Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Friday November 29th 2019

Hiring manager compares the difference between a foreigner and local worker

Hi Gilbert,

Feel free to post or edit. I will start work next week so may not have that much time since I need to quickly assimilate into new workplace and new industry. Still hopeful for other opportunities to match my old salary.

In this economy, we must all embrace diversity even in the red dot. As much as I will like to work with locals only and banter in Singlish all day long. The reality many of us face is working with foreigners, having foreign subordinates and foreign bosses.

I think that Singaporeans are capable and gracious enough to rise above all these foreigner issues that we have.

As a hiring manager, I see many differences in the workplace between locals and foreigners and in this article, what I hope to achieve is that we all can learn something from the foreigners that are employed in our stead.

Our nanny Gov as much as we complain have done a generally good job compared to the region and our unhappiness are mostly first world problems so having laid the framework that foreigners are here to stay whether we like it or not, I shall continue on what we can learn from them.

Singaporeans versus different types of foreigners in the work place

If I have to rank foreigners and Singaporeans on a couple of attributes, here it is:

Presentation skills including making good fresh impressions, general ability to speak up and “badeh”. These are pretty key skillsets in the any office.

Ang Mohs (US, Europe) will come up tops
Pinoys are generally very outspoken and bullshit alot (sorry to say when it comes to work really CMI)
Indians (from India) and PRC are demanding in nature due to upbringing and also competitive job market back home
Other conservative Asian cultures such as Japan and other ASEAN countries

In the modern workplace being a hard worker is not enough.. the ability to “Sa Ka” and “Por Lum Pah” is an equally important attribute if not more important skill set. Even if your boss is no nonsense and I am such a manager but people who suck up to me, I tend to look towards more favourably as well. This is human nature….bias is inevitable.

Case in point – Make yourself seen and heard in the workplace. If I have 2 candidates for promotion, 1 ball sucker that is equally good at work versus another hide at your desk performer – who will I promote? Not forgetting that promotions are usually consensual in nature and need other higher level ups to approve so the more visible you are to management, the more likely you are to be promoted.

It is also important for Singaporeans to learn to be more outspoken towards their goals and aspirations. I have friends that want to get promoted but then they say if they want me they will promote me automatically. WTF?! Promotion is not an entitlement, it have to be earned. If you don’t tell your boss your career aspiration then will he/she know? The boss’s responsibility is to also groom a successor so knowing which individuals want a career advancement is important so that it can be planned, it cannot happen overnight. Case in point, I ever receive a 20% annual adjustment because I always KPKB to my boss that my salary is under market rate and I am a performer so I got adjusted when the time came. Ask and it shall be given.

Be engaged

I realise that many Singaporeans tend to avoid company events. Foreigners relish in them – especially the Pinoys who really know how to party!

Team bonding events no matter how dull or disinterested you are – is important for your career. Attend them as much as possible, yes the argument that foreigners are free because they have no family here is true but showing engagement in the office is key to being visible in the office. You don’t want to be a worker that nobody knows ever existed right?

Quality work

Foreigners can undercut our pay in the workplace but quality work is what I believe Singaporeans are capable of producing.

Back to topic – consistent quality work will get us acknowledged provided you are firstly visible to management for them else your immediate boss will take the glory for it. I once had an asshole boss who asks me to write articles for magazines and to park them under his name and yes he is a fucking foreigner! There was nothing I can do about it so LLST.

Important to note is that your good work can only be recognised when many people know it is from you hence building a reputation for yourself in the workplace is key so that no one can take credit for your work.

Office politics

For those of us working with CMI foreigners or even (locals), as much as possible we keep our mouths shut. Whistle blowing in the office does not reflect well on one self’s but if other’s poor performance is affecting you that badly then you can be diplomatic and say things like perhaps XXX needs a refresher in certain areas of work and volunteer to do that. You boss is not stupid and will know who is the better performer.

As much as I hate to say this, there is no pay equity in the office. People doing the same jobs can have such big pay differences but this is life.

I hope for those in jobs to continue being able to hold onto them. In times of poor economic conditions it is actually a better time to get promoted as consolidations are always required. When you are able to step up and show that you can do the job, you are already up the rungs of the ladder.


Hiring Manager

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