This is the first email in a series of 5 about why OFS sometimes do mindless work.

In the Philippines, fear often has the opposite effect as what you might expect.  If you fear failure you’re likely to make more effort, do more, try harder.  In the Philippines, it’s often the opposite.

Fear says to them to do as little as they can to get by so they don’t make a mistake when doing extra.

This is a big driving factor in mindless/poor work.

When I asked my team “What causes someone to do mindless work?  Or, to not care if there’s an obvious mistake in a final product?” fear came up over and over again in their responses.

Here are quotes from a number of people on my team.

  • “Being afraid of making mistakes. This is something I’ve experienced when I started working for you. I was absolutely terrified that I’d lose my job. I know this is something a lot of us still feel. Don’t rock the boat. Being mediocre is better than making a mistake.”
  • “We’re scared of retribution or any attack (verbal or physical even) from someone who’s on top of them or even on their level.”
  • “Fear of getting fired for expressing his/her own opinion or challenging someone’s idea to the point that even sometimes getting personal.”
  • “Getting shouted at or receiving an email that sounds like it.”
  • “Failing to impress or get challenged/questioned of the small achievements they were able to get in their life.”
  • “Some are also hesitant to talk because their opinion might not be accepted. They are afraid that their ideas will be rejected.”
  • “Americans are very opinionated that some even get to the point of being pushy or bossy, Filipinos are the exact opposite, we were trained to be submissive(religiously) and just do whatever someone asks of them.”
  • “Another thing is, Filipinos won’t even engage or stand up for what he/she thinks the best nor strike up a conversation or argue the topic, there’s even a Filipino saying that goes with it, it’s called “sumunod sa agos” or “just go where the (river) flow” in english…which develops this passive attitude.”
  • “They can’t relate much and choose the right word to express what is on their mind, even to some extent, working with a fellow Filipino. Much worse if they have to talk in English.”

The most telling quote will come tomorrow.  In it, my OFS talks about being afraid of being wrong about the thing that is obviously wrong.  Fear of being embarrassed is such a driving force that they’ll question their own judgment when they see something is wrong. They fear that it’s not wrong, and if they say something about it they’ll be wrong, which will cause embarrassment.  So instead, they just say nothing.

A couple ways I’ve tried to quell the fear is by
– reassuring them that their job is secure.  Even when something goes wrong, I’m not going to fire them.
– giving positive feedback before giving negative feedback.  Not always easy.
– lavishing on extra praise when something goes well.

More to come tomorrow.

John