All this argument about how this and that can increase productivity can be one mucky thing. Quite a lot of so-called management and productivity gurus locally are all about imposing learnings and knowledge that are based on a different culture as ours. Ever heard of localization?

It’s annoying that these experts assume that what works for Americans will also work for Filipinos out of the box. no matter how much people say we love change. Even progressive people are creatures of habit.

More than shaping attitudes, one must be able to understand the socio-cultural context influencing individual attitudes. You have to know what makes people from a certain part of the planet tick before you try and impose changes. The last thing you’d want to do is to challenge deeply-rooted world-views on the onset.

And this is truly a concern for anyone working with BPOs and freelancers servicing foreign clients. Some issues that Graeme Warring (from his GDAP talk) emphasized. For Filipinos, deadlines are optimistic estimates and that we’re fond of giving “dog ate my homework” excuses for failed deliveries.

Not that we’re bad professionals. It’s more culture-bound more than anything in my opinion. Most likely it’s because we have a lot of attitudes like utang na loob (reciprocity), hiya (face), and pakikisama (camaraderie).

Our communal roots probably have an influence on this. For many (I observe) work output is more of a favor done. As such, not beating the deadline is expected to be a forgivable thing. Dog-ate-my-homework excuses can be perceived as acceptable because of pakikisama. We’re not like the Germans who have words like “schadenfreude.” If one admits fault (hiya), then that person’s expected to be forgiven.

Perhaps not really a good attitude to have in a capitalist professional environment but that’s a deeply-seated attitude that Filipinos have. And this is what many Westerners find annoying in the Filipino ethic. Sometimes enough to trump other aspects of our work ethic (e.g. going beyond what’s required).

If you are a BPO manager, how will you be able to manage this. You know your external clients have a different attitude than your local workforce. If you readily impose new rules without factoring how these might clash with culture, then you are most likely going to fight a losing battle.

Know what needs to be adjusted, provide for transition, and more than anything, educate.

Share This