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Dealing with stereotypes when addressing a nation, a group – or even an individual – certainly has its perks, but it also has its downsides. More often than not however – stereotypes tend to be a ‘safe’ form of communication that remove both the speaker and the subject from the equation to look at them from an objective point of view. This is exactly why stereotypes are funny without having the downside of offending anyone – which is especially important in today’s society, being that popular support for political correctness has increased at such a rapid rate recently.
Usually however, people tend to have a hard time distinguishing between a ‘stereotype’, and a ‘trait’. Here are the main differences:
Stereotypes – over-exaggerated, and oftentimes untrue traits, ascribed to certain groups of people in order to more easily define them and make sense of their complex behaviors.
Trait – certain features and behaviors that some, if not all individuals that belong to a certain group show throughout their daily habits and interactions. Traits are determined by observational or statistical evidence. Stereotypes are not.
This is why it’s easier to communicate in stereotypes, rather than traits – especially when you’re a foreigner looking to get by in a different culture than the one you grew up in. This could also be true even if you are an entrepreneur, business manager, or CEO who looks for outsourced talent in different parts of the world.
Which brings us to this article. In it, we’ll try to give an honest estimate of how to best deal with outsourced talent in the Philippines – without offending anyone, or just as worse: without losing money in the process of doing so.
Here is a detailed guide of the most important Filipino traits,traditions, and values – as well as some pragmatic solutions to some tricky predicaments involving running a digital business through the Philippines.
General Overview of the Filipino Personality
As with every nation in the world, the Filipino individual has their pros and cons when talking about their character traits too. Again, not everyone has the same traits, habits, or personality; however, to a greater or lesser extent – the Filipino individual exhibits several key personality traits that help define them in the bigger picture, as a nation.
And so, courtesy of Jeff Hays’ extensive empirical research, Filipinos are:
Positive Traits: Outgoing, friendly, possess strong sense of family (including extended family) and community in general, have respect toward authority and religious institutions, take pride in both their family and themselves, hospitable, open to others, have good nature, resilient, honorable towards their elderly members, happy, like to party, value individuals in power, hold strong sense of justice in regards to everyone in a society, and casual.
Negative Traits: can be easily offended, feisty, overly sensitive even to trivial matters, value conformism over individualism, some of them possess a ‘tomorrow’ attitude which makes them prone to procrastination, take excessive pride in some matters over others, elevated sense of self-esteem which can sometimes undermine one’s own integrity, clannishness, and resort to fatalism in extreme circumstances.
That being said, it’s worth noting that all Filipino individuals ‘hold’ some middle-ground anywhere between the positive and negative traits they’re being associated with, as with every other group of individuals do from their own nations’ traits & stereotypes as well.
For instance, a Filipino VA (Virtual Assistant) may adhere to the so-called ‘Filipino Time’ and miss punctuality every now and then. Meanwhile, this same individual can show great attention to detail and work hard to meet your deadlines and complete your projects in time – however contradictory this may sound. As we mentioned above, all people are individuals and manifest complex behaviors in different circumstances – Filipino people not excluded.
Fortunately, when looking for remote talent in the Philippines, a business employer can turn each and every negative trait around to serve well within the ‘boundaries’ of their company.
USING EXISTING FILIPINO TRAITS IN YOUR FAVOUR
Freely translated, Ningas-Kudon means to leave matters unfinished, abandon work in the middle of doing something, or leave a certain project hanging until an external push happens. This saying is put in place to showcase how certain Filipino individuals start with great enthusiasm and vigor – only to end up with slumps in motivation, which leaves the project either half-baked, or in a complete halt.
Solution – as a remote boss, you can opt to motivate your outsourced talent via several simple tricks, including:
- Setting up your remote team with small chunks of work and offering rewards when these ‘micro-goals’ are complete.
- Communicate everything beforehand so that misunderstandings happen rarely or never at all.
- Treat your Filipino employees as part of the company, hearing out their concerns, suggestions, ideas, and act upon them when the time is due.
- Introduce some stakes-at-hand and let your team know about them; communicate some urgency, but be careful not to overdo it to the point where they end up completely burnt out from work.
- Commend the Filipino individual/team when it’s well deserved, and introduce constructive criticism when they’re straying away from the company’s goals. The trick here is to AVOID doing it personally because the Filipino individual can be easily offended if the criticism comes directly from the employer; use a third-party to ‘ease the blow’.
- Allow mistakes. The Filipino individuals are not perfect and however professional they may seem – there’s always room for improvement in the company (again, as with any other nation).
2. Crab Mentality
Since the Philippines are scarce in resource and their governments aren’t doing their best to fully utilise said resources – there often exists a mentality where some individuals are jealous of the success of others. This may lead to a general envy towards the success of that person and their achievements – and an attitude which hinges on bringing them down, instead of praising them for their abilities. Ironically, this sort of mentality resembles something like crabs that end up getting caught in a bucket; each of these crabs pull downward on the ones trying to escape – ergo the Crab Mentality.
Solution – the crab mentality underlines altogether different, and oftentimes complex problems that give rise to Filipino people pulling down those who are “ahead of them” in life. Issues such as economic inequality, corrupt governments, polluted environment, and others, make Pinoys certain that resources are scarce – below the levels of normal functioning. So, in order to protect themselves from this imaginary symptom, Filipinos may gossip, or even undermine the work of others.
From an employer’s standpoint, one way to deal with this is to gradually introduce your prospective Filipino talent to Western values – through the mission and vision statements your company has in place. Another crucial thing to do in order to avoid the potential crab mentality among your remote employees is to remind them of the power of the commune. Transforming the crab mentality into a so-called “Bayanihan” mentality is something even the Filipino culture can understand and appreciate. The “Bayanihan” mentality is a system of values where each individual in a community helps another individual – which in turn leads to striving and ultimate progress within that community.
If you have a hard time introducing new values or breaking old Pinoy traits with your team, try to be more compassionate and move the focus from practicing gossip – to coming up with new ideas and finding innovative solutions to existing problems.
3. Lack of Initiative or General Reactiveness in the Business World
For those familiar with the Philippines’ history as a colonial state throughout the years, this comes as no surprise: the constant looking up toward authority has rendered some Filipinos unable to make decisions of their own. Sadly, this can sometimes translate to the business world, and you as a head of a remote agency should constantly be on the ready for these kinds of behaviors.
Solution – Whilst overcoming passivity and lack of assertiveness is no easy task – it has been proven time and again that it can be done. First off, don’t act on impulse and do not jump to unnecessary, and oftentimes false, conclusions. Communicate with your remote Filipino talent, asking questions and probing until you uncover the real issue underneath the symptom. Then, ask if you can somehow help your Filipino talent in putting them on the right track. Ask specific questions like:
- What do they have problems with?
- Is there something they don’t understand?
- Is something causing confusion? If so, what?
- Why are they taking so long to complete simple tasks?
- Are they in the need of better explanation in regards to your projects, or company?
- Do they struggle with internet outages, power outages, or something else?
- Are they fine personally?
When you ask those sorts of questions, what usually happens is people opening up and admitting their shortcomings, after which you can decide if you want to continue doing business with them, or look elsewhere for outsourced talent. Experience shows that proper communication – along with nailing the right issues your outsourced talent faces – can lead to long and prosperous teamwork in an environment where individuals can thrive.
This will potentially turn the tables in your favour and transform your remote Filipino team into proactive individuals with the desire to conquer the business world.
4. Lack of Self-Reflection, Superficiality
Sometimes, the Filipino individual will have a tendency to solve problems in superficial ways — i.e. propose solutions that neither addresses the core of what’s at hand, nor employ careful analysis to reflect their own wrongdoings and start over. In the business world, this superficial thinking can lead to ‘laughing out’ a serious matter, thus failing to recognize and solve an important issue – or failing to understand the presence of an issue at all.
Solution – again, your outsourced Filipino talent is stemmed by the cultural mentality superimposed by their peers, surrounding, family, and business associates. When you come to think of it – it’s only logical: when you grow up in an environment that typically avoids self-reflection and employs empty rhetoric to escape the core of a given problem – this behavior can become the societal norm which everyone naturally adheres to.
If you are honest with yourself, you’ll see that almost everyone, at a given point in time, is guilty of this so-called lack of self-awareness; the key thing here is to gradually introduce your Filipino prospects to positive, or constructive criticism. At first, they may be reluctant to accept their shortcomings and start throwing blame at everything around them except themselves. This is natural, since changes in character – or rather the way we see the world – don’t tend to happen overnight. By carefully probing their view of the business world, you can indirectly show them that cracking jokes all the time is unhealthy – and even counterproductive to the company’s future. And if the company stops growing – it’s very likely their position will come under scrutiny as well.
This will make your Filipino talent glad that they’re part of your team – in the same time realising that cramming dust under the carpet won’t make the waste disappear by itself.
5. Mañana Habit, Procrastination
the Mañana habit is very similar to Ningas-Kudon, as far as not finishing work is concerned. The Mañana habit or trait, however, is different as opposed to Ningas-Kudon in the following areas:
- Ningas-Kundon implies that work has started to begin with.
- Mañana Habit means that work hasn’t started yet, and it delays working on a project for an indefinite amounts of time (due to different circumstances, which most of the time end up being unprecedented excuses).
The Filipino talent is not lazy per se, but can sometimes take a while until they start with a certain project – and miss the deadline altogether. This can potentially cause some issues within the company, and if those issues aren’t addressed in a timely manner – it can ultimately lead to clients churning.
Solution – as an employer, start by breaking down large amounts of work into smaller tasks; this is a scientifically proven method that works like a charm. Now, your outsourced talent – psychologically speaking – will have to tackle fewer smaller tasks instead of one giant task. The latter is somewhat scary, while the former is doable: once your Filipino talent gets going – the momentum will keep pushing them forward
Another simple method is to start the task all by yourself – then proceed to smartly delegate, as well as manage both their working input and output. When you finally manage to beat that elusive first step – everything comes easier afterwards and your Filipino group can adhere as well.
6. Filipino Time
As mentioned above, Filipino Time is a trait where proper punctuality is disregarded in favour of leisure, tardiness, and a general lack of sense toward other people’s calendar. Now, putting all Pinoys into the same basket is extremely dishonest and harsh; not all Filipino individuals adhere to this negative trait, and sometimes even the ones that do have strong reason behind it to justify that behavior. Bottom line – ‘Filipino Time’ is more of a stereotype than a trait.
Solution – state clear goals, objectives, and skills that you are looking for in a prospective Filipino talent – to avoid complications caused by Filipino Time later. One way to counter this trait is to be clear during the recruitment process.
For example, if you do not want your employees to constantly arrive late to work (and who would) – simply indicate a requirement for all prospects to be in the vicinity of your office in order to apply. A reasonable distance would fall anywhere between 4 to 6 km; everything above that would be a definitive no-go.
As for freelancers and talent who don’t need to be physically present in an office – it’s only a matter of setting goals, expectations – and the most important thing – reasonable deadlines.
7. Colonial Mentality
The Filipino character can sometimes boast with their colonial mentality without them even realising it; this mentality mainly comprises of two things:
- The lack of patriotism, general awareness, and love towards one’s own country, i.e. the Philippines.
- Embracing a preference for foreign culture, goods, individuals, and groups to the detriment of one’s own national identity.
Whilst sounding quite scary on paper – the right amount of colonial mentality can oftentimes become the first step towards progress in the business world.
Solution – your goal as a business owner here is to guide your Pinoy talent out and over the colonial mentality – and into a cosmopolitan mentality – which has all the perks and none of the cons of the former. The cosmopolitan mentality is a natural step towards globalization and an economic revolution – meaning anyone, regardless of nationality, religion, or cultural background – can enter the workforce if that individual has what it takes to do the job properly. Outsourcing and freelance talent aren’t exceptions of this rule – and whilst not perfect – this model has certainly shown great potential in the past, present, and future.
Making the prospective Filipino individuals aware of this can ‘liberate them’ of the colonial mentality sort of speaking – and make them true citizens of the world, Philippines included.
8. A Tendency to Excessive Partying
Again, to understand the Pinoy people’s tendency to party until dawn is closely linked to the colonial mentality; fiestas are remnant of the state’s past when the Philippines were under colonial rule by the Spaniards. During which time, cultural differences were either exacerbated, intertwined – or even migrated from one culture toward the other (usually the state in power imposes their culture and traditional beliefs onto the colonial state); this cultural exchange gave rise to the Filipino Fiesta, which stays a relevant trait among the Pinoy people even to this day.
And while partying by itself is not inherently bad – excessive overdoing of birthdays, graduations, weddings, or even funerals can make the whole difference in the business world. Imagine having a deadline for an important client breached – only to later find out that your Filipino talent had ‘better things to do’ than finish their actual duties. How to solve it?
Solution – as both manager and owner, in order to overcome your Filipino employees’ ‘fiesta attitude’ – you have to think outside the box. For instance, you can build a healthy, highly social, and fun working environment that will make everyone’s day a tad bit more cheerful than previously. Some excellent platforms that allow this include Slack, Basecamp, Asana, Guru, Upwork, and more.
Additionally, you can opt for tighter, albeit reasonable schedules and hefty rewards for a job well done. This approach will motivate your Pinoy talent to work even harder – and more importantly – have some fun while doing so.
9. Practicing Double Standards, Hypocrisy
The prospective Filipino talent may act differently when under management, and change their business behaviors and habits when it’s they who manage others. This is reflected in every segment insofar the Filipino society is concerned – most likely affecting the branch your business falls under as well. Fortunately, this kind of behavior can be reversed for good.
Solution – hypocrisy is the last thing you should be expecting in both the virtual and physical workroom; the key thing here is to communicate clearly, honestly, and state your expectation upfront before you decide to hire. If you’re unsure as to what duties your new Filipino prospects should adhere to – check out this resource that offers a multitude of various job descriptions scattered throughout different industry branches and niches. Download and change it in accordance with your business preference and the values your company holds onto.
Later, if an employee’s behavior starts derailing from the values and ethics your company practices – call them out and take it from there.
FILIPINO TRADITIONS & CULTURE
In order to better understand the Filipino talent and the BPO (Business process outsourcing) in the Philippines, you have to have at least some understanding of the Filipino culture, traditional values, and their everyday habits that make them who they are.
The Philippines, or rather – The Republic of the Philippines – came to be known by that name in 1543 in honor of King Philip II from Spain. The current Filipino population are descendants of people from the Southern part of Asia. The Filipino population itself is very diverse – all thanks to marriages between them and individuals from India, China, Spain, and the U.S. These events naturally led to a cultural blend between the Western and Eastern (Asian) population in the Philippines.
Furthermore, The Filipino people saw their state ruled by the Kingdom of Spain first (1570 – 1898), and the Americas afterwards (1903 – 1946). This exposure to different cultures gave rise to Christian values, which needless to say – remained a strong point among many Filipino individuals today. In addition, the cultural exchange between the indigenous Filipino people and other cultures from Indonesia, India, and China shaped the Philippines in accordance with some Asian cultural and economic values
The Philippines remain diverse in spoken language as well. Currently, there are approx. 175 spoken languages that cover the entire territory. All of these languages fall under the Malayo-Polynesian ‘tag’; among them, there are currently 13 indigenous languages with an estimated number of 1 million speakers.
Throughout history, the official language in the Philippines was Spanish. Up to the 20th century, Spanish was spoken by as much as 60% of the entire Filipino population as either a primary, secondary, or tertiary language. As soon as the power changed and the United States took charge from Spain in the first half of 1900 – the Spanish influence started seeing its steady decline; which in 1935, led to the proclamation of both English and Spanish as official languages in the Philippines republic. Fast forward to the present constitution – and we see how both the Filipino and English languages take the place as joint official languages in the Republic of The Philippines.
More often than not, the Filipino people place their moral values in religion – particularly Catholicism and Islam. Religion is seen as a universal value that further strengthens the family and sometimes even affects the government in power. This shouldn’t be an issue to you as a business owner – since BPO in the Philippines is a major driving force for their economic growth; this loosens up the tensions between the Filipino Government and foreign business owners and investors – making it easy for investments to go through and adding some tax relief on top of it all. However, due to the fact that Filipino talent have strong feelings about their religion beliefs – it’s best if you keep your conversations both professional and friendly – up to a certain point when religion gets involved.
The Filipino cuisine is a mesh between Chinese, Mexican, Malay, Spanish, Indian, and American cooking. It usually consists of six meals per day, including breakfast, snacks, lunch, brunch, dinner, and a final reach toward snacks to end the day on a full stomach. Most Filipino dishes involve rice which is served alongside other edibles.
Most Filipinos regularly use spoons, forks, and knives to eat their food – whilst sometimes hands come into play when seafood is involved. Popular dishes include chorizo, asado, paksiw (pork in vinegar and other spices), kare-kare (stew made of ox-tail), sinigang (soup delicacy made of pork, prawns, or fish), longanisa (sweet sausage), and more.
On the other hand, some popular snacks are bibingka (rice cake made with margarine or butter), polvoron (powder candy), puto (rice cakes), chocolate, and more.
As you can see, there are multitudes of edibles to choose from when opening a business in the Philippines, or even offer a treat if you’re outsourcing Filipino talent instead.
Non-Working Holidays in the Philippines
Generally speaking, all holidays (including National and official) in the Philippines are movable – as decreed under the Republic Act 9492. In order to change pre-existing dates for these movable holidays, the President is obliged by law to issue a Proclamation that will change, and fix these holidays to another date. The President has to issue this Proclamation at least six months before that exact holiday will take place.
National Holidays (2017):
New Year’s Day – January 1, 2017, Sunday
Araw ng Kagitingan – April 9, 2017, Sunday
Maundy Thursday – April 13, 2017, Thursday
Good Friday – April 14, 2017, Friday
Labor Day – May 1, 2017, Monday
Independence Day – June 12, 2017, Monday
Eid’l Fitr – to be announced
National Heroes Day – August 28, 2017, Monday
Eidul Adha – to be announced
Bonifacio Day – November 30, 2017, Thursday
Christmas Day – December 25, 2017, Monday
Rizal Day – December 30, 2017, Saturday
Special, or Non-Working Holidays (2017):
Additional special, i.e. non-working day – January 2, 2017, Monday
Chinese New Year – January 28, 2017, Saturday
EDSA Revolution Anniversary – February 25, 2017, Saturday
Black Saturday – April 15, 2017, Saturday
Ninoy Aquino Day – August 21, 2017, Monday
Additional special, i.e. non-working day – October 31, 2017, Tuesday
All Saints Day – November 1, 2017, Wednesday
Last Day of the Year – December 31, 2017, Sunday
For officially declared special days, like Special National Holiday, Special Non-working Day, All Saints Day, Special Public Holiday, and Last Day of the Year – there are special rates of pay which you can calculate here.
Given the multitude of historical changes and influence on the Pinoy population caused by Spain, the U.S., Asia, and Latin America – the Filipino people have ultimately persevered whist allowing some cultural influences to pass through; in fact, thanks to the Western influence throughout history, combined with recent changes in domestic policies – the Philippines grew to become one of the largest states to offer outsourced talent all around the world. As projections are put on paper – the BPO industry is estimated to reach $40 to $55 billion by the end of 2020. This industry currently employs around 1 million directly employed individuals, with future estimates predicting about 1.5 million jobs for directly and indirectly employed Filipino talent in total.
In large parts – this steady increase in the BPO industry has been owed to the right economic policies that were put in place by both the Filipino Government – and the Western factors which contributed and lobbied for this project’s enormous growth.
Bottom line, for a business owner looking to outsource large chunks of their company’s jobs and duties – the Philippines would currently be the best fit.
let’s think this one over, has a somewhat broken flow.