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The importance of unofficial ties

One of my former juniors from my last PR agency job just had unpleasant evening at a restaurant that’s owned by a friend mind. He has come out to state that not only was the food and service at a sub-par level, the manager was insensitive to feedback that he provided.

Unfortunately for him, the manager in question is the wife of the owner. Sure, he’s the customer. He had taken to social media to complain and had gained support of a prominent former journalist but at the end of the day, the manager in question is the wife of the owner and between worrying about potential loss of business which might only be reflected in the end of year accounts and an unpleasant home life, the owner would choose the later.

Let’s face it, life is about organising relationships and interestingly that is never truer than in the business world. In business, how you are known is often a crucial part in getting or not getting the job. Like or not, logic and rational thinking about dollars and cents aren’t always the key factors in the creation of a business decision. Much as my friends in finance and law may beg to disagree, brand and communications consultants are as important to the business process because intangible things like chemistry between people can make or break a deal, even if that deal makes perfect sense from the financial and legal perspective.

So, when we look at people, particularly the people who have a say in how things can turn out for us, we need to look at them in their entirety. You have to understand how a person will react in a certain situation and what are the influences on that person that will push him or her to react in a certain way. One of the biggest influencers over a person’s decision making is the spouse.

Let’s take a look at American Presidential Elections. The wife (or husband in the case of Hillary Clinton) of every candidate gives a speech at their respective party conventions. They give media appearances and everyone listens. Now, here’s the thing – the “First Lady” is not actually a government post. Americans don’t vote for the “First Lady” – they vote for a President. However, the candidate for “First Lady” is placed under the same spot light as the candidate for President because the voting public wants to know who is the person that will have probably the most direct influence on the president.

Look at the parings. Ronald Regan was from Hollywood. His first wife became a bigger star than him and left him in the dust. His second wife, however, knew how to make him shine on the global stage. Both George Bush’s had women who knew how to look pretty without taking too much of the spotlight, thus helping boost credentials as conservatives.

On the other side, there was the “first” of First Ladies with professional careers in their own right. Bill Clinton famously asserted that he and Hillary were part of a package back in 1992. Upset a few people (he’s on the ticket not her) but ended up working well. Hillary, the policy wonk who prepares for everything supported Bill who embodies charisma. Eight years later, there were the Obamas, who were two intellectuals supporting each other.

Even Donald Trump’s choice of Melania helped. A section of the voting population liked the fact that this overweight seventy plus year-old man had “delicious arm-candy” and it helped him seem a wee bit more virile.

A spouse can be an asset or a liability. In the case of the Clinton’s, they worked well because their strengths complimented each other. However, Hillary was also a liability in her ability to get healthcare passed and her fingers were quite visible in the scandals that were brought up during the Clinton Presidency. In the case of the Trumps, there were those who respected Donald for having Melania draped on his arm but there were those who felt that her choice wardrobe was an expression of his attitude towards certain groups:

Copyright – New York Post – did he feel what she was wearing?

While the example of American political spouses is the most visible example of the important role a spouse (or for want of a better term – unofficial influence) on a particular prominent figure. However, this isn’t limited to America. Here in Singapore, we have the example of Madam Kwa Geok Choo, or Mrs. Lee Kuan Yew.

Unlike the American First Ladies, the late Mrs. Lee stayed away from the limelight. Unlike her daughter-in-law, the late Mrs. Lee never took on a position with the government or any company related to the government. Yet, Mr. Lee would admit in his book that he relied on her judgement when dealing with world leaders and nobody doubts that she played a very a role in shaping much of what you see in Singapore. As my favourite Flesh Ball said from her perch in Geylang “The real boss of Singapore is Mrs. Lee. Mr. Lee controls us but Mrs. Lee controls Mr. Lee.”

Singapore’s Boss watched over by his boss

Many prominent people will claim that they only get influenced by official influences. However, nobody actually believes that. My mother used to be obsessed by the first wife’s inability to groom herself properly. Her argument was simple – “No point getting you to care for your image if she doesn’t care about hers.” People were inevitably going to judge me through her. Unfortunately, parents proved to be wise in this matter. My biggest triumphs in PR came when the first wife ceased to be a wife.

However, while nobody doubts that a person will have unofficial influences, its usually best that those unofficial influences remain apart from the business that a person is running. America’s first ladies are not part of the American government. The lines are clear as to who is the president. Likewise, the first Mrs. Lee never held any official post. She was a sharp lawyer and mother, whom the Prime Minister talked to about his day when he went home.

Unless lines are clearly drawn, things can get complicated when family gets involved. Family politics becomes company or worse – country politics. When you hire a relative, are you hiring them because they are your relative or because they are the right person for the job? Can you disagree with a relative? My personal experience, the relative I worked for could. He made it clear during the interview – “I am not your uncle and it is unprofessional to call me uncle.” (Something I reminded him of when he asked why I called everyone else uncle except him). My personal case is unusual.

It gets worse when wives and mistresses get involved. Then the business is no longer a business but a power play between wife and whatever mistresses are involved.

So, when dealing with a person, always understand that they don’t make decisions in a silo. However, also be on the look and see whether there are proper lines drawn between the unofficial influences and the person or organisation that you are dealing with.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
READER COMMENTS BELOW

11 Responses to “The importance of unofficial ties”

  • Naked Truth:

    The problem is when the 1$t Lady always want to be on top (day & nite). That 1$t Gentleman is hopeless.

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  • mrWie:

    there’s a say …

    HOW TO JUDGE A COUNTRY LEADER? BY JUDGING THE FIRST LADY.

    how true!!!

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  • MarBowling:

    Naked Truth:
    May 11, 2022 at 7:29 am (Quote)
    The problem is when the 1$t Lady always want to be on top (day & nite). That 1$t Gentleman is hopeless.

    Response: Hard-ON Truths. Especially when the so-called 1$t Gentleman has A LIMBEK ONE!

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  • opposition dude:

    The problem with goondu Loong is that he has shown repeatedly that he is politically naive. With his over kan cheongness in calling for an election when Covid was spreading around with no vaccines available and with the stupidiest reason of needing a strong mandate it’s good that he got not only a real tight slap from voters, it’s also good that he lost more seats and a reduced vote share.

    And his bumbling of the 4G succession is a regular comedy show too. After being thoroughly embarrassed by East Coast voters all he can come out with as an excuse is for stroke man to say the runway is too short ha ha ha! I’m sure I wasn’t the only one laughing when the short runway excuse was used for sure. Now, let’s see just how well Lawrence does when he is boss. Going by what we have seen from how the 4G handled this pandemic it’s natural to assume they won’t be getting that much support from us too.

    And as for goondu’s wife, she isn’t any much better either. If her mum in law was advising her dad in law then she did a good behind the scenes job. This accomplice has advised her good for nothing husband wrongly a lot over the years when you see just how many mistakes he has made in the last decade or so.

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  • xoxo:

    The wife of Dr M is a better example,even till he is in the 90s?
    Rock steady,Man!

    But,whatever said,it all depends on the individual’s character.
    A nice official couple was Ong Teng Cheong n Mrs Ong.
    So too Dr Benjamin Sheares n Mrs Sheares.
    You see,Mr LKY’s wife had always been publicly called Mrs Lee even though she could easily stood her own as Mdm Kwa?
    Mr LHL’s wife is mostly known n called as HO CHING?
    So?

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    Reading poetry nightly 4 2 years to a comatose wife is repayment for her support in his job???

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  • John Richards:

    Aha … you want to mention Ho Ching but are too afraid to do so.

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  • panyusg:

    I smile…how many world leaders are actually influenced by their wives? Women actually are the power behind the thrones.

    They do not need to be in the public eye. Women uses psychology, are very patient. While the men are fighting battles at work, the women are planning and plotting at home, networking with their women friends.

    The Chinese period drama on emperors are replete with tales of how women can exert tremendous influence behind the scenes.

    We under-estimate the power of women in society.

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  • Pitch-forked Sinkies:

    Only an oaf will try to make out that the overly Botoxed, mannequin is called “delicious arm-candy”. Between her nude and soft-core porn pictures, her fashion choices (I Don’t Care Do You?), her lies about her past and her choice of a husband, she has proven to everyone, beyond all doubt, this truth: Marry for Money, and you’ll earn every penny. But I do sort of enjoy watching her try to avoid holding his hand. lol

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  • MarBowling:

    panyusg:
    May 11, 2022 at 6:53 pm (Quote)
    I smile…how many world leaders are actually influenced by their wives? Women actually are the power behind the thrones.

    They do not need to be in the public eye. Women uses psychology, are very patient. While the men are fighting battles at work, the women are planning and plotting at home, networking with their women friends.

    The Chinese period drama on emperors are replete with tales of how women can exert tremendous influence behind the scenes.

    We under-estimate the power of women in society.

    Response: During the FamiLEE dispute at the Haunted House at 38 Oxtail Road, he was unable to STOP his younger SISTER from washing the Holee Couple’s Smelly and Dirty Linen in the PUBLIC. However, just a so-called FAT FINGER Holee mistake of SENDING a PICTURE of Rude Extended Middle Finger of a White Monkey by his Wifey Holee Jinx to his SISTER via INTERNET, was sufficient and EFFECTIVE in SHUTTING THE MOUTH OF HIS SISTER FROM UTTERING ANY MORE SOUND OR COMMENT! To date, his sister is quiet as a church mouse!
    Very obvious, at home he wears shim skirt while shim wears his PANTS!

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    A thing ofbeauty is a joy forever…whatever said The Trump’s better half in looks is a sight for “sore eyes” NOT an eyesore like the one B4… a SHIM…A She & Him…take it whichever way she is a sore sight n we have one here”j*n*” better

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