The 4 Attitudes That Characterize Top Earners in Singapore

Ryan Ong



Ruthless, willing to use their claws and fangs, preference for unarmed targets…”Uh, this is a career article? About top earners and how they get there?” I know. That’s why I’m going to cut and paste the “demon” entry from this Dungeons & Dragons book. But I guess you’d want a more applicable guide, especially if you intend to be a top earner yourself. Okay then, try and cultivate the following:


What Makes a Top Earner?

Despite the (mostly) inconsistent rules of pay raises and promotions, some employees make it to the top in record time.

Through competence, smooth talk, and political acrobatics, they sail past employees that are their seniors twice over. Why? Well according to Career Consultant and Efficiency Expert Jamie Cheng:

We like to think our workplaces are pure meritocracies, but that’s a half-truth. Ultimately, the people calling the shots are human. And they can only make judgement calls based on an imperfect picture.

If you’ve seen former colleagues rise beyond you, if you’ve seen those people who go from $5k a month to $15k a month, you may be wondering if they’re really such geniuses. 50% of the answer is yes. But the other 50% is based on their attitude, and the personality they project.”

Jamie says corporate high flyers and top earners share some common traits:

  • They prefer “sorry” to “please”
  • They have a sense of entitlement
  • They pick their battles
  • They are selective about company


1. They Prefer “Sorry” to “Please”


Chemistry set
If it this product doesn’t work, the customer won’t complain anyway. Forever.


If you stuff a firecracker in a bull’s ass-crack, you’ll get a good image of a top earner’s energy and momentum.

The rock stars of the office are the ones who try things first,” Jamie says, “and worry about consequences later. They would rather apologize later than waste time asking for permission.

Why does it work? For two reasons. Firstly, asking for permission is very slow, and the answer is usually no. Singaporean bosses resist change. So if you have a genius idea, asking for permission might be a good way to kill it.

Secondly, bosses may complain about these people’s recklessness. But that recklessness looks a lot like initiative. It also has a sort of charm, which appeals to both male and female bosses. That will stand out during their performance review, whereas it’s a challenge to say anything about their duller peers.”

However, Jamie cautions that this attitude must be backed by some foresight.

Top earners understand the worst case scenario. They have thick skins, but they risk *recoverable* failures. Not Titanic-level disasters.”


2. They Have a Sense of Entitlement


Guy on bean bag in office
And move the CEO’s desk; it’s blocking my path to the Margarita fountain.


Uh, if I’m not wrong, “sense of entitlement” is how rich, spoilt brats are described?

I have never met a top earner who doesn’t have a sense of entitlement,” Jamie says, “Because this is what motivates them to negotiate and demand.

Average employees roll over a lot. The top earner is the one who talks back to his boss, and says ‘This task is not important, can we get an intern to do it? My job is more crucial.’ Thus saving himself nonsense work.

When you have a sense of entitlement, you are braver; more willing to negotiate. Top earners are quick to ask for higher pay and lower prices. They are less nervous about asking for higher fees, even from old clients. They sincerely believe they’re entitled to what they’re asking for.”

So practice voicing demands. Otherwise, you might end up like the corporate drones who live in revenge fantasies and pass out in bars.


3. They Pick Their Battles


Loud Yelling Please, wasitng of time in progress
Hey, I cared enough to label the meeting room.


While top earners don’t shy from confrontation (see point 2), they’re also strategic. They only fight when it’s worth winning.

“Imagine your boss tells you to work one extra weekend, and you refuse,” Jamie says, “After an argument, your boss backs down. He realises he can’t make you. So have you won?

Of course. You won that round. But from then on, your boss will remember you as a calculative, un-cooperative type. Is the price of one weekend worth losing a raise or promotion?”

But you said top earners have a sense of entitlement!

They do, but they also measure the potential gains of conflict. They will assess that one extra weekend has a good return on investment, especially if the performance review is close.”

If you have problems with this, practice waiting before arguing back. Just say something like “I’ll get back to you in a minute, excuse me,” and go wash your face in the toilet.

Then think hard about whether the fight is worth winning. If it is, see point 2. Otherwise, let it slide.


4. They are Selective About Company


Let me just go over here and talk to the only consultant I trust, okay?


Top earners are commonly accused of being snobbish. They’re cold and seldom initiate conversation (unless they want something).

Even Jamie admits it’s true:

They are choosy with friends.

Top earners typically surround themselves with idealists and experts. For example, look at your senior management. Your CEO and Directors, even at company parties, probably don’t gossip about who tries to sneak out the office 20 minutes early. Or who never tops up the pantry coffee. 

They talk about products, philosophies, concepts, and so forth. Top earners prefer hanging around people who talk about *ideas*, and they struggle to get along with people who talk about…well…other people.”

In short, top earners surround themselves with thinkers. Pick the right friends, and their tendencies will transfer. And if you can’t find any, follow us on Facebook! We’ll be happy to play that role.


Image Credits:
emilio labrador, jimmiehomeschoolmom, Kyle and Kelly Adams, Enokson, dipfan

Which of these attitudes do you think you can adopt? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.