Understanding Filipino employees

Understanding Cultural influences and their importance

Working with Filipinos can be extremely rewarding and add enormous value to any organisation. Their unique blend of cultural influences from Asia and the West has created a people unlike any other. But to maximise the benefit of a Filipino offshore approach, it is worthwhile taking the time to understand the cultural elements that contribute to your offshore employees’ personalities, work ethic and relationship with coworkers and their employer.

But first….

Understand from the start that work cultures are unique

Imposing one work culture on another won’t work. It doesn’t matter if it's Australian and Filipino or any other countries; different countries cultivate different attitudes to work, professionalism and the relationship between “your success” and “your job”. As a consequence, what you consider to be normal or successful is not necessarily viewed the same way in your offshore team. And more importantly, understand that no matter how much “training” you do to influence your employees relationship with work and success, you will have very limited success; it's cultural and it's deep. 

To maximise your outcome, it is imperative that you accept the differences between the respective approaches. In doing so you will unlock the value inherent in these differences and the cumulative benefit that combining the two can bring to your organisation. The more you understand the intricacies of the Filippino culture, the more value you will unlock. 

So let's get started...

A really little bit of history

As a country, the Philippines is culturally and geographically unique, its location “on the edge of Asia” between the Pacific and Indian Oceans made it an important trade corridor connecting the east to the west and led to a lot of cultural blending. Fast forward to today and the legacy left firstly by the Spanish and in more recent times the United States, has resulted in one of the most distinct populations in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a complex blend of Asian, Hispanic and Anglophone influences, and it's fair to say that some traits of Filipino culture share the same level of complexity. 

The Filipino value system and communication style

There are two main cultural concepts that contribute most significantly to the value and communication style of the filipino: Hiya - the concept of “shyness” or “shame” and sometimes referred to as “saving face”; and Pakikisama - in its most basic sense the concept of getting along with others. Understanding these two concepts and being sensitive to them can make or break your offshore strategy. 


Having “hiya” or being “mahiyain” is a complicated Filipino value that puts importance on how others see you, it is connected to self-esteem or self-image and can be translated to mean shyness or shame. It's analogous to the concept more commonly referred to in the west as “saving face” - a common trait within Asian cultures. The feeling is akin to embarrassment, and is avoided at all costs.

It goes without saying that it is highly likely that you will need to manage performance related issues with your employees at some point, but in doing so it's important to keep in mind the concept of Hiya and its value to your Filipino employee. Be discreet, courteous and constructive with your feedback. Avoid direct negative feedback in group settings and look for opportunities to provide positive feedback wherever they exist. Try to avoid creating in your employee a sense of unreliability or inability to perform their tasks. 

In essence, the typical Filipino employee places a significant value on how they are perceived by others around them and in this context, Hiya is directly related to the concept of Pakikisama.


Pakikisama is the idea of “going along with others” and encapsulates the importance of smooth relationships and avoiding confrontation. A typical Filipino will avoid saying no wherever possible and will go to great lengths to avoid offending others feelings. Among friends and even relatives, it is considered unacceptable to give a direct command. 

Pakikisama is the opposite of individualism. In Filipino culture, a person who has no pakikisama is a loner, one who does not know how to “go with the crowd.” 

The concept of Pakikisama has obvious implications in managing Filipino employees. On the positive side, Filipinos derive genuine value from being part of a team and great satisfaction in conforming to the broader goals and aspirations of the team. There is limited value placed on individuality or self promotion and the typical Filipino is more than happy with playing their part in a bigger picture. Collective success is highly valued.

On a negative side, with such little value placed on individuality and a desire to avoid conflict (or more accurately, perceived conflict), Filipino employees tend not to raise issues, ask questions, speak up with new ideas, or actively promote their individual qualities. Instead of saying no, or I don't understand, you may get silence or a tentative yes even if unsure. Be prepared to invest time in providing a space for self expression. Consider meeting your team members individually on a regular basis to allow feedback outside of the team environment. Be patient with your team as they take on new concepts and actively encourage questions from them. Your patience will be rewarded.

And don't get us wrong, whilst on the surface it might appear that Filipinos are most reserved and shy and difficult to communicate with, but the opposite is actually true. In general, Filipinos are friendly and outgoing, highly sociable and love interacting with you. Before you know it you will be part of the “family!” And that is a big deal. 

Family First - always

From a workplace perspective it is worth understanding how highly valued the family is in Philippine society. You can get a sense of how ingrained family values are in their culture by the terms they use to communicate with each other. Terms we would typically translate to aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters are equally used to address strangers and unrelated people. 

The community created by the family itself is far broader in many respects in Philippine society then has become the case in the West. Multi-generational households are the norm as are extended families living under the same roof or in close proximity to each other. Often income is shared amongst the broader family to support those without income. 

At Yoonet we understand the importance of creating a sense of “family” for our team; a genuine sense of connectedness and shared identity. In doing so we contribute to our clients long term success and add substantial value and community to the lives of our people.

A workplace like no other

Filipinos take great pride in their work, they value relationships, are incredibly respectful, welcoming and disciplined. Engaging a Filipino worker will add value to any organisation when you take the time to understand the cultural influences that contribute to their engagement with you and the broader workplace.

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