Category Archives: Yuppy and Hip

Yupp and Hip: Professionalism in the Workplace

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 14, 2010)


As Reliable as ABC

Johnny, be good. And he is. He’s the janitor, and though not a lawyer or doctor, he comes to work on time and cleans the floor as told and leaves no stone unturned.

He’s professional. And he’ll keep the Philippine workers’ reputation a formidable force to reckon with (and we don’t have to fear business leaving our shore for others).

Let’s focus then on these twins: skill or competence and character. This is what professionalism involves. One is science, the other psychology. One is reliability, and the other as basic as ABC.

Now, on with the first…

Reliability: begins with skills and competence.

First: Excel in your expertise as expected. That’s how your skills and competence will show and be admired and respected. Know your P’s and Q’s.

You have to be good at something. Work on your IT skills if that’s your field.  Master your debit and credit if you’re an accountant (debit didn’t kill Goliath). As a marketer, manage your brand to make it number one.

Don’t leave anything to chance or luck. If you’re a telephone operator, work hard at pronouncing your words well, modulating your tone, and making a telephone conversation an ecstatic experience.

When your customer asks you anything, provide information that is clear, correct, and complete. Anticipate his/her needs and wants. When they ask for coffee, ask them if they want sugar and cream with it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or a janitor. Just be the best CEO or the best janitor you can be.

Second: Deliver services with quality. Conform to standards and pay attention to detail. That’s quality. You arrive at it through the work habits you develop. There’s discipline, initiative, resourcefulness.

The greatest secret, to greatest salesman Og Mandino, is to be a small, measurable amount better than mediocrity, and you’ve got it made.

You fixed your client’s car. Your tools are all over. The metallic clutter stares at you while you’re about to leave. Clean up your mess.

And then there’s time, the scarcest resource. Tardiness cannot be justified.  Laziness will take you to hell. Sluggishness shows ill health.

Once, a new employee arrived late. His boss asked him, “How come you arrived only now? It’s already 10 a.m. You were supposed to be here at 8!” And he said, “Why, sir, what happened?”

Deliver your goods on time. You say you’ll call me back at 8 p.m., then do so. Or text if you cannot. And apologize if you don’t.

Don’t settle for better late than later. Go for better never late (I’m quoting quality service guru Prof. Rene Domingo of AIM).

Third: Be there 101%. If your mind is not in what you’re doing, any virus can penetrate the weak borders of your blurred or bleary brain.

Take the typical case of the teller who’s supposed to be counting your money and then sidetracks to a friend just to ask if she’s had her merienda.

Be present for the customer: i.e. not just one who buys from you, but anyone you deal with. Even your boss or your assistant is your customer.

LL Bean, owner of the hunting shoe company from Maine and often quoted in customer service circles, takes us further. He says: “A customer is the most important person ever in the office, in person, or by mail. He is not an interruption of our work; he is the purpose of it.”

It’s all as basic as your…

ABC (as simple as your character: Adapt, Balance, Care).

Fourth: Adapt to your customers and your workplace. If you’re handling anyone who wants full attention, then give full attention. If a client wants to tell you stories, then hospitably listen.

Adapting means being alert to business culture. I recall my advertising days: I noticed that the copy department was the most vibrant. The president would walk along the corridors and stumble over copywriters lying on the floor. And that was ok with the big boss. As long as they produced their copy requirements on time.

Work in a bank and it’s different. You have to be in shirt and tie and be well-behaved and observe your etiquette.

Fifth: Observe moderation. Balance two ends of opposite extremes. On one hand, you want to show you’re reliable, but on the other hand, you want them to know you’re not a stiff corpse of a nerd.

Don’t joke around when there’s no need. You can have fun without being childish. Care for their needs but don’t be cloying. Be serious but smile when you have to.

Maintain your distance as one serving bosses or clients, even as they go palsy-walsy with you. Still call them sir or ma’am, and say excuse me with eye contact and a smile.

Sixth: Care for people with ethics and integrity. Focus on the key words.  Care means value: your co-worker and customer are people with feelings who need acceptance and fear rejection. Ethics means not knowingly doing harm: don’t mix harmful ingredients in the cake you’re baking for the customer. Integrity means intact: don’t tell your customer that the item was made in the U.S. if it was made in Nicaragua.

Two local words capture these six guides: maaasahan and malasakit. Can you be depended upon?  Do you care for the people you serve?

This is what quality customer service is all about: Reliability and Character (Adapt, Balance, Care).

And so, as a new era in Philippine politics is ushered in, make a vow to be as professional as you can be (we’re known that way worldwide).

Let the spirit of a new beginning flow from the top leadership to every worker in the field. Let the word Filipino be synonymous to world-class: Charice Pempengco, Manny Pacquiao, Efren Penaflorida, and then there could be—or is—you…or Johnny the janitor.

Your macro reflects your micro. Your professionalism at work, more than your skills or competence, in short, is your character.

Long live the professional Filipino!

About the Author: Dr. Dups—international speaker, executive and personal coach, and author—is the managing director of his own consultancy firm, RAdelosReyes Management Consultancy. He does training programs here and abroad (from Bangkok to Guam, USA) to top local and multinational firms, and has written ten books so far (on English usage, business writing, public speaking, and salesmanship). His latest is the trailblazing leadership guide Coach with EQ—and the more-than-just-jokes joke book Laugh and Last (check out National and Power Books), both recently launched. Email him at drdups AT (replace the AT with @) or look for his contact numbers in his books.

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

Yupp and Hipp: One Moment, Please, for Solutions and Good Feelings

(Originally published on Sunday, June 27, 2010)


A popular Philippine innovation is the phrase “for a while,” often heard on the phone. And I’m not proud of that as a Filipino. The PCOS-machine-backed national elections, yes, but rampant destruction of standard native English?  If you’re used to world-class English, or if you know that business is as global as can be, then “for a moment” jars your cochlea, and you either swear or…well, write an article like this.

Let’s expand this to a broader perspective like customer service, where the above questionable phrases are used in this age of call centers.

I shall zero in then on my two commandments: customers want their problems solved, and they want to feel good.

As service providers—which we all are even if we sell tangible products, or even if you don’t sell—we should focus on those two reasons why people buy… and buy again.  Provide solutions and good feelings.

So where does English come in here?

First, you can’t solve problems well if you use a word that means something else or if you pronounce a word so differently it means something else.

Second, you can’t make your customer feel good if you murder English.

The first reason people buy is that they need solutions to their problems. I must assume that you have meticulously mastered your technical product details.

Add to this your English communication skills on the phone.

Let’s start with language adaptation. My golden rule is to speak your customer’s  language. If s/he speaks English, then you must speak English. It does pay to learn the language of the customer and be consistent in your language use. Instead of “Yes po,” say “Yes sir.” Or instead of “The lines are so long, sir, as in so long,” say “The lines are extremely long; it might take one more day.”

If you end with that thought, you leave the customer hanging. Provide a remedy or an alternative. Say instead: “It might take one more day. I suggest however that you…”

One of the best examples is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel staff. Initiating my feeling of customer delight is the phone operator. No English errors. Excellent modulation.  You ask for the front desk, or any person, and she acknowledges first with “I’ll connect you now,” unlike other call center operators who simply connect you without your knowing if they heard you.

A few days ago I spoke on the phone with a cake shop staffer, wanting to know if I could order fruitcakes (that’s like buying thick jackets in summer!). The staffer politely said that she would have to confirm with the chef and asked for my contact number for her to return my call (certainly lots better than being made to wait). A few hours after (this is the wonder—the Mandarin staff’s coordination is seamless) someone else called to say yes. And the friend to whom I owed one is now enjoying his fruit cakes, ecstatic with his “Yehey, it’s Christmas!”

Then there’s directness to the point. Have you ever asked for something and the answer is for something else? I ask, “May I know what amount is available for me to spend?” and the credit card operator says, “As of May xx, your overdue amount is xx.”

So I butt in and say, “Please answer my question, I’m just asking how much can I still spend,” and he says, “I’m getting there sir.” So now I say, “Cut it out…I don’t care for the background, just tell me how much,” and I don’t even hear an “I’m sorry.”

And I don’t feel good.

Which leads us to the second reason people buy…and buy again. The first turn off is, I am made to wait without any proviso before the waiting time. Like you’re left hanging all of a sudden.

Or there’s no tact at all.  When I’m told, “You did not provide the details in the form,” I feel like I’m being accused.

Enter the passive voice, about which I have written an article, plus of course the alert sense of remedy. Say instead, “Although we don’t have the details, sir, we would be happy to encode them so that we can serve you right away.

And then of course—finally—there’s basic English.

When the person who takes my call has to check if the person I’m looking for is around, you hear not just nonstandard but atrocious English. The most notorious—nay, shameful—phrase from this side of the world is, “For a while, or “A moment.” And I swear I cannot stomach either.

“For a while” is standard when it usually ends a sentence, but not as a single stand-alone phrase.  You can say “I was in the office for a while,” or “He spoke with me only for a moment,” or “A moment is precious so don’t waste time.”

Use instead: “just a while, please” or “just a moment, please,” or “one moment, please,” or “please hold on.”

As long as you don’t say, “He’s out of the country for a few days…would you like to wait?”

How about prepositions? Do you say “speak with” or “speak to”?  You hear “speak to” from the British more often, and “speak with” from Americans. I prefer using “speak with”; it sounds polite (“speak to” sounds condescending). Your choice. Just be consistent.

And then there’s pronunciation. Above all, say “please” with a “pleeeez” sound, technically, the long “e” sound. Not “pliz hold on.” And it’s a long “o” sound for “hold,” as in “howld on.” And not “hold on” as in “called on.”

A final suggestion for world-class English. Instead of responding with “Speaking” or “Yes,” try the most standard there is: “This is she.” Or if you’re a guy, make sure you’re careful with your articulation and pause between “is” and “he.” “This is…he.” Otherwise you could sound saying “this-is-she.”

Customer service is gender-free and gender sensitive. Male or female—oops, I should have said female or male (chivalry isn’t dead yet)—stick to standard native English if you must use English on the phone.

“One moment, please,” or “Just a while, please.” Provide solutions and good feelings… “pleeeez”!

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

(Originally published on Wednesday, May 12, 2010)

Of MacArthur, Contracts, and Twins Shall and Will

Were you around yet when Douglas MacArthur landed in Leyte? Did you sign a contract with him…or signed one lately?

Yup, these are relevant questions if you’ve got trouble with will and shall. I don’t mean William (Will, for short) and his brother Shallom (not the Jewish greeting). Helping verbs will and shall give many people trouble even if I tell them that there’s nothing much to worry about, I always say, just remember Gen. Douglas MacArthur and contracts.

What’s with MacArthur? He arrived in Leyte, and he was supposed to have said: I shall return. Everyone knows that he really wanted to return. He wanted to come back.  Grammatically, he should have said, I WILL return. Apparently, there was no contract which tied him up to that promise. (If there was, do let me know.)

This leads us to contracts. Review everything you have signed. Notice these typical lines in a contract: The third party shall… both parties shall…

Now, when do you use will, when do you use shall? I shall explain, but with this caveat: language change, especially in American English, allows for flexibility.  Language changes. Only dead languages, like Latin, don’t. MacArthur’s dead. And English is not.

You can interchange will and shall and it makes no difference. If you wish to stick to British English or stay formal and safe, however, then be guided by this simple strategy. Simply visualize a hip matrix.

First column: Your reference point is your personal pronouns. Remember first, second, third. Review the pronouns you can use as subjects of your sentence. It doesn’t matter if your pronoun is singular or plural. Our two verbs in focus, just like other helping verbs (except for is and are) can be used for singular and plural cases.

Re-introducing…first person pronouns I and We, the only second person pronoun You and third person pronouns He, She, It, and They.

Now, to your matrix’s second and third columns. Note two categories of future references—ordinary future (for your second column) and determined future (for your third column). That intersecting space for the first person and ordinary future: fill it in with shall (e.g. I shall appreciate your reply). The intersecting space for the first person and determined future, fill it in with will (e.g. I will obey all contract stipulation).

Now, go for some tire rotation. For both second and third person pronouns, simply reverse the situation. The pronouns you, he, she, it, and they must be followed by will for the ordinary future (you will leave at 5 p.m., he will appreciate your coming here), and followed by shall for the determined future (e.g. you shall not steal…the third party shall…).

More examples:

Ordinary future (for usual realities in the future): I shall go home early. You will see me. He will be there. Shall we dance? Will you pay? Will they come?

Determined future (for contracts or commands): I will do the best I can (so you see how incorrect MacArthur was with his I shall return, unless of course he didn’t really plan to return). The poet says: East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet (a determined prediction!—people are different, though they’re the same). Thou (i.e., you) shalt honor thy father and thy mother (a commandment—and a contract is a commandment). Thou shalt not eat salt (Why?  It’s a sin. LOL). The third party shall pay the entire amount upon the demand of the first party (a contract is a commandment).  The first party (take note, this is a third person application—all nouns are third person in reference…you’re not using any first person pronoun in this subject example) shall submit for interrogation provided that…

That’s the usual contract statement. You don’t have pronouns like I or he or they in contracts. It’s proper nouns, names of the parties involved which, by the way, function grammatically like third person pronouns.

That’s why you can always use that contract statement as a guide to start you to recall the shall and will rule. If it’s a determined future (as all contract statements are determined, and if you violate them, you can go to jail or pay tremendous fines), you use shall in the third person (which in our matrix also includes the second person).

Well, just remember, I refer to the formal standard rule. Or, if you want to be safe, go informal and use the contractions—either way, you’ll be ok (that’s either you will or you shall). You can always be flexible.  We don’t have to sign a contract with regard to this. Otherwise, you shall be liable for damages. And I will be scot free. Or shall, as the case may be.

If you make a mistake, don’t consider being dead (and join MacArthur). Stipulate in a contract that you shall be determined to be kind to yourself, for everyone makes mistakes, and to recall the matrix I suggested. Then you shall definitely be standard, with more practice, as you use English. I will stand by you.

Remember the matrix, or forget about it. The choice is yours. Stay really formal, or liberate yourself in English freedom. Using either shall or will requires no rules.  Otherwise, go back to the matrix, or simply remember MacArthur and contracts.  Promise me you will?

I will give you a copy of one of my books if you will email me four sentences illustrating the formal distinction I’ve just discussed with you—two sentences indicating ordinary future, and two determined future (each with a first person and a second or third person pronoun as subject). Shall I hear from you? I can almost hear you say, Yes I will.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Dr. Rodolfo “Dups” delos Reyes. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

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