4 Singaporean Attitudes

1. Can-do attitude
One Australian ex-colleague shared with me that when he first read someone's resume with a recommendation letter that stated the candidate has a "can-do" attitude, he was wondering why that would be considered a good thing. (A "can-do" attitude sounds like you can accept it but would rather not if you had a choice.) For avoidance of doubt, a can-do attitude means being positive and confident about one's ability to complete any task and willing to try just about anything to complete it.

While this may be more of a good attitude to have most of the time, it can also be a bad thing when people fail to take into consideration the things that are not within their control.
E.g. Many business have seen a decline during this recession. Having a can-do attitude in improving the business is usually a good thing, though winding down to cut losses may in some cases be wiser than hanging on to a business in which the demand no longer exists. A good example would be companies that support Seagate Technologies. Even if the economy picks up, the demand for the same product will not go back to pre-recession levels because Seagate is moving their entire plant out of Singapore. A can-do attitude must be coupled with knowledge otherwise it would be more detrimental than beneficial.

I sometimes find people with this can-do attitude rather irritating. Some of them impose their attitude on others but what they expect is not realistic at all.

2. No action, talk only (NATO)
Too many Singaporeans like to complain and judge. The best *sarcasm* thing is they think everyone needs to care what they say. Such people have many things to complain about but when they are given the chance to do something or to say something officially, they pretend not to have an opinion. Many Singaporeans have many complaints the government specifically the ruling party, People's Action Party (PAP). But when it comes to elections, everybody votes for PAP anyway! A more casual example would be the accusation made by a blogger that someone stole her blog ideas. I found out that the someone she was referring to was me through accusations made by her fans at my blog. I confronted her and asked whether she was referring to me and to tell me what exactly I stole but she refused to say whether it was me or someone else. When she gets the chance to speak her mind, she doesn't; she only wants to talk behind someone's back. [Read it here, Cat fight].

3. Herd mentality
Too many people believe, without thinking, what they read in the local newspapers and things that other people say. When they read that the stock market or the property market is going up, everyone follows and buys. Just watch CNN or Bloomberg for 5 minutes and you can easily see that the real situation out there is very different from the pretty picture that the local media paints. To be fair, the local media does provide information that indicates that the recession is far from over. But they also quickly proceed to talk about something positive, contradictory or frivolous such as property prices are going up, companies are starting to hire again, or celebrities' raunchy pictures. Information presented in such a way confuses many people. Those who are confused would simply believe what their friends, stockbrokers or property agents tells them. If they have friends who have insights and are able to analyse the situation, good for them. Otherwise, they're just depending on hearsay. How many stockbrokers and property agents will tell them not to buy?

As for frivolous stuff, the spat mentioned in #2 made it to the front page of a local newspaper. [Read it here, Cat fight]. Though the reporter didn't comment whether it was true or not, many people (though not all) take it as a given that I indeed stole someone's blog ideas even though nobody can say what exactly I stole. This is a good example of how people believe what's published in the newspapers or what certain people, in this case it's the other blogger, say without thinking or needing to see any proof.

4. I-don't-care / heck care
Although the I-don't-care attitude may sound like it's for people with no opinions or no backbone, this is the attitude that I like the most among these 4 attitudes. Why? There are many things beyond our control, especially politics, so it's no use bothering about them at all. Just be grateful and happy! I think I fall into this category. Unless something affects me, my family, my money or things that I believe in, why should I care? I'll only do something if it does. In extreme cases, this can be seen as selfish. E.g. not many people care that men in Singapore are allowed to rape their wives. The law allows it! [Marital rape is legal in Singapore] Yet there are people who would bother to post insults about me rather than care about supporting a worthwhile cause.

Note: I'm sure there are people in other countries with such attitudes too.

Sorry, if you were expecting me to write something nice and sweet for Singapore's National Day. In all honesty, I don't feel optimistic about where we're headed.

However, I do love Singapore (I don't mean I love PAP). I'm always happy to return after a holiday or business trips. Singapore's my home. Home sweet home!

[Paper Chase]


Hayabusa said...

Well that's why i've pretty negative impression on Singaporeans, other than for the kiasu & kiasi mentality they're so famous for, the one thing i hate most's the i-don't-care mentality. probably that's becuz i'm a Malaysian & its precisely that kinda mentality that got us in this mess, but Singaporeans juz seems to be so proud of it.

THis's where i'm gonna disagree. yes, definitely there're stuff that're out of our control. but if we don't try, how're we gonna know? if Nelson Mandela just submit to fate & continue to let Apartheid, something people think nothing can be done about back then, South Africa'd still be a country that treats black people as slaves & animals. but still, this's my view, you can choose to believe it or not.

Anonymous said...

Are you really proud to be singaporeans? Do you dare to behave as such when you are outside the country? Dear singaporeans, real leadership comes from vision and courage besides having to take failure! No matter how innovative and oraganize, good managers follow orders and minimize risks. But the Kiasu kiasi action/inaction makes you a long term sucker & loser.

Yu-Kym said...

Hayabusa, for things that we can control or not, it's up to individual's ability and perception. There are not many people who have the determination and courage of Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi. True that many people don't even bother to think about it or try. Inaction can be as bad as or even worse than taking action but making a mistake.

I didn't say I'm proud to be Singaporean. Not because I'm ashamed but because I don't see a need to identify myself according to my nationality, gender, education or whatever. I agree with you about vision, courage, ability to take failure. As for following orders and minimising risk, I don't think those always apply to good managers. Because not all leaders are good, managers can't always simply follow orders without voicing out to their leaders what they feel is more appropriate. Managers need to have clear understanding of risk but not necessarily always choose the option with the least risk. So I would say they need to manage risks instead. Agree that Kiasu kiasi action/inaction is bad in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Just stating the mental paradigm. A fish from the ocean is definetly different from the one from the aquarium. Managers operate best within the box, entrepreneurs outside, leaders on top. Add one more to make it 5, gauger!

Yu-Kym said...

There are many theories I suppose. I thought you meant someone whose job is to manage. "good managers follow orders and minimize risks. " If they operate within the box, shouldn't the job of managing risks fall on more on the leaders? Can't manage risks if they are just told to follow orders.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Yu-Kym. The concept of "thinking out of the box" is one that as managers or leaders (which there's a distinction) MUST have the ability to explore 'weird' thoughts and ideas, even if their paid to limit their minds within the imaginary box of the management team, to stay stagnant would be suicide. Most "Leadership" books discusses this at length.. Not "Management" books, leadership.. :)

Yu-Kym said...

You are right to point out that there's a difference between leadership and management. Singaporean managers typically focus on getting people to comply and obey rather than inspiring people to be the best that they can be.

Anonymous said...

I have visited and lived in many places like New York, Tokyo, Shanghai etc etc and I have met with many Singaporeans. One thing I can say to you guys is that you SG people really do have some attitude problems. Whatever cause that, sooner or later this will lead you down. It is horrible to stay around Singaporeans.