Unlike some other countries, the Philippines has a similar culture to Australia, they are service based Christian society. While there are some differences, if understood properly they can be used to your advantage if you work to their strengths.
Here are some of the common differences and some tips to working with these differences:
The Dutch social psychologist and anthropologist Geert Hofstede was a pioneer in global team work in the 1960’s. He is currently the most cited social scientist, and has spent almost 50 years dedicating his work to cross-cultural collaboration. He has developed five cultural dimensions that are characteristics on how a nation approaches work. These dimensions are, Power Distance, Individualism, Indulgence, Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity and Long Term Orientation.
There are some areas of Hofstede’s dimensions where Australia and the Philippines are very similar, these include Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long Term Orientation. However, there are significant variances with Power Distance, Individualism and Indulgence.
This is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of an organisation expect that power be distributed unequally. In Australia this is very low, while there is a hierarchy, there is an expectation that managers are accessible, and that they will collaborate with managers. In a practical sense this often means that individuals at all levels of the organisations hierarchy will participate in meetings and can provide opinions and input. Australian corporate offices also have open plan offices with managers sitting with employees rather than in offices.
The Philippines however is very different, they work within a very hierarchal structure where everyone has their place. It is accepted that there are inequalities and managers are very autocratic.
When commencing a working relationship with offshore employees it is best to be very clear with what they need to do. They will expect to be told what to do. Over time the manager can build their confidence and encourage them to make recommendations and share opinions, but it is helpful to remember that this isn’t their natural style.
This dimension addresses the degree of interdependence of a society. It looks at whether the miners of the society are interested in their personal interests as an individual or the collective interests of society.
Australia is a highly individual culture. There is an expectation that people will look after themselves and put the interests of them and their immediate family as a priority over the greater community or their broader networks. In contrast the Philippines is highly collectivistic in their societal makeup. They are loyal and this loyalty to others in their greater community ensures that they take responsibility for others.
Employees will put the wellbeing of the larger group ahead of business decisions. One practical example, is an instance where someone may recommend someone for a job because they are a friend or family member rather than because they have the best skill set.
Indulgence addresses the extent to which people attempt to control their desires or impulses. Australia has a high score, which is considered weak control or ‘indulgent’. This means that Australians are willing to realise their impulses or desires. They are optimistic and focused on having fun and enjoying life.
The Philippines has a low score, and are considered to show strong control or restraint. They don’t put a strong emphasis on leisure time or gratifying their desires.
How to work with the differences
Having this understanding of cultural diversity will allow managers to identify why their offshore workers display certain behaviours or shy away from participation in a robust discussion. Communication is the key, particularly in the beginning when the relationship and trust are being established. By providing regular feedback and encouragement the Filipino employee will grow their confidence. Eventually they will be open to participating in critical thinking and providing their thoughts and insights.
There can never be too much communication. By including the team member in the business processes and explaining why certain things are occurring it will help establish the employee into the business and ensure that they feel included. This will ensure that the business has a loyal and committed team player.