Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Team Building in the Philippines: A Culture of Candor and Assertiveness in the Filipino Workplace

Note: Not all Filipinos are passive or have the tendency to avoid conflicts or confrontations but most are. In this blog, I'm talking about most Filipinos, not all.

There's not enough of it in most Filipino work places. We Filipinos are not big on saying it as it is.We are non confrontational. We are specially timid around bosses. Geert Hofstede's research on power distance index puts us at top 4. That means that we are among those who have the most tendency to avoid contradicting or challenging a boss' opinion. This go both ways. I've seen managers go ballistic at small hints of challenge. We don't expect to be corrected by subordinates. We see it as an upfront, an uncomfortable, ego busting upfront.

The world is changing. The amount of education and information being absorbed by team members and their talents and intelligence would easily go to waste if they are not given the chance to speak up and speak their minds as freely and whenever possible.
I propose, that we change the way communicate in the workplace. Let us encourage candor and assertiveness. There are so much benefit for doing so. It will help managers make more informed decisions. It can save us from making expensive mistakes. Most importantly, it can increase engagement and teamwork.

Here's the difficult question, how do we go about it? How do we turn around ages of programming? How do we make unassertive people, assertive? How do we change a workplace that subscribe to hierarchical relationship?

This is what I tell my employees.

"I can't possibly be right all the time, hence I appreciate being corrected. Whenever you feel that I am making a bad decision, try to stop me. But don't expect me to just change my mind just because you tried. I'll put up a fight and I expect you to do the same. If I see you taking the coward's way out, I will call your attention until you realize that it pays to have a healthy exchange of ideas with me."

Let me tell you however, that saying those things is not enough. You cannot have that litany and then expect things to change right away. Leaders need to put their money where their mouth is by putting people to task about being open with their ideas, feelings and opinions.

That too however is not enough. Two interventions are necessary to establish a culture of candor and assertiveness. One requires establishing team cohesiveness by building trust, open communication, commitment, accountability and focus on result. The other one requires building the team's including the managers' assertiveness. They should be able to shift from passive or agressive to assertive style of communication.

There are dozens of available interventions out there on team building and assertiveness training. They will help you build a highly interactive and high performing team. If you need my assistance, call me at (63918)939-9294.


  1. Hi Ed! This is my first time to your blog. I must say I feel your passion for anything HR indeed!

    I share your sentiments regarding the Pinoy assertiveness. I suppose due to cultural conditioning, it will take time, patience and commitment to effect the changes that you have raised.

    Working and living in the UK at the moment, I witness how Pinoys tend to behave submissively towards Europeans in the workplace - even if they were more senior than their European colleagues. It's quite disheartening.

  2. Anonymous4:26 AM

    hi, nice blog


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.