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Observations Of Philippine Corporate Culture Part 2 - The Private Sector And The BPO Industry

Image by Small Biz Bee

We continue where we left off in our discussion on the work cultures in the Philippines.

Private corporations have always been a major component of the Philippine economy. With family-owned mega corporations controlling most of the markets, Philippine commerce and trade have been fueled by these private companies.

I've observed two subsets of the work cultures in these private companies: the culture in SME's or Small and Medium Enterprises and the culture in the major conglomerates and multinationals.

The SME's tend to have a more relaxed atmosphere. People can still chit-chat, play and surf on their computers even as they work on their tasks at their own pace. Slacking is fine, as long as you can submit your work.

For the major companies, the culture is marked by greater discipline. One of the movers and shakers of the Philippine economy, the Gokongwei-owned group of companies, is marked by a fast-paced but still enjoyable work environment. Another major group of companies, those owned by Henry Sy, offers a more disciplined atmosphere. You think those SM salesladies have ignoble jobs? Think again. There's a lot more discipline involved in working as an SM Employee than meets the eye. Insiders know that working for SM involves a training style that could almost be likened to the military.

There are other types of companies, of course. There's the service industry, the hotel and restaurant industry, the media industry, and more. There is one general culture that underscores the private sector: an emphasis on productivity, but with a little bit of room to breathe.


The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry broke into the Philippines' corporate consciousness in 2006, when call and contact centers received media attention for being aggressive in their recruitment and hiring processes. The above-average pay that call and contact centers offered employees also caught the collective eye of the country, and a new working class was born.

With the entry of the industry came a new work ethic: Western work ethics of time-consciousness and its emphasis on maximum productivity was and is a cornerstone of the industry. It transformed the way the Filipino worked. For those who work for call centers, Filipino Time became a thing of the past. With closely monitored attendance aided by sophisticated time tracking technology, Filipinos could no longer make excuses for tardiness and less-than-excellent behavior. Either you shape up or ship out. Slackers are booted out of the companies after repeated misdemeanors.

These two spheres of Philippine corporate cultures have very stark differences. We'll discuss what we can learn from them and how we can use that information in our own careers in the next post.

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