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Thanks, Harry — I Just Fired My Secretary!


Inspired and motivated by Hua Hin Harry’s guide to understanding Thai women, today I fired my secretary. What a relief!

What I learned from Harry’s analysis is that problems with Thai women are very difficult to correct, almost impossible to fix. It is far more practical to continue searching for someone else, and try again, until the right one can be found. And that’s consistent with my experience of products made in Thailand: Difficult to repair when they break down. Easier just to buy new. I’ll do that to find a new secretary.

Harry interviewed, tested, and temporarily hired (for just a few hours or a few days), dozens of women for his “domestic” job. What I learned from studying his reports fits nicely to hiring other kinds of Thai staff, too. The arrogance, the laziness, the double-talk, the endless excuses, the mental confusion — all in abundance. Yes, there are a few who just keep on getting things done, but those are certainly not common, and not all are compatible either.

I would ask secretary to do one thing. She would do half of that project, plus do two other things that were irrelevant and not requested. When I asked why she didn’t finish job #1, the answer was something like, “I didn’t have time, because I was busy with #2 and #3.” There’s no medicine that can cure that kind of thinking.

I would ask secretary to translate something from Thai to English. And then waited and waited. When I asked, “Where is the translation?” the response was something like, “I gave it to Khun Somchai to do.” “But I gave to you to do.” Response, “Maybe he is not so busy as me.” At that point, I started wondering to myself, who is the boss here?

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Harry encountered many women who claimed to be waiting someplace, but really were not there. Sure, a few mistakes in communication now and then, but similar behavior from so many different women suggests something more than a random series of mistakes. Recently I asked secretary to find a store that had a certain product in the Samut Prakan area of Bangkok (Southeast of Bangkok). She found two shops that had the product, but then took more time to search and told me about a stall at Jatujak Market (Northwest area), very far from Samut Prakan, and very time consuming to find just one stall among thousands there. When I asked why, the reply was a petulant, “It was mentioned on a Thai forum that I read.”

It is easy to go on endlessly about the foibles of Thai women. Many other writers here have. Instead of complaining, I’m wondering how to best handle the kinds of situations we face so often. Harry’s dispatches suggest some useful tactics:

1. Employ Thai women, don’t marry them or “befriend” them. Harry’s experience was similar to looking for a good wife, but Harry wisely didn’t intend to marry, just to hire. I’ll hire another secretary – the job posting is already prepared – but I won’t try to find a wife or girl friend to do that work.

2. Test, try, and test some more. Expect plenty of rejects. I lost count of the number Harry rejected, but in the end, he found a good one. I’ll expect to test and try many in order to find one good one.


3. Foolishness doesn’t get better over time. And it can’t be repaired. If they act foolishly at first, even a little bit, a quick goodbye is called for.

4. Don’t accede to requests for changes. If they try to change time or place, the answer is no. I was very interested to read how often Harry’s candidates tried to change time or place or even the terms of employment. In reports from #1 to #20 Harry shows an increasing rate of refusing requests for changes.

5. Walk away from “substitute players”. Surprising to see how many of Harry’s candidates were pretties who were manipulated behind the scenes by other women. Deceptions like that at first strongly suggests there will be other deceptions later.

Five good pieces of advice gleaned from Harry’s reports, that I can use to evaluate my next secretary.

Finally, to review my conclusion about this: When it comes to any relationship with a Thai woman, safer to hire than to marry. Hired staff can be let go any time, rather easily. Not so with a wife or even a girl friend – certainly not if money has been loaned, or a house built, or a business started.

In today’s economy in Thailand, easy to find many candidates for almost any kind of job. After I find a new secretary, I intend to “copy and paste” Harry’s specifications for a “domestic” and post another job opening for that. Hopefully it won’t take as many years as Harry had to endure.

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