Pinoy Behavior in the Office: Needs Improvement – Lots of it

I came across a Business Week article on dilemmas in the workplace.  In the article, Greg Cootsoona presents  21 scenarios and provides advice on how to manage it. I was intrigued at the scenarios and I remembered how it was in the Pinoy office.  I zeroed in on the areas that where screaming – improve me, improve me. Here are some common situations where Filipinos can do better. You might have come across these familiar situations.

Taking Ownership of Ideas

Scenario: While in a meeting, you bring up a variation on an idea that an officemate had casually mentioned to you in an earlier conversation. Your bosses think it’s brilliant. Do you let your officemate who gave you the idea know?

Answer: Yes.

Why: This builds trust and therefore an efficient and effective team. You’ll be known as the type of person who doesn’t care who gets the credit. You can call this the law of karma, “you sow what you reap,” or “what goes around comes around.” Take your pick.

***

Typical Pinoy response:

No. Claim the idea is mine and pick the other person’s mind later over San Miguel Beer and pulutan -that’s so wicked. Then I’ll have myself appointed as chief, he’ll be my deputy, and he’ll do the work me.

***

Deferring to the Boss

Scenario: Your supervisor is plotting a course that, to you, sounds disastrous, and he doesn’t see it. Do you bring up your doubts at your next departmental meeting?

Answer: No, but present your concerns one-on-one.

Why: As Wharton School professor Michael Useem points out in Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win, your supervisor will probably not take well to being confronted in front of other staff, but it’s important to give him all the information so that he can succeed.

Typical Pinoy response:

Yes, Bring doubts up in next departmental meeting. Make the boss appear incompetent.
No, Let the boss take a fall. Buntot niya, hila niya. Kamot your own galis.

***

Admitting to a Mistake

Scenario: You’re the Area Manager and you realize you’ve made a mistake that cost your company sales last quarter. Do you let your key leadership team know?

Answer: Yes.

Why: As management guru Patrick Lencioni has pointed out in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, the basis of a good team is trust, and trust depends on vulnerability. Your vulnerability will foster greater trust in your key leadership team, and trust will make the team function better. One caveat: Be wise. You don’t have to broadcast your mistake to the whole organization.

Typical Pinoy response(s):
No. Blame it on someone or something else – anyone but me. Mahirap ng masisante.
No. Not unless they find out. And if they find out, I will laugh it away. Uncle ko yata ang CEO or malakas ako ke (drop name of big shot).

***

Ethical Obligations

Scenario: You have heard from another employee that your boss has made an ethical violation. Do you confront your boss directly?

Answer: No. Try an indirect angle of approach: First, ask your boss to clarify this type of breach in your company’s policies and ask the best way to process such a concern.

Why: This way, you maintain your integrity while being wise. First of all, this type of complaint against your boss may lead to his job loss, which could make him feel desperate in this economy–and desperation brings out uncharacteristic behavior. Moreover, “innocent until proven guilty” is a good rubric for accusations. It’s the way you’d want to be treated.

Typical Pinoy Response:

Ba’t siya lang, paano naman ako?
Balato naman bossing.

***

Patting Backs

Scenario: You’re the head of your team, and your week is packed as you’re preparing for next week’s launch of a new software. During a week when you’re all working 10-plus hours a day, do you take time during this busy week to praise your staff?

Answer: Yes. Write some personal “atta-boy” e-mails or call a brief meeting to toast the team’s success.

Why: Gallup surveys of employees and organizations revealed that the key driver for employee productivity is whether they feel cared for by their supervisor and whether they have received recognition or praise during the past seven days.

Typical Pinoy Response(s):
We’ve been toasting since day one, we can wing it. Merienda muna. Here you go.
Oh oh, I forgot about that.
I have to pat their back?

*****

Pinoys need to step up and improve their behavior in the global corporate culture if they want to be competitive and have careers in world-class companies.

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18 comments

  1. Engr Samuel Robles III · ·

    Very great article! I have a lot of stories to tell from our firm but I have to go out so maybe tomorrow. For now I just wanted to praise this for being right on the mark.

  2. Bonifacio · ·

    This is the stupidest article i’ve ever read. What do you know about typical Pinoy? Why do you think that Companies abroad are more inclined to hire Filipino Workers? You don’t know nothing. You think this article helps? You are an asshole, masyado mong minamaliit ang mga Pilipino. Paano kung may makabasa sa article mo na mga investors? Sa tingin mo kukuha pa sila ng mga Pilipino as workers? Don’t stereotype us. Siguro ugali mo lang yang nasa article mo kaya wag mo kaming lahatin. Hindi ka Pilipino kung ganyan ang tingin mo sa amin. Asshole!

  3. Yeah, the truth hurts, doesn’t it? Just count one-to-ten and you will eventually get around to coming to terms with The Truth about Da Pinoy condition. 😀

  4. @Bonifacio

    Are you here making a psychological projection of what you really have?

    Our country’s lackluster performance in many areas belies your claim to the contrary.

  5. Bonifacio · ·

    ..Ten. I felt love for my country, love for my fellow Filipinos. I’d rather spread love than hate. Before pointing fingers be sure your hands are clean.

  6. Hmmm, I don’t think “love” is the issue here, dude.

    The issue here is more about whether what the author of this blogs says is valid/true or not.

    Maybe do another count — this time from one to one hundred. 😀

  7. If you notice, the writer didn’t say that these bad habits are confined to Filipinos. I know these are common bad habits in the workplace anywhere in the world. It turns out that these are the bad habits that are most prevalent in Filipinos. No. 1 is especially common; I’ve experienced not my own, but other people’s ideas being stolen by a co-worker or even a supervisor. Filipinos just love stealing credit… or at least preventing credit to be given to whom it is due. This is part of a culture where some people have such puffed-up pride na ayaw magpatalo sa iba.

    Also, don’t you think that companies abroad are more apt to hire Filipino workers simply because they’re cheaper? 😉

    The author loves his country more than you do I guess, so he wrote this article. If you love somebody, take them out to task for their wrongs.

  8. There are exceptions to the rule sir, and they are either working overseas or trying to get there. If they do stay they will be working for a company that wouldn’t be considered a Filipino company.

  9. i don’t know where you guys work but this is not typical behavior where I work. And as far as I know I am still Filipino, working in the Philippines, where 90% of my co-workers are Filipinos.

  10. Another reason why countries abroad are inclined to hire Filipinos: our knowledge of the English language. So anyone who says we should learn less English to be “nationalistic” is an idiot.

  11. Parallax · ·

    congratulations! you have yet to observe these things happening. the likelihood of personally witnessing these is directly proportional to how long one has been employed though. so if you’ve been employed for 5 years already and you find this article’s scenarios completely inconceivable, maybe you’d like to tell us what company you work for so that more pinoys could also find work there.

  12. As long as we’re involving numbers here, I got a few:

    1. Your virulent ad hominem reaction is a bit disingenuous. Can you honestly say you have never experienced or witnessed any of these behaviors anywhere you’ve worked? I’m pretty sure no one in the world could truthfully say that.

    2. While I can honestly say that any problems I ever had as a manager with a Filipino subordinate were individual problems for which I could find opposite examples of Pinoy employees who were valuable assets, my mother, who has been a supervising RN for a number of hospitals in the US for 30+ years — and thus is in a position to have had long-term experience with a large number of Filipino workers — has very little good to say about them as a generality. She is careful to point out exceptions, but is also careful to point out that they are exceptions. Just about every one of the disappointing character traits listed in this article are common complaints of hers, plus a few others. And this is from a woman who has numerous times gone to the barricades against medical administrations and HR departments to fight for employment opportunities for minorities and other disadvantaged workers (and half of whose grandchildren are of mixed ethnicity, I might point out). So show me evidence that “employers abroad are more inclined to hire Filipino workers” for reasons other than economic or simple expediency, because until you do, I’ve got pretty convincing evidence that is not necessarily true.

    3. Protest all you like, by the output and world-class performance of Pinoy business (I said that sarcastically, in case you couldn’t tell) kind of tends to back up the writer’s assertions as well. I don’t believe he’s really saying that only Pinoys have these problems, just that they do, and that efforts to overcome them are, well, spent on something less productive.

  13. As long as we’re involving numbers here, I got a few:

    1. Your virulent ad hominem reaction is a bit disingenuous. Can you honestly say you have never experienced or witnessed any of these behaviors anywhere you’ve worked? I’m pretty sure no one in the world could truthfully say that.

    2. While I can honestly say that any problems I ever had as a manager with a Filipino subordinate were individual problems for which I could find opposite examples of Pinoy employees who were valuable assets, my mother, who has been a supervising RN for a number of hospitals in the US for 30+ years — and thus is in a position to have had long-term experience with a large number of Filipino workers — has very little good to say about them as a generality. She is careful to point out exceptions, but is also careful to point out that they are exceptions. Just about every one of the disappointing character traits listed in this article are common complaints of hers, plus a few others. And this is from a woman who has numerous times gone to the barricades against medical administrations and HR departments to fight for employment opportunities for minorities and other disadvantaged workers (and half of whose grandchildren are of mixed ethnicity, I might point out). So show me evidence that “employers abroad are more inclined to hire Filipino workers” for reasons other than economic or simple expediency, because until you do, I’ve got pretty convincing evidence that is not necessarily true.

    3. Protest all you like, but the output and world-class performance of Pinoy business (I said that sarcastically, in case you couldn’t tell) kind of tends to back up the writer’s assertions as well. I don’t believe he’s really saying that only Pinoys have these problems, just that they do, and that efforts to overcome them are, well, spent on something less productive.

  14. Or as an alternative, share with us what your office does to overcome these kinds of communications breakdowns (since that’s really what they are, whether they’re intentional or not). No enterprise of any number of people simply runs smoothly without active effort, so how does yours do it?

  15. Jett Rink · ·

    I’ve worked for seven companies these past 20 years, 3 local, 4 MNCs. IT companies, Retail/Direct Selling, Manufacturing. Expat bosses/coworkers and of course Pinoys. It all boils down to the company’s culture and how they communicate with their employees, being transparent with them, and how they deal with problems and shenanigans. While I’ve observed some of the traits mentioned above in my Pinoy co-workers, it may be harsh describing them as “Typical Pinoy Response(s)”. They were also exhibited by foreign co-workers while working in Singapore (Indians/Malaysians/Sri Lankans), though less with native Singaporeans. Again, I think the onus is on any management to communicate the standards needed and be transparent so that meritocracy prevails over ass-licking.

  16. Persona Non Grata · ·

    SCENARIO: A Filipino subordinate gets all the calls from directors of various agencies instead of the Filipino boss. Do you transfer the call to the Filipino boss who doesn’t know what is going on and bounce the call back to you anyways.

    ANSWER: NO. In an American environment where both the subordinate and the boss are Filipino it is better for a Filipino subordinate to resolve questions that the Filipino boss obviously doesn’t and cannot know the answer. If the caller is bounced back to you often, the Filipino boss would look bad and All Filipino as a whole.

    TYPICAL BOSS PINOY RESPONSE TO THIS: Accuse the Filipino subordinate of trump up allegation.

    IT WORKS ALL THE TIME!

    If you work hard and know a lot in an environment crawling with cabals of Filipinos the Filipino hard worker always loses. Thank you.

  17. Hey P:

    Clarification – What exactly is the role of the subordinate – is that part of his/her tasks? Are these directors internal or external customers? If the person is an executive assistant, then isn’t he/she supposed to screen the calls based on a priori instructions from the boss?

  18. Persona Non Grata · ·

    These directors are external customers.

    The subordinates role in the whole grand scheme of things is to process payments. Inherently, due to nature of assignment, the subordinate needed to know the contract language, federally prescribed agencies record keeping, restrictions and limitations and financial acid tests.

    The Boss ought to know this to guide the payment process. Whenever the subordinate asks for opinions on payments, the boss always refer, without fail, to the contract. The subordinate immerse in all contracts that the subordinate is more conversant in contract interpretation than the Filipino boss.

    The external customers would rather deal with the subordinate that has quick resolutions to their queries that process their payments and possess authoritative contract interpretations. If there is conflict of interpretation can refer them to contract analysts instead of a boss who is not mentally there and physically in another world picking up the children from school (meaning, every day) and cannot know the answer then bounce back the call to the subordinate.

    After the utter failure of trump up allegation, the subordinate currently handles a more meaningful, demanding assignment, given two additional staff and the boss is demoted.

    And the Filipino community in the office were like “I wish I were the subordinate friend”. They’ll never get a chance for promotional interview with the subordinate.

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