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Going Up?

Making Right Choices


@ Work

Yay Padua Olmedo

OMF Literature Inc.


Mandaluyong City

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All Scripture quotations are taken from the
Holy Bible: New International Version®. NIV®.
Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Going Up?
Making Right Choices @ Work
Copyright © 2010 by Celia P. Olmedo

Cover design by Nixon Na


Page design by Dorothy Joy Quan-Cheng

Published in the Philippines (2010) by


OMF Literature Inc.
776 Boni Avenue
Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila
www.OMFLit.com

ISBN 978-971-009-052-5

Printed in the Philippines

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contents
Foreword—Menardo G. Jimenez, Jr. . . . . . 5
Introduction
A Special Treasure? . . . . . 7

1  Reality Check:
you’re a bottom-dweller . . . . . 13

2  Up the Ladder:
  the fruit of faithfulness . . . . . 27

3  Stand on Higher Ground:


  the best in whatever you do . . . . . 41

4  Words have Power:


expletives deleted . . . . . 57

5  No Signal?
   Gotcha!. . . . . 71

6  Cords of Steel:
   the power of working together . . . . . 87

7  Real Riches:
     not bought with gold or plastic . . . . . 99

8  Joy’s Anatomy:
   establishing a secret place . . . . . 113

9  Fit or Misfit:
in the world but not quite . . . . . 129

10  It’s a Done Deal!


    just walk in . . . . . 145

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In memory of
Cyd Latunio-Esquivel
of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Her life may have been short,


tribulation-filled even,
but she used every opportunity to share Jesus.

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foreword

A Map for Your Journey

The availability of so many books on leadership and topics


related to “making it” in the workplace makes you wonder if
there is space for another one. But if you go through many of
these books, some are too theoretical, some are too practical,
some are not in tune with the changing times, while some
just aren’t interesting. In many cases, we find business books
written by people who have never practiced their craft in the
real world. Though that in itself isn’t bad, I’ve always found
the most effective books to be the ones written by those who
have experienced what they are writing about. I can’t imag-
ine a cook book being written by someone who doesn’t cook.
It just doesn’t quite cut it.
Yay’s book is a balance of everything. While she drives
home principles, theories and more importantly values that
will help a person navigate through the corporate maze, she
draws these principles not from textbooks but from actual
experience, as she herself rose from the ranks in some of the
country’s biggest companies.

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6 GOING UP?

In many respects, this book is like a map. It helps guide


you. A map can’t take you to the place you want to go. You
have to ride in a car or start walking to get there. But a map
does guide you where to turn right or left, or what to do when
faced with a fork in the road. If you want a “heads up” on
what you may experience in your corporate journey, this
book will give you the insights.
Finally, a distinctive of this book is that it is written with
a lot of wisdom. A lot of business books are filled with tech-
nical knowledge. But in truth, it is wisdom that will help you
make the right decisions and take the right path. God once
asked a young man what he would want most in the world.
The man asked for wisdom. And he went on to become the
most powerful man of his time.
For those starting on the journey into the wild and crazy
corporate world—here’s a map to guide you along the way.

Menardo G. Jimenez, Jr.


Senior Vice President/
Head, HR and Business Transformation
PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company)

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introduction

A SPECIAL TREASURE?

Am i living up to my calling as a Christian? Do I make the


Father God smile by the cool way I respond to temptations
or challenges? Do I ever sense Him saying, “Well done, good
and faithful servant!” when I choose to obey? Do my col-
leagues trust me enough to share their joys or pains, knowing
that my response would be compassionate and prayerful?
Or is my life more like a candle flame, whose light flares
up, or flickers and sputters depending on how hard situations
press in on me?
Have my peers and superiors in the workplace labelled
me as a weird religious fanatic who loves to preach but sorely
lacks credibility, quite insensitive to the realities around me?

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8 GOING UP?

Can you relate to these questions? Perhaps, on the other


hand, your colleagues don’t even know you are a Christian!
Do you struggle to live Christianly in your place of work?
Because — to be honest about it — being a “believer” in the
marketplace can be like paddling a small and fragile boat
against a great current. Do you find yourself asking God,
“What am I doing here, Lord?”
There is no easy answer, because God doesn’t see things
from our viewpoint. His ways are definitely higher, His pur-
poses greater. And part of His plan is that Christians should
demonstrate His love to a world that seems clueless about its
downhill ways.
We are Christians in the workplace. We’re not trying to
make a big production about it. But we do hope to make a
difference in an arena where pride, self-centeredness, ambi-
tion and greed seemingly take center stage. You may be a
mechanic on a factory shop floor, or a clerk in a bank or a
trading company. Or you may be an executive assistant in a
posh multi-storey enterprise in Makati, a sales supervisor in a
mall or a call-center representative. Whatever your position,
as a Christian you have been called to shine your neon light
of faithfulness, integrity, and excellence, in the workplace
where He has placed you.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying, “Expect the
workplace to be a scary place populated by stony-hearted
people. . .” However, you’ll soon discover that mostly everyone

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A Special Treasure? 9

has his or her own degree of dysfunctionality, not to mention


values that may differ from yours. Many of these men and
women manage their working day quite well, either quietly
getting along in a low key way, or with flair and pizzazz and
an extremely professional air. In the workplace you’ll meet
some of the nicest, most helpful, even brilliant people. . . but
there will also be some who are scary, autocratic, even. . . a
few who are jerks.
In my years as an employee working with some of the big
corporations, I had my own bouts of insecurity and I handled
some matters clumsily. I also experienced boredom at times,
and sometimes felt a helpless resignation to what I called
“the fate of the have-nots.” I’ve been intimidated by oth-
ers’ intellectual prowess, indifference, and sky-high egos. I’ve
been wrung dry by urgent assignments, needed “yesterday.”
Was I a miracle worker? Did they really expect me to meet
every urgent demand?
I entered the workplace a self-centered believer in my
own ability. God so ordered my path that, one day, I met
Jesus in the company I worked for, and — as the cliché goes
— my life has not been the same since. God gently chis-
elled something more attractive from my proud heart, and
I learned to trust Him, in spite of my fears and doubts.
Many times, I admit, I steered away from God’s path, and
so often I depended on my own “skill” and ability instead of
allowing Him to lead me step by step. But I did eventually

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10 GOING UP?

come to understand I was in the workplace for God’s agenda,


not mine.
Rummaging through my treasure chest of workplace
memories, I have sifted out lessons I believe are worth pass-
ing on. I’ve tried to group them into chapters, but not every
topic stayed neatly in its compartment, and you’ll find some
overlap — because life is like that, everything connects. I
trust you’ll see overlap with your own work circumstances
too, and that you’ll identify with some of what I describe.
Humbling circumstances. Coping with ever-increasing re-
sponsibilities. Excelling at times. Being careful (or careless)
with your words. Keeping your integrity. Valuing teamwork.
Managing money. Keeping your joy intact. Fitting in. Know-
ing what it means to live as a Christian in the work place.
We all have to “learn the ropes.” Progress from theory
to “putting it into practice.” We enjoy the rewards too —
promotion, pay increases. A definite “yes!” to that. But as
a follower of Christ, you can’t let these material things de-
fine you. There’s definitely more — much more — to success
than having gold in the vault, and having the title deeds to a
mansion, and owning the fastest fully loaded convertible in
town. It may not be easy to believe, but I am confident you
are in the workplace at the appointment of the Sovereign
God, for His special purposes.
This book has been written for Christians in the market-
place. I’d like to help you avoid the pitfalls of compromise,

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A Special Treasure? 11

and recognise the rewards of living by His guidelines — even


live with His empowering. He’ll prove Himself amazing. May
you make a difference in the work arena He chose for you.

You are the salt of the earth.


But if the salt loses its saltiness,
how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything,
except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world.
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
MATTHEW 5:13–14

In my first draft of these pages I headed this section, “Pe-
culiar?” — from the verse in Exodus 19 where God says His
people shall be “a peculiar treasure. . . above all people.”
That’s what we’re supposed to be: His treasure. Not weird.
Not preachy. Not snobbish. But showcasing Jesus — reflect-
ing His excellence, faithfulness, love, compassion, wisdom,
peace, grace, and forgiveness. He will provide whatever
weapon of faith you need to wield for every situation.
Enjoy your workplace roller-coaster ride; it will certainly
have its highs and lows, and it can be great fun too — for as
many years in the workplace as He allows. Welcome each
new experience as another lesson, another growth opportu-
nity, and another stepping-stone towards your dream. You
have His marching orders . . . .

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chapter 1

REALITY CHECK:
you’re a bottom-dweller

Center-of-the-universe, that was me entering the work


place. And I woke up one day soon after that, struggling at
the bottom of a vast ocean. But I needed that. Humbling ex-
periences are part of growing — they help shape us and mold
our character. Welcome to life.
Discover some relevant thoughts in the Bible.

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Consider these Bible insights:

The fear of the Lord teaches man wisdom,


and humility comes before honor.
PR O V E R B S 1 7 : 3 3

In other words, humility puts you on the right


track.

Do not despise these small beginnings.
ZECHARI A H 4 : 1 0

It’s okay to start at the bottom.

A faithful man will be richly blessed.


PR O V E R B S 2 8 : 2 0

Cool, huh?

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Reality Check 15

Guilty as charged
When I entered the workplace I thought I knew it all. I
thought I had it all figured out. I had performed well academ-
ically, so I expected companies to be eager to employ me.
Don’t most of us rate ourselves a little too highly?
Me? Room to improve? Need help or advice? No way!
But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I still had
much to learn.
Have you discovered this yet? Were you, too, ready to
take on the world? With your own perspective on life? Your
own rules? Your overflowing confidence. . . expecting to take
the workplace by storm?
“World – here I come!”
Then comes the big thud. “What happened, dude?”

The baggage we bring


I had good parents who taught and modeled for me the val-
ues of honesty and integrity. But I felt the least among eight
siblings. One day, this least-valuable-in-my-family label got
hammered down firmly, like a stake deep into my heart. We
had guests for dinner and there I was, dutiful bunso (the
youngest), serving food to our guests.
Giving me a once-over, one of the visitors asked, “Katu-
long n’yo?” (Your house help?)
I wanted to vanish into thin air but held my breath to
hear my father’s reply.

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16 GOING UP?

Tatay replied, “Ah, ’yan ang pinakamahina sa mga anak


ko.” (She’s the least-endowed among all my kids.)
I felt a flashflood of emotions I simply could not describe.
Robbed of my self-esteem and totally insecure, I resolved to
work harder to prove my worth.

For trying out loud


This brings us to the T-H Factor (Trying Hard). Boy, did I
try hard!
I set out to prove my father wrong, becoming thoroughly
competitive and motivated to win. Hopelessly argumenta-
tive, I became a fiery orator, representing my high school in
inter-collegiate competitions and bringing home the gold.
Getting involved in school politics, competitions and extra-
curricular activities, I became something of a campus figure,
especially in college. Graduating from college with honors, I
had a job awaiting me in a TV network belonging to a multi-
media powerhouse of that era.
I could make it in the world after all.
This “I” thing must by now be boring you. But at some
point, without God in our lives, that’s what we naturally be-
come — self-centered, me-minded, hub of the universe.
I let you peek into my psyche. You have your own reasons
(or… excuses?) for becoming who and what you are today.
But whatever the cause or the circumstance, all of us tend

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Reality Check 17

to have this secret sense that we are the center of the solar
system. Until something pulls us back to planet earth.

Reality check
My first job required me to conceptualize and write copy,
scripts for print ads and TV, and radio plugs for the TV sta-
tion’s programs. Having majored in communication arts and
gotten excellent grades, I thought the job would be easy. But
I was in for a surprise.
Discovery one: I wasn’t the hotshot I thought I was —
what we learn in school is just a drop in the bucket of what
we need to know to do well in the corporate world.
Discovery two: As an employee, I couldn’t dictate the
rules of the game.
Companies follow standards and procedures which dic-
tate performance quality, and as a newbie you just have to
abide by them. Some bosses guard the system against out-of-
the-box thinkers who may rock the boat or challenge long-
held corporate values. I never learned that in school. I never
knew “the boss” might even be my main challenger, inhibit-
ing the creativity I brought to the workplace.
My supervisor in the TV station was a veteran journal-
ist. His smile was as rare as rain in April, as they say. But
his mellow modulated broadcaster’s voice had women callers
swooning. If only they knew! This was the man who made
me feel so incapable and unsure of myself.

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18 GOING UP?

A “cum laude” on your diploma may have opened doors


for you, but in the workplace, your superiors judge you not by
your resumé, but by results. Can you deliver the goods? No
matter how well you scored academically, you are a green-
horn when you first step through the portals of the corpo-
rate world. Here are people who’ve been there, done that.
It didn’t take me long to discover I was at the bottom of
the food chain. Just like Oscar in the movie Shark’s Tale. He
thought himself invincible until he woke up and realized he
was just a small fish at the bottom of the big ocean.

Starting from scratch


What’s it like at the bottom of the food chain? To be the
small fry that the top men and women chew up for breakfast?
The first day you reported for work, you were probably
given a position description. Mine said “copywriter,” and
detailed my duties and responsibilities. Note, however,
the last line: “Performs all other functions as delegated by
superiors.”
“Other functions” can mean literally anything. If you’re
at the bottom of the totem pole, there’s no one lower down
for you to boss around. You may be called on to requisition
supplies, deliver memos to offices on another floor (we didn’t
have the internet when I started work, okay?), make coffee
for guests, and run last minute errands.

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Reality Check 19

Then, there’s another catch. You’ve been hired, yes, but


you may still be on probation. What?! Isn’t that for the likes
of Hollywood pasaway (wayward) stars like Paris Hilton,
who after being jailed for a short period, must show evidence
of good behavior?
Well — probation in the work place has its similarities.
As you work your way through a probationary period, your
bosses will watch like hawks, fine-tooth-comb your charac-
ter, scrutinize you for any tendency to start a rebellion or
cause unrest, discover if you will be trainable, or scan you for
leadership potential.
My first three months in the company were a disaster, at
least from my point of view. Feeling choked every time my
writing got the red ink, I planned on leaving the job at the
earliest possible opportunity. My real nature was rearing its
ugly head. I was too proud to accept that I was still a learner.
Or that someone could be better, or perhaps wiser than me.
Wow, that attitude in a new worker really sucks! And it’s an
attitude easier to observe in others than to recognize and
correct in oneself. Do yourself a favor. Take an honest look
at yourself now, and make the adjustment.

Close call
My boss reported to a lady manager whom I regarded as the
epitome of sophistication and success. Her mirthful voice
and her laughter were the counterpoint to my boss’ dead-

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20 GOING UP?

pan severity. She also appreciated her staff, and passed out
compliments for the accomplishments we turned out. I de-
termined to model myself on her.
She gave me leeway to express my ideas and work with
the department’s artists. Then she let loose the reins, allow-
ing me to get involved in producing station plugs with the
help of mainstay talents and technical staff. Soon I was do-
ing some editing, musical scoring, voice-overs, and even di-
recting for station commercials. Wonderful!
But I still felt restless; I wanted out.
Then early one morning before going to work, I turned on
the radio and got only static. Groups of anxious employees
were milling around at the gate of the TV station. Barbed
wire and uniformed military men prevented us from going in.
President Ferdinand Marcos had declared Martial Law and
all media enterprises had been padlocked.
For what seemed an eternity to those of us in the in-
dustry, broadcast companies and newspapers — apart from
those owned by families close to the administration — were
banned from operating. After the dust, so to speak, had set-
tled, more media enterprises were allowed to go on the air
again. I found myself working for another TV station.
But it was a close call. You don’t realize the value of hav-
ing a job until someone snatches it away from you without
giving you the chance to fight. Let God be the one who de-
cides if and when you should move to another workplace.

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Reality Check 21

A bit wiser
Martial Law or not, life continued. Businesses started to
rebound.
A bit wiser and definitely humbled, I left the broadcast
world and joined a large manufacturing firm as editorial
writer in its public relations unit.
Looking back and reviewing the positions and companies
eventually added to my resumé, I am amazed at how God
steered my path — in spite of my skewed sense of self in
those early days, and my constant whining.

Am I teachable?
Do the opportunities for learning ever stop? Never. What
about the humbling? Those opportunities keep coming too.
The more responsibilities I handled, the more I realized
that I knew very little. But I was discovering that each job
presents opportunities for learning too — different ways of
understanding situations, or people, or even God’s some-
times mysterious ways. Key to making the most of each ex-
perience is attitude, having a teachable spirit. It starts with
acknowledging your limitations. I found I learned more
quickly too, when I realized that what was important wasn’t
my set of abilities — what was important was allowing God’s
grace and gifts to work in me (or you), as He gives us wisdom
to persevere.

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22 GOING UP?

In one of the Gospels, Jesus tells of a master who went


on a journey, entrusting his servants with talents while he
was away (Matthew 23:25). To the one who doubled his five
talents, the master said, “Well done good and faithful ser-
vant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put
you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s
happiness.”
To use Old Testament language, “It’s God’s desire to pros-
per you.” But more than that, He wants first to set your heart
right. In my case, it seemed that whatever job I handled led
to promotion. I performed to the hilt and seemed to step eas-
ily into higher and higher positions as I moved from one unit
or employer to another. But deep within, I knew something
was amiss. It was only when I stopped, to commit my whole
life to God, and to His Lordship over daily details, that I
realized all my personal striving had led me downhill. I had
become a very proud person.

Pride-buster
The Bible’s book of Proverbs is full of cautionary lines, in-
cluding two verses I felt I should learn by heart: “Pride goes
before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,” from Prov-
erbs 16:18, and “The fear of the Lord teaches man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor,” found in Proverbs 15:33.
The Lord dealt with my pride in many ways. Truthfully, I
struggle with it even today. The difference between “then”

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Reality Check 23

and “now” is that since committing myself to the Lordship


of Jesus in my life, I have the Holy Spirit teaching me daily
to guard my heart and humble myself before God. As I write
about this here, I hope I can save you from some of the grief
of learning these things “the hard way.” Rather than try-
ing to manipulate every situation, train yourself to let God
choose your appointments. Let Him be the one to lift you up.
I learned, too, as I progressed in my professional life, not
to underestimate the value of the man or woman in his or
her first job. The working man has value, no matter how far
down on the organizational ladder he is. He may be the jani-
tor who sweeps the floor and polishes your table everyday. Or
an office clerk who photocopies your reports and makes cof-
fee for you. All of us are learners, and work attitude is more
important than a job title. A certain Brother Lawrence used
to “practice the presence of God” even as he worked in the
monastery kitchen. You may have heard this line from an
old hymn by George Herbert, “Who sweeps a floor as for the
Lord makes that and the action fine.”1

Microscopic
“Do not despise these small beginnings,” says the messenger
of the Lord in Zechariah 4:10.
Do not “pooh-pooh” a small role. Sometimes a small part
is our opportunity to learn, or the opportunity that puts us
1
The original quotation is from Martin Luther.

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24 GOING UP?

in the right place at the right time for something greater. A


small role is important because it is part of a team effort. We
see examples all around us in the world of nature. The world
of ants demonstrates for us that each responsibility is im-
portant. Worker ants take care of the young and the queen.
Senior-citizen ants take care of digging and other nest work.
In microscopic “ant-land,” you’re in the big league if you’re
promoted to foraging for food, in fact the most dangerous
function.
We too are microscopic — in the grand scheme of things
— in the expanse of God’s creation. And as science unfolds
the intricate details of our make-up, it only bears out King
David’s assertion in the book of Psalms, 139:13–14, that he
had been knit together in his mother’s womb and that he
had been fearfully and wonderfully made. As a precious cre-
ation of the Creator God, you definitely play an important
role, wherever God has placed you now. No matter what
role you have been assigned, no matter how inexperienced
or experienced you may be, your God-appointed task must
yield one hundred percent commitment. Even in the corpo-
rate world, you serve the Lord God.

From the bottom up


If you start at the bottom, there’s no way to go but up. A valu-
able lesson young professionals must learn early — especially

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Reality Check 25

if they come to the workplace as aggressive and I-me-and-


myself-centered individuals — is that honor and promotion
come more readily to those willing to learn, those who are
willing to get down and get greasy doing what might seem
to be menial tasks, and experience inconvenience along the
way. Often we will be challenged to do something we’ve
never done before. These tasks can be pretty humbling and
possibly involve some risk-taking.
Bosses often try to inspire and motivate subordinates with
rhetoric such as “Ride the boat with us so we can inhabit
that isle of overflowing abundance with our vision and mis-
sion.” Or, “Have a slice of that great pie called market share.
Strive for that towering spiral known as sales growth.” All
these, of course, translate to you receiving your pay every
15th and 30th of the month.
Honestly, the salary is not the most important part of the
reward. For those who are faithful, willing to learn, and will-
ing to start from the murky bottom, something far more ex-
citing and rewarding awaits.

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