Starting in 1971, we spent 18 months in Thailand. My parents decided they wanted an adventure, so they took three kids and traveled half way around the world for my father to become the Deputy Director of Peace Corps in Thailand. I was 8 years old and my little brother and sister were 7 and 4. We stayed in the Indra Hotel for over five weeks waiting for our household goods to arrive. Some memories fade, others stick around.
There was a baby elephant tied up in front of one of the luxury hotels to attract tourists. Took-tooks careened around corners on three wheels weaving in and out of traffic. A driver was assigned to us, because no foreigner wanted to brave the road rules in Bangkok. The Saturday-Sunday market was one of my most memorable spots.
Each weekend the poles and weatherworn pieces of material were erected over individual vendors to cover their goods and provide a bit of protection from the intense sun. As we wandered through the marketplace, people would stop to stroke my little sister’s pale skin and note her blue-green eyes. The cacophony of tonal Thai bombarded us on top of the honking cars and the noises from loose livestock. Once in the market, each direction you turned filled your eyes, nose and ears…pig snouts displayed, slaughtered chickens tied together at the throats-three to a bundle, shiny tin animals ornately pressed, and hollow, heavy jeweled decorative plates, and the puppies. Live ones.
Our driver told us that we shouldn’t bargain unless we were truly interested in buying. Most prices were instantly raised at the sight of our white “Pharang” skin. We couldn’t hide our foreignness, but we were advised to bargain the price down to half. The driver told us it was an insult if we didn’t bargain, even if we thought the original price was dirt cheap.
Vietnamese ate dog, not Thais, at least that’s what I remember being told. We each left with a hollow tin animal and I was so excited about my bejeweled dragon. But the prize purchase of the day was actually alive. That afternoon we smuggled a small cocker spaniel looking puppy, in an antique brass bucket, back to the Indra hotel suite.
The puppy stayed in the bathroom, and the entire cleaning staff colluded with us. Duchess Lady, as my sister & brother named her, proceeded to explode everywhere. Worms was declared the cause, and after several weeks of treatments, the explosions and smell disappeared.
The dog return home to the US with us after our school year finished. Our time in Thailand was cut short. But the lesson that our driver taught us, stayed longer,
“Don’t negotiate unless you are buying, it’s about respect.”
Recently, I worked with a client to identify a director for their research operations. We identified several potential candidates and they picked two to interview. They liked them both so much that we were asked to do references to help them decide. In the end they went with the candidate who was less costly only to find hidden obstacles. For the first time in many years, this candidate refused to be transparent with us and share their present compensation information. I’m direct with my clients, the companies, and with the professionals that I work with, but this person was not. Their references were excellent so I tried to put my concerns aside.
The candidate decided they felt more comfortable negotiating directly and proceeded to push not once, but twice, and then turned the position down. Before I work with anyone, I normally share two things,
“My fees are paid by my clients-the companies, and my fees are based on the salary you receive, so there is a relationship there”.
This search was a favor to a client and different from most of my searches. To the best of our ability, we estimated this person was earning around 90-100K, the offer came in around 125K. I typically recommend that a 10-15% increase on the base is an excellent offer. If you stay put with your firm a COLA (2-3%) raise or one based on merit (5-7%) are lower. The company liked the candidate. After the candidate said they wanted more, they decided to act in good faith and raised the base to 130K. In the end, the candidate wasted everyone’s time by negotiating not once but twice and didn’t accept anything. This person may have even used the offer to leverage a counteroffer at their current firm. Counteroffers are a whole other topic.
This story is not unusual.
Regardless, it made me wonder where common courtesy and professionalism begins and ends in present times. You hear people talk about applying to jobs online and not hearing anything back, ever. Other professionals complete an interview and then don’t hear a word. No note about if they got the job, or someone else was hired, or even an acknowledgement of their thank you note. I’ve prepared a candidate for an interview only to get feedback that they didn’t even know the basics about the role and came in khakis and sweater rather than a suit and tie. You leave a message or send an email, but don’t receive a response. These are all actual behaviors I have witnessed or stories that have been shared with me.
Are these acceptable behaviors?
Is this behavior indicative of the modern technological age? Is there too much information coming at each of us all the time and does this make us become numb? Is there a way for us as professionals and companies to retain our sense of compassion and treat people who come in contact with us through work with respect? Phone calls, emails, FaceBook, texts, LinkedIn, Snapchats, Tweets, IMing, and Instagram…so many ways to communicate and not enough time. Is there a way to limit communication, still get the information to each valued stakeholder, and accomplish daily tasks? Plus, can our messages be expressed or delivered in respectful ways? Appropriate behavior between genders requires another entire discussion but it is a part of the conversation about communication.
I’d say modernity is wonderful, each generation builds upon the previous one. Cures are found, technological advances are made. We have found that new ways don’t always make the old ways obsolete. Many times there’s room for old and new-like streaming music through a bluetooth speaker, and hearing the scratch of a needle as it touches down on vinyl. It doesn’t have to be either or. An email/text can be short, direct and to the point, but sometimes a phone call or a face to face meeting can really clarify the message.
Setting respectful boundaries for communication and professional interactions is imperative.
I pick the most widely used mode of communication to reach the audience I need to get my job done. I can’t be on all of social media all the time, I don’t have the bandwidth. I communicate on the major ones so that I can reach multiple generations. Then I retain the common courtesy from the days of chivalry, or the advice from Ms Manners, and despite technology, I respond to each phone call, each email, and most texts, with honest clear answers. It’s time to remember what basic respectful behavior looks like and act accordingly.