. Normally, verbal warnings are the first steps for disciplinary action. Written warnings carry more weight and these are actually needed for an employer to terminate employees if due process is to be followed.

Meanwhile, I think it’s not too late yet. You still have your job. The real estate industry has been booming for the past few years. You can still focus and concentrate on generating more sales, despite the threat.

Motivating Employees

I wish I could talk to Mr. Abe’s boss and point out that his “threatening” approach is de-motivating his people. But since I do not really know him, allow me to use this column to reach out to similar bosses out there.

Fear is a potent tool. Its powers can motivate people to move, but it could just as easily demoralize people. I personally would only use it as a last resort.

The job of every boss is not just about pushing people to do what they want. Great bosses take the time to understand what drives their people and figure out what buttons to push to positively impact their subordinates. They also arm their people with the means and tools to let them achieve their goals. They push, encourage, guide and support others to be great at what they do.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:


All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Healthcare Options

(Originally published on June 19,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

In my last article, I talked about medical crisis and how you can take charge of your health and cushion yourself from exorbitant medical bills in case you get sick and hospitalized. (To read the article, you may check out my blog at

This time, I’d like to discuss the healthcare plans and types available in the Philippines since shopping for a health card can get overwhelming and confusing. Here are some of the healthcare programs that are being offered in the market. I find that each type of plan has strong and weak points and choosing your plan will all depend on your budget and preference.

SSS and Philhealth

If there are items in my pay slip that I’m more than willing to get deductions for, these would be at the top of my list. SSS provides maternity benefits, sick benefits and even a small pension as long as you pass their requirements. I personally have had the privilege of using my maternity benefit this year and it was a big help. Philhealth also provides you a sizable discount off your hospital bills so it made my hospital stay more affordable.

Both the employer and employee are legally required to give shared contributions for these funds. Your HR or Accounting Department will process payment for you so it’s pretty easy to join and maintain membership. Be sure to go and get your SSS and Philhealth ID so that you can avail of the benefits. It is also prudent to check if your company is indeed remitting your payments to these agencies. There are a few irresponsible companies out there who deduct SSS and Philhealth contributions from their employees’ pay slips but fail to remit them to the right agencies.

Although our SSS and Philhealth benefits will help us during a medical crisis, more often than not, they are not enough. So to protect themselves, employers and individuals enroll in extra healthcare programs that are offered by insurance companies. There are various healthcare plans and types out there and if you are seriously interested in getting a health plan for you, your family or employees, be sure to research and do due diligence.

HMO – Health Maintenance Organization

When you become a policy-holder of an HMO, you get access to their network which consists of hundreds of doctors, clinics and hospitals. You also can avail of the network’s medical services with no cash outlay. This means that when you go visit an accredited doctor or get hospitalized, all you have to do is present your card and follow procedures, but you won’t have to spend as long as costs are within you maximum benefit. This type of plan usually covers in-patient and out-patient services. Dental services and personal accident insurance are optional.

Medical Insurance

Not all doctors are created equal. Some are really just better. If you are like me who take time and great effort to find great doctors with experience and good bedside manners, then you may want to get a healthcare plan that allows you to choose your own doctor. Most Medical Insurance Plans allow this, but they are usually reimbursement type. This means that you will still have to put up the money to pay your doctor, but you can reimburse from the insurance company later on as long as you follow their process and requirements. Some Medical Insurance companies offer flexibility and let you choose coverage. You can go with basic in-patient and you can just add on outpatient, dental and others. There are even plans that let you add on an HMO component which offers access to their medical services network without cash outlay.

HMO with Pension

There are also some companies who offer combination plans wherein you pay premiums for several years with a locked-in arrangement. You get access to their network of doctors, clinics and hospitals with no cash outlay. Then after a certain number of years, you get a portion of your money back. The money back feature is an attractive offer, but rates are a little bit higher initially. It’s worth a look if you have extra cash to spare.

Hospital Confinement Insurance

If you get hospitalized, you are faced with many issues. Aside from the medical bills you have to pay, you also will lose the opportunity to earn income. The purpose of this type of insurance is to give you an allowance during your period of hospital confinement. It is supposed to supplement you income loss. Some plans offer money back guarantee while other’s don’t.

There are many other types of Insurance that will suit your needs.

These are just some of them. If you want to invest in healthcare insurance plans, be sure to research, investigate and ask other plan-holders. Read the policy very well. Ask about preexisting conditions (if you don’t know what this means, ask the agent to explain as this is a crucial point). Know and understand the benefits and limitations of your plan before you plunk your hard-earned money on it. The last thing you want when you are in a medical crisis is to be denied coverage. So read and ask a lot of questions.

I hope this article has shed a little light on important features of healthcare plans. If you are a jobseeker, don’t just look at how much salary you will get, but check if the company provides healthcare benefits. If your company offers healthcare, be very grateful. If they don’t, consider getting a plan for yourself or your family.

We all work really hard to earn and save money. A single disease can easily wipe us out. So take charge of your health and finances while you are still healthy.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Dealing With a Medical Crisis

(Originally published on June 15,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

Illness can be devastating to the hardworking person. Medical bills can wipe out entire savings. If a disease is contagious or debilitating, you will be asked to stop working for a while, which means loss of income for a critical period in time. As the breadwinner of your family, imagine how much this will impact those who depend on you.

Let me share with you the experience of one reader, Kevin, and the issues he faced during his period of illness:

I was recently diagnosed with pneumonia. At first my company allowed me to take a break for a few weeks to recover, but when I got hospitalized it was discovered that I also contracted tuberculosis. My medical bills reached R95,000 and I did not have enough money to pay the hospital so I asked my employer for support. They provided financial aid as well as a salary loan, but it wasn’t enough to cover my hospital expenses. Our HR manager then suggested that we go for termination due to prolonged illness with an option to reapply to the company when I get better. She said this way, I can get a separation pay. I agreed to this, but now they are asking me to submit a medical report, as well as sign a quit claim before they release the money. I am under a lot of stress and can’t help but feel paranoid with all the paperwork they are letting me sign. Is this really necessary?

Honestly, I feel very depressed. I have spent years working hard to save up, but I’ll have to spend it all to pay for my medical bills. It’s so unfair. I’m sick, I can’t work, and I don’t have money. How can hardworking people like me move up in life? What can I do to improve my situation?

My response:

I am sorry to hear about your illness and I sincerely hope that you get well soon. It is normal to feel emotional distress when physically ill, especially with the pressure of being faced with a steep medical bill. But do know that this, too, will pass. Just hang in there.

Based on your letter I think your company is pretty decent, as they have provided you with medical assistance and a salary loan. They are also willing to give you separation pay as well as give you a job when you get better, so you can at least get some relief and not worry about job opportunities while you are recovering.

The paperwork is necessary. Legally, if a company is terminating an employee due to prolonged illness, a medical report must be submitted and this must be issued by a duly authorized public health officer. It is also prudent for companies to document all things related to termination. Efficient HR practitioners will normally ask you to sign a salary release, clearance, and quit claim form. So just read the documents properly and sign if everything is in order.

As an optimistic person, I don’t really enjoy talking about sickness, disability or even death. But I know that Illness can strike anyone regardless of race, educational attainment and economic status. So for my peace of mind, I’ve chosen to face these issues head on and find ways to protect my family and I from crisis. I urge everyone to do the same.

To protect yourself and your family from illness-related disasters, and to cushion the financial blow that comes with it, take the time and effort to do the following:

1. Invest in health. In the movie “Tanging Ina,” Ai Ai de las Alas says: “Ang batang masipag, paglaki…pagod (A kid who works hard, grows up…tired).” People who work hard do just that—work hard. In the midst of all the hard work, they forget to eat properly, rest well and exercise. They end up working hard for money, and then they get sick and lose their hard-earned money. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

The best way to prevent illness-related blows is to stay healthy. Eat when you have to eat. Take a break when you need to rest. Wash your hands often to avoid bacteria and viruses. If you get sick, stay home until you get better. Don’t ever act the martyr by forcing yourself to go to work when you are seriously ill, or worse, contagious. Other people might catch what you have and they will not be happy about it. Learn to work smarter, not harder. You will become healthier and happier in the long run.

2. Invest in affordable health insurance. Honestly today’s rising medical costs will give anyone a heart attack. Depending on the illness and treatment required, bills can run from thousands to millions. Your SSS and Philhealth membership will help a bit, so make sure your contributions are up to date. If your company provides healthcare or HMO, then good for you. It will help pay for hospitalization in case you get confined. But if your company does not provide this benefit, you can proactively research and look for an affordable plan for you and your family (or even get free healthcare, if you’re a Makati resident with that magic yellow card).

See, companies are not required by law to give healthcare benefits aside from SSS and Philhealth. They are not legally bound to cover your medical costs. Employers will pay you for your day’s work. They are responsible for providing good working conditions, but they are not accountable for your health. In other words, you are ultimately responsible for taking care of yourself.

It isn’t just about working hard anymore. More importantly, it’s about living smart. Take care of your health and finances now, because nobody else will do it for you.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)



Inspiring Progress

An inspired and motivated workforce is essential for any business that hopes to stay ahead of the competition. But just how do you motivate people?

(Originally published on May 29,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Cora Llamas


The very term evokes a sense of awe, elicits images of an authoritative figure who can inspire action, get the job done and still continue to have a heart that is predisposed to seeing the people under her grow and spread their wings as well. Think Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Corazon Aquino, Mother Theresa, and you get the picture. These ladies did more than just issue orders or run an organization (or a nation)—they lit the inner flame inside the people they were responsible for to lift their eyes to a greater picture where they can make a significant contribution, and in so doing, create better lives for themselves as well.

Leaders turn things around, create a noticeable positive difference, and leave a legacy. That is what differentiates them from the atypical manager who, regardless of the loftiness of his title, simply handles the day-to-day operations in order to fulfill set objectives. Leaders are a cut above the rest.

The Art of Creating Leaders

Take the early steps of Racquel Cagurangan, now general manager of lifestyle portal, when she first started work in a multi-national telecom company in a contractual telemarketing position that veered slightly from her mass communications background: “It was a sales and marketing job that required teaching people in the Philippines to use the International Toll Free calls to the US back in the early ’90s,” she shares. “At that time, people were still used to payphones and landlines and were always conscious of making phone calls both domestic and international because of the high rates imposed by local telephone service providers, including those in the provinces.

“Being exposed in a multinational environment allows one to work independently yet still be part of a team. My first job was not even an entry level position; it was contractual.

But I came to work every day acting like it was an entry-level permanent position. And note that I did not have a sales and marketing background. But I asserted myself and acted like I belonged. I came to work earlier than everyone else and left work later than everyone else. I was of the mindset that, no matter how small my role was, I was going to make it happen.

“Leaders thrive on challenges,” she points out. Soon enough, her colleagues and superiors noticed, especially when Cagurangan thought of solutions that nobody else did, one of which increased the company revenues to 186 percent.

Being Right for the Part

Francia Sales, general manager in Teleperformance (EDSA), also had a rapid rise up the ranks, starting in the call center industry as an agent manning the phones eight years ago. The visibility of that success is important to others who would follow the same path: “If your employee sees you as someone that they can respect as a role model, they will tend to follow you and listen to your demands,” she says.

Still, the path to growth may not necessarily be predictable. Cagurangan is eager to see that same drive and initiative in the people she mentors, even if it means shaking things up a bit and jostling them out of their comfort zone. She narrates the following examples during her time as a senior manager in a top Philippine telco: “This 52-year-old lady who had been a comptroller in the company all her life was placed in a position that she had to report to me—and I was 32 years old then. But I saw that she could do other things beyond finance and took a chance on her.

“At that time, no one in the telcos was looking at providing infrastructure for new buildings, which made it hard for these telcos to create landlines for condos that have already been set up. We thought of creating the landlines while these buildings were still being erected; the service would be there by day one. The lady started to develop that, and it’s still a very viable organization up to now.”

In another case, she had another lady exec who was also with the finance department handle employee relations and facilitate discussions and interactions with the support groups. This lady added another skill outside her usual to her belt, a combination she built on to eventually land a position in World Bank.

In the dynamic world of the BPO, where clients, systems, and procedures frequently change, Sales takes time to “explain the bigger picture [to my staff] the benefits of this new move, and what we will get out of it. Some employees are mature, while others don’t understand and accept change. If they don’t have a clear understanding, they will just whine about it and allow negative thoughts to run in their mind.”


This article appeared on HIPP Magazine’s February 2010 issue.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Wide World of Work: Exhausted, but Still on Job

Fatigue rules negotiated

(Originally published on May 25, 2011; reprints previous original material published in this section.)

By Ll.M. Sixel

HOUSTON,TX-As companies try to do more with less, employees are working more hours. While that overtime might be great for the pocketbook, it can be dangerous for public safety.

It’s becoming common for some workers to put in 16 hours or more, then return the next day for the same grueling shift.

They drag themselves to work and are less able to do their jobs safely, according to a panel of labor and corporate representatives in the transportation and petrochemical industries, who recently met to discuss on-the-job fatigue issues at a luncheon sponsored by the Greater Houston Labor and Employment Relations Association.

One problem is that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t set fatigue standards, said Jim Lefton, assistant to the director of District 13 for the United Steelworkers Union. It represents 850,000 refinery, chemical, steel, paper and pharmaceutical workers, including 7,000 in theHoustonarea.

And the union hasn’t seen OSHA using the “general duty clause” in federal occupational safety law – requiring safe workplaces – to restrict long hours on the job, said Lefton, who said some of his members are working 19 consecutive hours a day.

The agency disagrees.

“OSHA is very concerned about workplace fatigue and the effect it can have on workplace safety,” it said in a statement. “We are prepared to cite employers when we discover situations in which the health and safety of workers are put at risk because of long work hours.”

After the BP refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 workers inTexas City, the union met with industry representatives to establish standards on work hours.

But the union broke off from the negotiations with the American Petroleum Institute, contending the discussions — which eventually resulted in a recommended practices standard — didn’t address fatigue.

Lefton pushed unsuccessfully for a requirement that employees get a 48-hour break after putting in four consecutive 12-hour days.

But it’s cheaper for the petrochemical industry to put an employee on required overtime at time-and-a-half pay than to hire replacements for employees who quit or retire, he said.

The American Petroleum Institute said in a prepared statement that the industry is implementing elements of the fatigue standard, but it didn’t have details.

Written into the Contract

Employees at Dow Chemical Co. inFreeportrecently negotiated a fatigue standard in their new labor contract, said Charles Singletary, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 564.

Under the new agreement, employees who work three consecutive 16-hour days must receive a 24-hour break. Employees on regular shifts must get a 48-hour break if they work 21 days in a row.

“The purpose of the policy is to provide reasonable assurance that the safety and health of employees, co-workers, facilities and the community are not adversely affected because of fatigue caused by excessive work hours,” Dow representative Tracie Copeland said. A similar policy for its facility inTexas Citywill be discussed during upcoming negotiations, Copeland added.

Airline Industry Standards

In the airline industry, rules on the number of hours that pilots and other airline employees can work haven’t changed much since 1985, said Capt. Mike Hynes, a pilot who serves on the safety committee with the Air Line Pilots Association inHouston. During that time, planes and flight times have gotten faster, and fewer pilots are in the cockpit.

Regulations haven’t kept up, Hynes said, so union contracts have evolved faster than federal rules on the issue of fatigue.

One of the hurdles is the industry’s good safety record — only one fatal airline crash in the United States in four years — and a resulting perception that existing rules are adequate.

Regulators have to do a cost-benefit analysis when proposing new regulations. It’s fairly easy to calculate the cost of reducing individual work hours, such as the need for more employees, but the benefits are harder to quantify.

“How do we justify the added expense?” Hynes said.

Continental pilots can call in and report they’re too fatigued to fly, said Jocelyn LaBove, director/counsel for labor relations for Continental Airlines, a subsidiary of United Continental Holdings. But she said that doesn’t happen often, which suggests to her that it’s not a big problem.

Some of the responsibility to stay rested, she said, lies with individual employees, whether fatigue results from a late night of partying or a long commute. NYT

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Dealing with Workplace Bullies

(Originally published on Sunday, July 11, 2010)


Workplace bullies come in all shapes, forms and sizes. You’ve most likely encountered bullies at some point in your life, maybe at work or way back when you were still in school.

Remember the screaming boss that everyone in your office feared? Or the terror professor who gave everyone low grades when he had a bad day? What about the office gossip who spreads malicious rumors about co-workers. Then there’s that customer who curses. And let’s not forget that smooth-talking colleague of yours who acts friendly but continuously puts down people with well-camouflaged words that actually cut your heart into pieces.

These are just some of the typical bullies that walk among us. But because of the many types of personalities and situations we encounter at work, it’s not always easy to identify bullies. For instance, if your boss gets angry and raises his voice at you for an error you’ve committed repeatedly, is that considered bullying? If an irate customer screams out of exasperation for being passed around, can you say that the customer is a bully? No, not exactly.

So who are workplace bullies? And when can we say that a person is a bully?

Workplace bullies use direct and indirect methods to coerce, intimidate, and get their way. They repeatedly use subtle or overt manipulation tactics which give their victims feelings of powerlessness, stress, inferiority, and fear. Basically, bullies make you feel like a loser.

The Art of Dealing with Workplace Bullies

The truth is, almost everyone will experience being bullied, but not everyone will be bullied. Here are some practical ways to help you deal with bullies:

A Protector

Though I’m demure and all, my family actually prepared me well for handling bullies. Before I started school, I remember my mother specifically tell me, “Pag may manakit sa iyo o may nagtangka, sumbong mo sa titser (If someone hurts or threatens you, tell the teacher).”

True enough, on my first day at nursery school, a scary classmate of mine was playing “teacher”. She was ordering people around and lining them up. If someone broke the line, she put them in ‘jail’—a small table where some of my poor classmates already were. Well, I broke the line and so she wanted me to go under the jail-table. Flashback: I remembered what my mom said, then cried my heart out.  My real teacher came to the rescue. After consoling me, she scolded my scary classmate and released her victims. And the silly game ended.

This episode became a powerful lesson for me. It showed me the power of “telling the teacher” or finding a protector who will guard you against bullies. In the course of my schooling, career, and life, I find that I don’t get bullied much.  That’s because people know that I have someone backing me up: a boss, a teacher, a mentor, an influential person at the office, a courageous mother, or a strong husband who will fend off any perceived threat.

So your first line of defense against bullies is finding a protector. 


This is the technique I use for malicious office gossips. You pretty much know who the office gossips are. They will befriend you at first and bring you in the loop. They seem to know a lot about other people’s dirty little secrets. Unsuspectingly, you’ll enjoy the “information” they are feeding you and you begin to bond with them. Then things progress into backbiting and before you know it, it turns into people-bashing.

Whenever a gossip tells me other people’s dirty little secrets, my self-preservation instinct immediately steps in. I know they can easily turn against me. If they can do it to other people, who’s to say that they won’t do it to me?

So when faced with a bully who uses gossip to attack people, I just listen and keep quiet…and slowly, inch by inch, step away from that type of bully.

Protect yourself by avoiding these types of bullies.

Find the Bully’s Soft Spot

Bullies are often insecure people. They are obviously hurting inside, so they tend to take it out on other people. When I taught public speaking to a bunch of high school students during one summer, I noticed a boy who was acting in an obnoxious manner. He made his classmates feel bad with his snickering and side comments.

So what I did was get to know him. I found out that his OFW dad was settling permanently in the Philippines. Since they hadn’t bonded as father and son due to the years of distance, they were having difficulty adjusting and his father was quite harsh in correcting him. This made him feel bad, so he made others feel bad. To help him, I made him the leader for a class project where he needed to be responsible for his classmates. This simple act changed him instantly.  Instead of being a bully, he became a protector.

Bullies are tough on the outside but tender in the inside. Find out what their soft spots are and you’ll be able to help them change. If you befriend the bully, the bully may even become your protector.

Secret Power

But the most important lesson I have learned about dealing with bullies is best captured in the words of a very wise woman, Eleanor Roosevelt. She says, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Wow!  Read it again and again until you get it.

The real secret is finding the power within you. If you let this guide you in your everyday life, you will soon realize that you can become your own protector. If there are things that hurt or bother you at the office, you will know how to calmly speak up and assert your rights. You will know how to say “No” politely to bullies and people with other types of toxic behavior. You will not become a victim and you won’t allow yourself to act like a martyr…because you own your self worth.

About the Author: Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy and the managing director for HR Club Philippines.  Her company conducts seminars on Human Resource Management and Corporate Skills Development.  They have also recently launched the Instant HR Toolkit, a service that provides HR practitioners with over 100 ready-to-use downloadable, customizable and printable HR manuals, contract, letters forms and templates.  To know more about HR seminars that they offer, you may visit or call (632)6874645.  To know more about the Instant HR Toolkit, you may visit  You may email your comments and questions to:   mbworklife AT (replace the AT with @).

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Jhoanna Gan-So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Best Careers in Human Resources Part 1

Published on Wednesday, June 2, 2010

By Jhoanna Gan-So

There are two types of jobseekers: Those who know exactly what they want, and those who have no clue as to what career to pursue, even after years of studying.

If you belong to the first group, good for you!  All you have to do is follow the direction that your heart takes you in, and you’ll be on your way to finding the career that you desire.

But for those who are not sure, those who have not yet zeroed in on a particular career, and those who are still searching, don’t worry.

Here’s another Career Guide that can help open your mind to more options and opportunities. For this month, I will focus on Best Careers in Human Resources. (If you are interested in other career options, check out past issues archived in my blog


Contrary to popular belief, HR is not just about paperwork and payroll processing. There are many facets to this exciting career, stimulating issues to challenge your mind, great rewards, and benefits.

First, let’s discuss what the requirements are if you want a career as an HR professional.

In terms of educational requirements, most four-year college degree-holders are sought for HR entry level positions. There is a preference for psychology, behavioral science, organizational communication, industrial relations, sociology, and humanities, but many companies are quite open to other general courses as well, since there’s really no “College of HR.”

In terms of attitude and skills, companies look for people who are good with people—meaning, good communication and interpersonal skills are must-haves if you want to pursue a career in HR.  Other wanted skills are organizational skills, records management, and leadership.

Many HR practitioners start out as HR assistants and administration officers, learning the ropes along the way and gaining knowledge as they work in this field. They are usually sent by their employers to HR seminars to arm them with the knowledge and skills necessary for the job. Many are trained on different HR functions such as recruitment and interviews, training and development, compensation and benefits, labor law, and employee discipline.

So if you are a new graduate or if you are thinking of shifting careers, HR is a field that’s quite easy to get into as the requirements for entry level positions are general. HR can be learned on the job; it will also help if you acquire additional knowledge through HR seminars and books (for more information about courses you can take, visit


As an HR practitioner, you can either be a generalist or a specialist. There are companies, usually SMEs, who look for generalists—HR people who can do all the functions of HR, sort of like jacks-of-all-trades. But there are also companies, usually those with big and compartmentalized departments, who look for specialists—HR positions where the job entails only a single but specialized function (ex. recruitment officer, training officer, payroll officer).

Being a generalist or a specialist has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you are just starting in the field of HR, you may want to experience the different functions of HR to get a feel for the field, to find out where you are best suited and what you like the most.

My suggestion is to learn as much as you can about human resources. Get as much experience as you can with the different functions, then carve out a good stable career for yourself.


Like all careers, many HR practitioners start off as HR or administrative assistants. These entry-level positions usually come with entry-level (or a little above it) salaries.

As you gain experience, your salary and responsibilities rise. After a few years on the job, you may be promoted to HR supervisor or executive. You may have a generalist or specialist function, depending on the size of your company.

When you’ve got about 5 to 10 years experience, you may become a manager.  That’s where you gain more influence in your company, create programs that affect all employees, and get to work strategically with top management. Salaries at middle to top management levels are usually pretty good, as you are climbing the corporate ladder. Once you’ve proven yourself, gained extensive experience, and have stayed with your company long enough, you may reach AVP-VP levels.


A career in HR can be very rewarding. The financial rewards are usually commensurate to the work that you do, your knowledge and expertise, and your position level in the company. But aside from this, there are other perks to being part of HR.  Let me share some of them:

Influence with People Matters. As an HR practitioner, you will be in a position to advocate programs that will fill the needs and benefits of all employees in your company. You can directly make a difference in everyone’s lives and work relationships.

In the Know. Since you are the one hiring, processing the payroll, and recommending promotions, you will be privy to confidential information. This knowledge will allow you to benchmark your own position against those of others and you can negotiate well for yourself.

Being in the Loop. You will know what’s happening in the company, whether it be events, employee movements and management policies. You may even be tasked to lead most of these matters.

Last Ones to Go. During retrenchments, HR people are usually the last ones who will be let go. This is due to the practical reason that they are needed for the actual retrenchment process.

These are just some of the perks of being in HR. It’s an exciting field because you get to touch people’s lives directly. (To be continued on Sunday, June 13. For Part 2, I will discuss the different positions you can try or apply for in the field of human resources.)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Jhoanna Gan-So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

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