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Intercultural Management - Philippines

Being a Manager in the Philippines
Management Guide Philippines

The business set up in the Philippines is hierarchical. Intercultural management needs to take into account the need to maintain a formal manner and pay strict attention to titles, positions, and hierarchical relationships. Expect to find many gatekeepers whose job is to protect the schedule of and limit access to the ultimate decision maker. In this relationship-driven culture, you will find it easier to make the proper contacts if a third party who already has a relationship with the decision maker makes the introduction.

Filipinos avoid behaviors that would make either party lose face. This leads to an indirect communication style, so carefully watch facial expressions and body language. This is a country where a smile may mean many different things, not all of them positive.

Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management, when working in the Philippines, will be more successful when bearing in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization and management would not be expected to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

In the Philippines, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns.

Approach to Change

The Philippines’ intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is apparent but because tradition is valued, change is not readily embraced simply because it is new.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid in the Philippines. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross cultural management.

While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible. Successful cross cultural management may require some degree of patience.

Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.

Decision Making

Although many businesses retain hierarchical structures, decisions are often made after reaching a consensus of the stakeholders. Few individuals have full authority to make binding decisions concerning anything but mundane matters.

Teamwork is becoming increasingly important in most organizations. The best ideas and solutions often come from having many people meet to discuss an issue.

Filipino managers will praise employees, although not generally in public. Subordinates expect their efforts to be recognized and rewarded. Most Filipinos are suspicious if praise is excessive or undeserved.

Boss or Team Player?

This is a hierarchical culture where rank has its privileges. Decisions are reached at the top of the company, although a great deal of time is spent building consensus prior to reaching the decision. Managers are expected to provide their subordinates with detailed instructions that cover any eventuality. Since they do not want to lose face (or have shame), many Filipinos are hesitant to ask for clarification if they are uncertain about a task. Therefore, it is a good idea to use written instructions to supplement verbal communications whenever possible.

Managers adopt a paternalistic role towards their subordinates and guide them in both their business and personal lives. Subordinates expect to be praised for a job well done, and public praise is extremely important as it heightens their self-respect. Criticism, however, must always be done in private and must be handled diplomatically, being careful not to make the subordinate lose face so some intercultural sensitivity will be necessary.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Wait to be told where to sit. This is a hierarchical culture and quite often seating conforms to the rank of the people involved. You may never actually meet with the decision maker or it may take several visits to do so. Decisions are made at the top of the company. Filipinos avoid confrontation if at all possible. It is difficult for them to say "no". Likewise, their "yes" may merely mean "perhaps". At each stage of the negotiation, try to get agreements in writing to avoid confusion or cross cultural misinterpretation. Decisions are often reached on the basis of feelings rather than facts, which is why it is imperative to develop a broad network of personal relationships. Do not remove your suit jacket unless the most important Filipino does.

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