D. Bridge the Cultural Gap with Filipinos

Understand Filipino Cultural Imperatives


Cultural imperatives are customs that you must conform to if you want to succeed in any endeavour that involves people from other cultures. In the context of communication, these are the do’s and don’ts of interacting with people from other cultural groups.

Between you and your Filipino remote contractors, there are cultural imperatives that you have to be mindful of when communicating remotely with each other to avoid misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and disputes.

Here are some cultural imperatives to remember when communicating with your Filipino remote contractors:


Tendency to Avoid Confrontation

Young asian business man using computer for a online business meeting with his colleagues about plan in video conference. back view of business man have webcam group conference with coworkers at home

Filipinos are very friendly by nature, so they try their best to get along with everyone. Some of them will try to avoid conflict as much as they can. To avoid causing a scene or starting arguments, they may choose to not say anything. This can be a problem for you as your Filipino remote contractors may choose to not air issues or problems they notice within your company to avoid getting involved.

The concept of “hiya” or fear of losing face is another reason why some Filipinos try to avoid confrontation, especially with their supervisors or employers. They do not want to be perceived as incompetent by their colleagues when confronted regarding their performance or behaviour at work. In relation to this, confrontation requires them to speak up. If they are not confident in their English-speaking ability, they may find this situation disconcerting.

In Western culture, confrontation is a normal part of work environments. People are always having meetings and debates about work-related issues and they are not afraid of being straightforward about their views and opinions. Your Filipino remote contractors may experience culture shock at first and may take them some time to get used to your straightforward remarks.


  • Gain your Filipino remote contractors’ trust. Treat them with respect in order to make them feel comfortable in expressing themselves.
  • Encourage your Filipino remote contractors to speak. In the case of Filipino remote contractors who are less proficient in English, reassure them that they will not be judged or laughed at when they speak with a thick Filipino accent or less than perfect grammar.
  • Be respectful. You can demonstrate respect by being constructive in providing criticism.
  • Provide criticism in private. Express your concerns regarding performance and behaviour only to your Filipino remote contractors and not in the presence of your other colleagues.




Need For Approval To Speak Up

Years of being colonised by foreigners left its mark on the Filipino people, and this mark is evident until now. One of them is the perception that foreigners are superior beings. Believe it or not, there are still some Filipinos who feel intimidated by foreigners, especially Westerners.

This feeling of inferiority may affect their ability to express themselves in the presence of their foreign employers. They may feel that they need your permission to speak up, so you will not know how they feel or what they think unless you ask them.

When it comes to decision-making, your Filipino remote contractors will let you have the final say in everything as they perceive you as the person in-charge. Your approval and guidance give them the confidence they need to carry out their tasks well.

In contrast, Westerners are more confident to freely apply themselves in everything that they do. You may be used to working with people who go beyond the boundaries or instructions you have set. These people are not scared of being confronted or of meeting opposition, so they make their own decisions and take steps without waiting for your approval. If you want your Filipino remote contractors to do the same, you may have to take the time to train them and help build their confidence.



  • Promote an inclusive environment at work. Discourage ethnocentrism, discrimination, stereotyping, and prejudice to get them to express their opinions, ask questions, and contribute to discussions.
  • Be clear with instructions and objectives. Your Filipino remote contractors can confidently apply themselves within these boundaries.
  • Let your Filipino remote contractors know that they can freely apply themselves. If you want your Filipino remote contractors to freely apply themselves, they need to hear it straight from you.
  • Provide your Filipino remote contractors with the support that they need. For them to do their jobs well, guide and train them well. Build their confidence to perform tasks in a way that meets your standards.




Hierarchy Dictates Social Dynamics

Filipinos respect hierarchy, may it be at home or at work. In the workplace, they demonstrate this by using honorifics when referring to their employers, supervisors, and seniors. Your Filipino remote contractors may call you and any other colleague Sir or Ma’am, which may sound strange to you at first.

Furthermore, there are Filipino remote contractors who may feel intimidated by you as you are their employer. You may notice that they seem silent, uptight, or cautious whenever you are around. They may act this way as they are afraid to do or say something wrong in your presence.

Perhaps the biggest impact of the Filipinos’ high regard for hierarchy is the idea that their employers and supervisors always have the final say. This kind of thinking discourages your Filipino remote contractors from expressing their opinions and suggestions.

In contrast, Westerners promote equality in the workplace. Surely, hierarchy still exists but every team member thinks that their voice and contributions matter to the company, regardless of their level of involvement in a particular project. Instilling this equality mindset in your Filipino remote contractors will not be an easy feat but it is definitely feasible.



  • Remind them about how you want to be addressed. You may insist on being called by your first name but know that your Filipino remote contractors may feel uncomfortable at first, and it may take some time for them to get used to it. However, with constant reminders, they will gradually feel comfortable addressing you on a first-name basis.
  • Involve your Filipino remote contractors. Make them feel like they are a valuable member of your team by discussing with them some, if not all, company affairs.
  • Ask for your Filipino remote contractors’ opinions. Make them feel that their voice matters on certain issues.
  • Initiate a friendly and casual conversation. This is a surefire way of breaking down the wall built by your Filipino remote contractors. It makes you less intimidating and lets them know that they can be themselves around you.



Pressure To Be Sociable and Accommodating

Filipinos enjoy socializing and entertaining people. They will do whatever it takes to make people feel happy or comfortable. If done in excess, their goal of pleasing others may cause them to sacrifice precious time and resources.

At work, Filipinos also want to please and impress their employers and supervisors. As a result, they sometimes find it hard to say “No” to requests and instead, just agree to everything that you say. This practise can throw you off because as a Westerner, you are known for being assertive. You know what you want, and you have the confidence to disagree with someone else’s opinion.

Being assertive is not only about knowing what you want. Your way of speaking and your gestures also show your confidence and assertiveness. However, these gestures may mean differently in other cultures, so it is important that you know how your Filipino remote contractors may interpret the tone and volume of your voice and your gestures.


  • Assure them that it’s okay to say ‘No’. Your Filipino remote contractors may be more willing to be honest when they disagree or cannot complete your requests.
  • Watch out for their non-verbal cues. Saying ‘no’ or direct refusals is frowned upon in Filipino culture, so take note of their facial expression, gestures and tone of voice when they give “affirmations”. What they don’t say speaks more volume than their actual words.
  • Remind them to take care of themselves. To be productive and do their best work, they must also be mindful of their own wellbeing. This should help them be more aware of their own limitations in accepting work.




Explore Further

Common Mistakes When Working With Filipino Workers