Working with virtual assistants from the Philippines doesn’t come without its challenges. After all, English is not their first language, they very rarely leave the country – and when they do it’s normally not to the Western part of the world, opting to stay closer to home (for obvious visa requirements), visiting countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand.
The biggest stumbling block that we’ve come across here at OTTP, when it comes to business owners utilizing the services of Filipino VA’s is their obvious lack of knowledge of Filipino people, their traits, traditions and personalities in general.
So, we thought we’d try and help out a little here and asked Stephanie (pictured to the right), our Virtual Staff Finder Project Manager, to put together the following list of tips for you. She holds nothing back and tells it exactly how it is! Over to Steph…
#1 – Filipinos are Shy
Most Filipino professional virtual assistants tend to be shy, reserved or conservative – especially when talking about monetary matters. Society sometimes views a person who is more concerned with monetary gains above anything else as offensive, thus the term “mukhang-pera”, loose translation would be “gold-digger”.
This is the reason why having a clear understanding about your job offer and expected of them is essential before they actually start working. Sometimes, if you do not ask if something is okay for them, they tend to just go along with it because they are too timid to talk about it. Having really clear, open communication and trust is essential to avoiding conflict that may arise from this situation.
#2 – Filipinos do not like Confrontation
Filipinos are very pleasant and easy-going. In the Filipino society confrontations are avoided as a Filipino value called “pakikisama” is promoted. This means that instead of telling you directly about certain issues they are facing, they tend to beat around the bush, or give you subtle hints that they are not happy about something.
Sometimes, you have to probe and really ask specific questions to really be able to know what your Filipino Virtual Assistant is feeling or thinking about when it comes to a certain situation.
#3 – Filipinos are Sensitive
Filipinos are very emotional. Sometimes, even slight changes in your tone of voice can make them think that you are upset, or mad about something. Take note of the words you use, or using caps in your emails – especially when certain issues arise, they are easily hurt and affected by it and often carry it with them for sometime. This can hinder productivity, obviously.
#4 – Filipinos are very Polite and Courteous
Filipinos are eager to please (especially their bosses!) and naturally polite. They usually have a term for a superior, or someone that they look up to. So don’t be offended if they call you “sir” or “ma’am” all the time. This is their way of showing their respect.
Chris never likes being called ‘sir’. He says as he’s not knighted by the Queen that it doesn’t make sense! As such, all his staff opt to call him simply ‘boss’. He’s okay with that. Right… Boss…?!!
#5 – Filipinos are very Traditional
Filipinos are very conventional overall. They celebrate holidays and traditional Filipino festivities – especially Catholics (the country predominantly follows this religion). Fiestas, Holy Week and other local holidays can be expected every year. Make sure you make an arrangement with them about yearly holidays and events.
Chris sometimes suggests that Professional Virtual Assistants follow the local holidays of their bosses. Not, the local holidays in the Philippines. For the most part this will be no problems with your VA’s based in the Philippines – with very clear exceptions surrounding local Catholic holidays – these are usually very important to Professional Virtual Assistant’s here, and their families, and should be respected.
#6 – Filipinos are Motivated by Incentives and Bonuses, rather than Gifts
Gifts, such as gadgets are always secondary to cash. A home-based virtual assistant from the Philippine will generally prefer cash because even basic things like bills and home repairs are not usually included in their monthly budget and only when they get extra financial stimulation can they afford to have these taken care of.
#7 – Filipinos are Hard Working and Easy to Please
A little motivation and encouragement go a long way with your VA. Filipinos are very appreciative if you give positive feedback on their work, especially if they have been working particularly hard on finishing an important project for you.
#8 – Most Filipino VA’s are the Breadwinner of the Family
Most Filipino workers have families to support. Whether it’s their own, or putting other siblings through school, you will always find them looking after several dependents. Because of this, paying them fairly and on time is very important.
Most of the time, the money they will be receiving is already allocated to be spent. So, if you fail to deliver what you promise, this could lead to a lot of unexpected trouble and can even cause your VA to lose their trust in you – looking elsewhere for another, more understanding boss.
Be sure to always understand that Filipino VA’s will be extremely loyal to you, as their boss. They simply want to be taken care of and looked after, so that they in turn can take care of, and look after their responsibilities.
#9 – Most Filipinos Live with an Extended Family
Knowing about a Filipino home setting is important, in terms in working with your Filipino VA. This can help you understand your professional virtual assistant even more, so be sure to show interest and ask questions.
Most Filipinos still live with their parents even if they have kids, or families of their own. So you can expect a household full of kids, cousins and other times aunts and uncles. This is normal in a Filipino home environment.
This is usually okay as long as it does not affect their productivity.
As we always point out to home based Virtual Assistants that we help find jobs through Virtual Staff Finder (professional virtual assistant service company) that they must be sure to not only have a proper workstation and dependable internet connection, but also that they have a designated place to work in the house. If not an entire room, then at least a small area for their computer and sufficient desk space for them to be able to be organized and perform their tasks properly and professionally.
#10 – Filipinos are very Conscientious Workers
A very common trait of Filipinos is “utang na loob” or “debt of gratitude”.
When you give them something that they didn’t expect, or more than what you promised them, they usually view this as a notion that they “owe you one”. This can be a very good motivation for your Home-based Virtual Staff. If they are performing more than expected, it wouldn’t hurt to give them incentives for a job well done.
Chris recently wrote a fantastic post on his blog about motivating your VA’s using different perks – you should check it out when you have time.
The different things that we’ve discussed in this post may not necessarily be true for all Filipino home-based virtual staff. Each person is unique, and the younger ‘less traditional’ Filipinos (commonly referred to as ‘Generation Y’) are certainly pushing the boundaries and expectations on the more traditional way of life, for Filipino people.
However, these are traits observed in Filipinos in general and having a good grasp of their culture can help you understand them more and ultimately help the two of you (or more!) work better together.
If you have any particular situations or questions you’d like help on, just let us know in the comment section below and we’ll do our best to answer them.