Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

“Overcoming bad chemistry”/ "Don't raise the min. wage. Fine- tune it"

Feb. 16 “Overcoming bad chemistry”: I cut out this article from Barbara Moses in the Globe and Mail on Aug. 17, 2012.  This is a good article because it’s kind of like psychology and about getting along with others.  Sometimes you can change how you interact with this person, and you can talk to this person to affect their behavior.
It’s applicable to interacting with your co-workers, but it’s also applicable to interacting with family members too.  When I work with people, I don’t expect my co-workers and I to be friends and hang outside of work.  As long as we are productive and complete our tasks to help the customers, that’s the end goal.  Here’s the whole article:
A middle-manager client of mine was upset when her boss told her that he had hired a new team member. She had known he was looking for someone but had expected to be part of the interview process. “I have to work with this person, sit next to them in a cubicle, I should have had a say. What if I don’t like her?” she wondered.

It turned out she didn’t like the new employee; she found the woman stiff and humourless, and impossible to connect with. She disliked the newcomer so much that six months later, my client was looking for a new job.

Organizations try hard to keep out personal feelings about liking or disliking someone from hiring and promotion decisions, using tools such as behavioural interviewing, competency profiles and stern policies on everything from diversity to favouritism. But you can’t legislate human nature or control personal predilections.

Obviously, most people would prefer to work with someone who is upbeat and interested in the welfare of others, rather than a colleague who is sour and self-absorbed.

But often, more subtle characteristics make us more or less predisposed to like someone. How we react to these attributes is highly subjective. A characteristic unnoticed by one person can drive another crazy, whether it’s a high-pitched voice, a weak handshake, excessive ambition or self-satisfaction.

Several managers have confided to me that not only do they have difficulty working with someone because, say, the person is loud, but also they are embarrassed that something so petty could be a source of difficulty.

Personality characteristics and personal preferences also rule the roost when it comes to the boss-subordinate relationship. For example, most management experts say that a good boss delegates and promotes autonomy. That behaviour will be beneficial for an employee who can’t stand being told what to do, but challenging for someone who prefers structure and clear direction.

Some people are more tolerant, and can work with almost anyone. I recently asked a friend if he likes the people he works with, and he looked at me as if I had asked whether his office has indoor plumbing. He said the thought of whether he likes someone never crossed his mind – all he cares about is whether they deliver.

Most of us are not so dispassionate. But although we may be less tolerant by nature, we can use self-awareness about our prejudices to prevent knee-jerk reactions.

One senior manager told me he ignored his gut reaction about a talented job applicant, which was “You won’t be able to work with this person because she is fat and talks too much,” and forced himself to hire her. She turned out to be a great addition to his staff and she is now his right-hand person. Overcoming his prejudices, he said, was an unexpected learning experience.
So what do you do if you think the chemistry is wrong between yourself and a colleague?

Put it into behavioural terms: Specifically determine what is bothering you, and then decide if you can live with it. So what if your colleague has an irritating voice; does it interfere with his performance, or yours? Does it hurt you? Whenever you start to feel irritated by this person, remind yourself of the triviality of your concerns.

If your style does not mesh with that of your boss, and you know yourself well enough to identify where the mismatch is, speak up. But don’t slag his or her style – it might not be objectively awful, just a bad match for you.

One middle manager who felt her boss was a control freak sold him on changing his behaviour. She told him she understood that he was concerned about whether staffers were doing what they were supposed to, but that it undermined her own performance and confidence. She described two recent incidents of micromanagement and how dispiriting she found it. He changed how he delegated work to her – but not how he treated others.

By the same token, if you are the boss, try to understand your employees’ preferred work style. Be cognizant when you are pushing hot buttons. If you know your employees need praise, and you tend to be tight-lipped, try to meet their needs some of the way, without denigrating them for those needs. They are different from you, not bad.

Sometimes you may find yourself in trickier territory, whether with a boss, a co-worker, or a subordinate. You and the other person simply rub each other the wrong way and there’s no obvious reason why: You just don’t like each other. Or your colleague doesn’t like you for reasons you can’t fathom.

You might have to just live with it. For example, an executive acquaintance has an extreme distaste for one of her staffers – she can’t stand how long it takes him to get to the point, how loudly he talks to his wife on the phone, the cute pictures of his kids on his desk – even though she respects his work. But, as she wisely notes, “This isn’t a marriage. These things drive me crazy, but it is irrational and I don’t have the right to tell him to become a different person.”

In other words, know what is changeable and what is not. And if you are the victim of bad chemistry, understand that it is impossible for everyone to like you even though that hurts.


May 6 "Don't raise the min. wage.  Fine- tune it": I cut out this article by Todd Hirsch in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 27, 2015: 

“It’s just not possible,” say the anti-poverty advocates. “You can’t live as an independent adult on minimum wage, particularly in the larger cities where living costs are high.” It’s a common refrain heard across the country in response to provincial minimum wage laws. What employers are required to pay doesn’t adequately address urban poverty, which is a growing problem in Canada.

“But raising the minimum wage will kill jobs,” say the right-wing think tanks and the small-business lobby groups. “Forcing businesses to raise their wages will result in fewer jobs. It may even force them to close their operation altogether. A low-paying job is better than no job at all.”

They’re both correct, of course. But they’re also both arguing about a policy that needs reform. As a way of addressing poverty, minimum wage laws are very blunt tools. Are there ways to sharpen the tool so it both tackles poverty but isn’t overly punitive on small businesses?

The problem with an across-the-board minimum wage is that it doesn’t allow companies to discriminate between workers. An adult living in an urban area is doomed on minimum wages, even working 44 or more hours a week. If there are children in the equation, they’re doomed too. They truly do require more.

But a 16-year-old high-school student living at home, supported by parents, working twelve hours a week in the mall food court, is not doomed on minimum wage. And that first job is critical for young people getting work experience.

Yet the employer can’t pay the high-school student less per hour than the single parent simply because the parent requires more money. And legislation that would force the employer to pay a higher minimum wage to both workers could certainly result in one of the two losing the job. That would be a terrible outcome no matter who loses out.

Maybe a solution can be found to sharpen the minimum wage tool. In the Netherlands, the minimum wage increases with the worker’s age. A 15-year-old must be paid a minimum of €2.89 an hour ($3.92, up to 36 hours a week). When the worker turns 16, it rises to €3.32. It notches higher by increments of about €0.50 to €1.50 an hour until it peaks at €9.63 for a 23-year-old worker.

As well, the minimum wage is set officially by month, week and day – not hour. As it works out, the hourly wage actually falls a bit for workers with more hours per week. For example, a 23-year-old part-time worker earns €9.63 per hour, but if they’re willing and able to work full-time (40 hours) the hourly wage drops to €8.66.

This allows employers to discriminate not only by age of worker, but also by the availability of the worker to put in more hours. A high-school student in his teens earns much less per hour than a young adult worker. But the employer also has an incentive to give more hours per week to the adult who is able and willing to work full-time.

It may seem like a bit of a complicated system. But if Canadians find value in establishing a minimum wage in the first place, then it makes sense to fine tune the program to maximize its usefulness.

Someone may argue that such a system allows employers to discriminate against people based on age. Isn’t that unconstitutional? Canada’s social programs already include a good deal of age-based discrimination (e.g., Old Age Security). It also allows governments to discriminate on other factors, such as the number and age of their children ( e.g., Canada Child Tax Benefit). So if we consider the minimum wage as an anti-poverty social policy, then age discrimination surely can’t be a hurdle.

There’s no getting around it: Urban poverty is a tragic and growing problem in Canada. While everyone likes the idea of adults supporting themselves and their children by working, it’s just not possible on minimum wage. An across-the-board minimum wage is the problem. Perhaps the Dutch example offers some sensible guidance for Canada.


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