Working Hard vs Working Smart: The Root Cause of Filipino Failure
The culture of valuing “smarts” more than “sweat” may be why Filipinos are being left behind economically by their Asian neighbors.
The root problem of the Filipino is our valuing “being cunning” over and above any other value. This would be perfectly acceptable if not for the fact that this principle is just as likely to mean “cheating” as “thinking out of the box and coming up with something innovative.”
It may be because of the tropical heat but “working hard” is not as valued by Filipinos as much as “working smart.” Given three scenarios where in the first case a farmer works 12 hours a day and reaps a good harvest, in the second case the farmer works only 4 hours a day and has a poor harvest, and in the third case, a farmer hires laborers who work 14 hours a day while the farmer supervises them for only 4 hours a day and reaps a good harvest, most Filipinos would pick the third scenario as best–never mind if it means exploiting the laborers to get a bigger percentage of the harvest.
This state of mind is reinforced by how we appreciate the Filipino children’s folk hero “Juan Tamad” (Juan the Lazy) when were growing up: we laughed and gloated with Juan whenever he put one over his unsuspecting victims. Our parents, our friends, our media also reinforce this trait unconsciously by looking up to people who come up with short-cuts, who reap great rewards with little effort. We don’t look too kindly at people who work back-breaking jobs, get old and weather-beaten and only can come up with the same rewards as the guy who took the short-cut. We only feel pity for these hard workers.
A key ingredient in why this value system persists is the thinking (whether grounded in truth or just paranoia) that we have to act this way because we think THEY are also trying to do IT to us! This is why Filipino bosses try to exploit their employees because they think employees are trying to cheat them anyway. And in circular logic, this is why Filipino employees try to cheat management because they think they’re being exploited. This is why Filipino companies try to gouge customers while Filipino customers try to avoid paying companies. This is why Filipino politicians cheat their constituents and why Filipino voters think all politicians are liars and corrupt. This is why we have terrible traffic because we always think other drivers are trying to grab our lane so we never give way.
This is not a pretty picture but it’s true more often than not and we need to start opening our eyes to this if we, the Filipino, are to change.
One group of people who hold the opposite value system to ours are the Japanese. They value “working hard” more than “working smart.” In their system, coming up with short-cuts is looked down upon and is considered a sign of laziness. Thus they better appreciate workers who work overtime and on weekends finishing a report over someone who did the same report in two hours by automating it with spreadsheet macros. This is why innovation mostly comes from outside Japan and they just bring it into their country and make the most of it through their hard-working nature.
But this is the key to a Filipino resurgence (”resurgence” because we were not and are not always like this): we should keep our “working smart” attitude but we should value “working hard” just as much. And first and foremost, we need to STOP thinking we need to cheat because it will be done to us.
Look at how Filipinos succeed abroad in societies where they know cheating is not permitted–these oversease Filipinos end up being honestly innovative as well as working hard with personal success being the result. These overseas working Filipinos see the value of woring hard–they actually get good paychecks for their toil. Seeing the payoff for following the rules, for giving an honest day’s work, they give it their all.
So this is what we need: we need to stop thinking or caring about everyone cheating, we should instead work hard as well as smart. We should stop exploiting our employees, our bosses, our customers, our companies, our constituents. We need to start with ourselves, our families, our children, and our friends: we need to show them how we appreciate hard work and how we look down on cheating and exploitation and short-cuts and easy money–we should no longer laugh conspiratorially when our buddies brag about kick-backs and bribes and tax fraud. We need to put aside Juan Tamad and welcome Juan Masipag (Juan the “hard worker”).
Our new tag-line should be: Work Hard, Work Smart, and Together, Filipinos Will Prosper.