Understanding the importance of family to your Filipino workforce

23 Aug 2016

Different cultures place different value on the importance of family in driving their behaviour. In regards to Filipino and Western ideals, the difference is substantial. It is important to acknowledge the cultural norms, in both how Westerners deal with family, as well as the Filipino value system. Understanding this properly will shape how you interact with your offshore workforce in a positive manner.

Family at the heart of personal development

It is well established that a person’s values and ideals drive their actions, behaviour and demeanour. An individual’s closest relationships are often formed form birth and then honed over many years of interaction, collaboration and emotional and psychological development. In a Western environment, it can be said that as an individual grows and develop focus is placed heavily on promoting independence and separation from the family unit. This growth and focus on ‘leaving the nest’ is often signified with children maturing, moving out and severing any financial dependence on their parents. On the other hand, this move to independence also means that offspring are not compelled to support or provide any assistance to their family. This may of course change as family members start to age and require assistance, whether it is slight financial support or a move into a facility.

The above is the complete antithesis to how Filipino’s deal with their family unit. It really is a “unit” as throughout the lifecycle, a family stays completely together. Their complete and utter commitment to their family is at a different stratosphere. In order to articulate it in a simple way, it can be said that the Filipinos embrace and encourage a more centralised approach to family conversely as a Western family matures it becomes far more fragmented, with individuals moving out and severing any links of dependence.

Family above all else

More often than not, family will always be the highest priority to Filipinos. Gatherings are large and loud, including up to 30 people all at once! As mentioned earlier, Filipinos deal with the transition to adulthood in a completely different fashion, whereby Western parents raise their offspring to leave the nest as soon as possible (usually 18) as young Filipinos transition into adults and turn 18, they aren’t expected (forced) to move out and live on their own. They are raised and encouraged to continue to contribute and play an active part in a highly centralised family unit. Consequently, the idea of putting elderly parents in a home or with an external care provider is considered an absurd concept and often frowned upon. As a result of this fierce loyalty and dedication exhibited in regards to the family unit, many Filipinos centre their work efforts and professional development as a means to provide for their families, especially those family members who had to migrate from the provinces and settle in Metro Manila or abroad. Despite inconveniences to them many Filipinos are often willing to go the extra mile if it means being able to provide for their families, even marginally.

Treating everyone like family. Literally

The importance of family is also very prevalent in the everyday language used by Filipinos; this is usually to the point that it’s almost unnoticeable for them. While we would normally use “sir” and “madam” to refer to people we don’t know informally, Filipinos occasionally use “kuya” and “ate” – meaning “older brother” and “older sister” in Filipino – to address them. These can be, but not limited to, their taxi driver, their local barista or even a stranger on the street they want to get the attention of. When amongst people they know personally, Filipinos use “tito” and “tita” when addressing the parents of their friends, and this translates to “uncle” and “aunt.” It may seem unusual for foreigners to hear them refer to people outside of their family as one of their own, but this is second nature to all Filipinos and shows just how deeply rooted familial bonds are in their culture.

Staff should feel like they belong to an extended family

By understanding the importance of family to your Filipino workforce, you will begin to understand an critical facet of Filipino culture and how to properly approach it when it comes to engaging with your staff based in the Philippines. Too often do we hear stories of great employees leaving their companies because of other staff being inconsiderate or unaware of particular cultural differences. When people feel like they don’t belong or are in a closed, unwelcoming and hostile environment, they are more likely to quit rather than stay on for as long as they can. For those that do choose to stick it out, doing so would take a toll on their well-being and can lead more damaging effects.

We’ve discussed how a culture of engagement and belonging in your workplace can help keep staff motivated and driven and in the Filipino context, this can be done by creating an office culture that feels like their second home. By creating an atmosphere that feels like they belong and allowing for proper balance with work-life integration, you will have staff that will stay continuously productive, work to the best of their abilities and remain loyal to you, just like they would with their real families.