On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

A rose by any other name…

It did not matter to him that a reporter or journalist
was one and the same. It's just another name for a newspaper scribe.

A journalist sounded better and more respectable to him and that's all it

As the clock approached 5pm, he fidgeted on his seat and pestered the editors
to clear his story so he could go home.

He also said in no uncertain terms that he should be paid overtime if he was
asked to stay an extra minute. The labour law, after all, provides for

It did not bother him a bit that he was still learning the ropes and was  in no position to make demands. Working hard
and being rewarded later meant nothing to him.

It's "reward me first and work later'' that is more important. The  result is poor work attitude and untested and
unproven performance.

His appraisal form, of course, has been submitted to the human resources
department which used to be known as the personnel department and, at one time,
labour department.

"Please, don't call us labour or 
personnel department. There are 
no more Malaysian labourers left. There are only Bangladeshi and
Indonesian labourers,'' insisted a human resources officer.

Such scenario, which has become familiar in our country, was important enough
for the Prime Minister to bring up during the Umno general assembly last

Dedicating a large part of his winding-up speech at the end of the  three-day meeting to social issues, Datuk
Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke of how Malaysians were coping socially in a
hectic economy.

"They are only concerned with style these days, it does not matter  what's in their pocket,'' he lamented.

He warned Malaysians of the dangers of being status-conscious and casting aside

He said that during the colonial days, the British administrators did not mind
being called advisers although they wielded tremendous clout.

"They told the sultans that they were the rulers, and that they (the  British) were mere advisers but the fact was
that their advice must be accepted,'' he said.

Although Dr Mahathir's message on the dangers of having perceived power, rather
than real power, was directed at the Malay community, it struck a chord among

Malaysians have not only become more brand-conscious, preferring  up-market and expensive lifestyles, but are
more status-conscious as they climb the social ladder impatiently.

Unfortunately, they have lost some traditional grace along the way.

The "Ugly Malaysian'' image has slowly reared its head, thus the obsession
with titles and positions.

According to a human resources consultant, who used to call himself an
employment officer, an impressive-sounding job designation attracted more
response when an advertisement was placed in a newspaper.

"For example, vice-president sounds better than a general manager. It does not
matter if there are 10 other vice-presidents in the company,'' he said.

No self-respecting public relations officer, for instance, wants to be caught
with that title now. They prefer to be called communications  managers.

The hotel receptionist is now the front desk officer while the telephone
operator has become a telephonist.

Go to the shopping complex, the cosmetic salesgirl is either called a  beauty consultant or make-up artist.

At a more up-market boutique, the shop assistant turns into a fashion or image

At another level, the ordinary salesman will create a ruckus if his boss does
not call him a sales executive or marketing executive these days. It doesn't
matter if the commission remains static.

The office-boy, who was called a peon during the colonial days, has  progressed to become an administration

Of course, there are different job functions now. He has to know some computer
skills and learn to use the photostat machine.

Down the office corridor, the secretary has just been redesignated as PA
(personal assistant) to the boss.

What about the man who makes sure the machines are running in the office? You
will just have to call him an engineer, even if he doesn't have a university
degree. No, he's no longer a mere technician.

Outside the office, the gardener who waters the grass insists that he be called
a landscape artist while the guard has become a security officer.

On the home front, you better introduce your non-working wife as a  home-maker (an American term) or domestic
manager. Of course, there are those who call their wives "home

Even the term servant is no longer politically correct. The much  preferred term will be a domestic helper or

My friend, the human resources consultant, however, is not apologetic about
such fancy designations, scoffing any suggestions that they create unnecessary

"It gives a person a sense of pride and confidence in his work. When that
happens, the person naturally performs better in his or her job,'' he

So, what's in a name, you may ask. A lot, certainly.

A colleague swears that he treated gravely one professional Taoist priest at a funeral
after the man handed him a card which stated his job function as “grief

"You can say that is probably the most bizarre designation I have ever heard
in my life,'' he said.

A factory manager said he had become wary and cautious of people with long
designations, preferring to find out what they actually do first.

"I have met many so-called consultants in projects involving my factory. I
have also experienced many real con jobs. So-called con-sultants with their
so-called con-nections,'' he said.

Malaysians must show their revulsion at such form of status-consciousness and
one-upmanship and return to plain humbleness and politeness.

The kiasu attitude, like it or not, is
foreign to us even if it's notoriously pursued down south.