The Importance of Family: A Fire That Fuels the Filipino Workforce
It may not sound like it is much but understanding the importance of family to your Filipino staff can play a crucial role in forging strong and long-lasting relationships with them.
Taking a risk for family
If you are in a western country, chances are you are living your own independent life away from your family at age 18. But at 21, Rajean Castro left her hometown and travelled 250 miles to the Philippines capital of Manila not for independence but to search for a job to help their family.
“Life in the countryside is hard. My father was just a welder. If he didn’t have any work on a day, we won’t have anything to eat. That’s just how life was, so I decided to chase a better dream for me and my family and take a risk,” Rajean shared in Filipino.
Because she did not have any college degree, Rajean found herself being a nanny for a couple of households before becoming a utility personnel, cleaning workspaces and toilets for an offshoring company during her first few years in Manila.
Life was hard away from her family, doing changing schedules, lifting gallons of water to refill empty dispensers, making sure every supply in the pantry is full, and ending the day in a rented room alone. But she persevered knowing that the people she loves depend so much on her.
Rajean thought that life in Manila was going to be the same, until her managers saw the efforts she puts on everyday and the potential she had. A few months later, she was promoted to utility supervisor as the personnel needed a leader to maintain the offices better.
Then, as fate would have it, Rajean would trade broomsticks and toilet cleaners for a full desktop set and an office chair, as she was promoted to a facilities and administration assistant role, a full-time higher-paying office job she never knew she’d get.
Today, Rajean is able to send more money to her father in the province, while also having a decent life in Manila. In fact, she has been living with her partner for a few years already and they are slowly but steadily fulfilling their dreams as a family of two.
Interdependence and Filipino families
Rajean is just one of the many Filipino breadwinners supporting their family, which shows how families in the Philippines value “interdependent living,” explained Jay Yacat, a psychology professor at the University of the Philippines, specializing in Filipino psychology.
“Sharing a portion of your hard-earned pay to your parents is not common in other cultures. It is also not common for other cultures to still live with your parents even into your 20’s or early 30’s. We call it interdependent living something that Filipino families continue to value,” he said in Filipino.
Prof. Jay, who is also the president of the National Association for Filipino Psychology, said interdependent living has been around the Filipino culture for centuries, and it survived until today’s modern time because it remains functional and adaptive.
“Interdependent living survives as a value because of the material conditions of the present,” he said, referring to the economic status of many Filipinos, whose family need additional financial support to live a decent life or create opportunities for the other siblings.
Extended family that goes beyond blood
One thing that many people from the western world are surprised when having Filipino colleagues or staff is the size of a typical family in the Philippines, where “family” extends to even distant blood relatives who sometimes, especially in the provinces, live in the same compound.
Prof. Jay said that the Filipinos’ notion of “extended families” may stem back from the nation’s strong agricultural roots. A farmer, he explained as an example, would want to have a big family to help him till a large farm, and so this mindset may have crossed over to today’s generation.
“Family reunions during birthdays, holidays, and even gatherings where they have to remember the dead may have been key to maintaining this tradition of having big families even in an industrial or modern setting,” he added.
Interestingly, Prof. Jay noted, the concept of family for Filipinos sometimes goes beyond blood relations. In the Philippines, there is a notion of knowing “someone who’s not so different from me” or “hindi ibang tao” (HIT) in Filipino.
While this “psychological closeness” can easily be developed within blood relatives, Filipinos can also develop this with other people, like friends, colleagues, and even managers. This is why treating them like family at work would make it easier for you be close with them.
One can develop this kind of closeness by having shared values and ideals because the concept HIT is based on how a Filipino seeing a part of themselves in another person, which is not just important in building close relationships but also establishing trust.
Being family to your Filipino team
The importance of family is undeniable for any Filipino. On one side, family is the fuel that enables them to work despite the difficulties of life, and on the other, they continue to find “family” members outside blood relations to help them navigate different social structures.
Rajean, for example, has been with the company she’s working with for 8 years, growing from a broom-wielding utility personnel to a keyboard-using facilities and admin assistant. The reason why she stayed is not just the pay, but the people around her who made her feel at home.
“When they promoted me, it felt daunting at first because I don’t even know how to speak straight English, but the management really believed in me. They saw my dedication at work. Now, they are helping me adjust to my new role,” she said about how everyone has been helpful in her growth.
If you happen to be a company with an offshore team in Manila, one good way to forge strong familial relationships with your team by finding common values that you share with them, and you can only do that by having managers who are willing to spend more time with the staff.
Training managers to be more empathetic will allow them to understand your offshore team’s values, goals, and perspective life which can ultimately result in a strong kinship that resembles or even goes beyond family.
Your understanding of the team will help you improve your policies and offerings that will enable them to care of their own families, which is very important considering that family is what fuels them to work hard every single day.