Locals and long-term non-locals seem (major anecdotal 'seem' here) to dump vitriol on people with relatively less power. I've seen this crop up in public where someone hit a taxi driver because he missed a turn, where someone dressed down a waitress for forgetting a side dish, and countless other service encounters where customers puke bile on the waitstaff when something goes wrong.

With a culture like that, it's no wonder that every local wants to manage people so that they can hot-potato evil from customers or above to the people below. So people end up wanting to skip the journeyman stage of skill development where they actually learn about their industry. They want power without necessarily having knowledge and responsibility.

So either we have a King Lear-sized problem here or maybe I'm just travelling in different circles now and this stuff happens everywhere at a constant rate.

I think Dan Ariely's "Predictably Irrational" mentioned something about people's expectations changes when $$$ is placed into the equation. So I would think this problem is not so much of a S'pore problem? The solution to me seems to be good ol' "put yourself in their shoes". I was reminded of this once when I had to pay surcharges for a taxi ride that took an hour due to heavy traffic congestion. I thought, "Goosh it's expensive but these guys invested an hour of their lives just to earn $40 - whatever cost of renting + running a cab whereas I could have earned >= $50 for an hour of music lesson." -- Jason

This feels like something I should have understood years ago about why people want to manage people--I could never figure out why. So this is another vote for "not just Singapore", but I don't know if it's more pronounced there or if it's just different circles, like you said. --Rehana

Over the past few years, I've been helping develop GPL'd HR software for the Health-care related orgs in the developing world (mostly Sub-Saharan East African countries, but adoption is starting to pick up). One thing that has struck me is that there are very few life-time MDs in the areas we work in. In the States, someone becomes a doctor and, generally, practices medicine all their life. In the countries we've been working in, doctors will try to become directors, managers, and administrators -- and get out of the day-to-day practice of medicine. This leads to a shortage in MDs. So, I'd say this happens to differing degrees depending on the field and the culture. For example, many people in the US try to move out of software development after they're 40. --hexmode