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Pattaya Daily News

19 September 2006 :: 16:09:27 pm 22427

How to work with “Farang” Boss?

Actually the word “Farang” is widely used all over Thailand, the words refer to foreigners no matter from which part of the World they are from. As long as they have brownish/golden hair, blue/brown eyes, French nose, tall and hairy. The Asian will not be classed as “Farang”.
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           The words “Farang” used by the Thai actually referred to those expatriates coming from Western or European countries. Therefore, do not get upset and considered that the words is implementing something bad. On the contrary when you are a “Farang” in Thailand you are highly respected as someone with “money power”. 

            Majority of the Thai trusted the stability and financial status of the foreign firm or company. If you asked a Thai person to choose between working for a Thai or Foreign company, they would immediately jumped at the chance of working for “Farang” as they hope to earn good salary, excellent fringe benefit, job progress and annual promotion and bonuses in which some of the Thai companies lack. 

            For me it doesn’t matter whether I have a Thai or Farang boss, because working means money as long as I get paid in exchange for my work performances, I couldn’t care less if I have an Indian for a boss. For me it is mainly the culture differences why I preferred to have “Farang” as a boss. 

            Although being born as a Thai but I grew up oversea and brought up by an American stepfather in the American’s circle of relatives and friends. Therefore, I grew up with American piece of mind. I am outspoken, assertive and highly confidence of my own intelligence. No body had recognizes all my special characteristics except my open-minded bosses. I was educated in SingLish since primary school after being nagged by my dad ever so often about my English language, I have decided to do him a big favoured and converted myself to using half American and half British English. I remembered my dad saying to me “I send you to school to study English/English and not the SingLish, so speak the language properly, my girl, otherwise you don’t go to school any more”. At that time I didn’t quite understand why he keeps complaining on my language usage. I thought the Sing Lish was cute with every phrase and sentences ending with “La La La” it’s like you are singing. 

            I studied English at school, my sisters and me we were never allow to speak Thai in the house in front of our stepfather. It is sacredly forbidden just because my poor dad felt that we were gossiping about him. I graduated as a Private Secretary from Business College and after my graduation my family moved back to Thailand and that was when I started my first job. I have been through many jobs and mostly I have a “Farang” as a boss and it is always a long-term basis. Every time I tried to work for a Thai boss I never could “live” long, don’t ask me why, I think it is due to the cultures and ideas differences. With the Thai you have to be very careful that you don’t be too outspoken, assertive, do not get into an argument or you will be considered as disrespectful and you have to listen more than speak. Otherwise some might think that you are trying to outrun them. 

            When compared with that of some cultures, American communication style is generally viewed to be quite direct and assertive. Many foreign-born women who have been conditioned by their native cultures to be reserved or soft-spoken are challenged by corporate America‘s expectation of directness and assertiveness (and sometimes even a volume level they are not comfortable using). Men, too, are challenged by American norms of communication. 

            Today I will not speak much of the Thai boss but I will concentrate more on the “Farang” I will give those of you who are thinking of working for “Farang” the means and ways of becoming successful in your job and to be able to work comfortably for and with them. 

            Before you start working for the “Farang” you must do a little prayer. You must try to understand what your boss expects from you. The prayer goes like this.

“Dear Buddha (for Buddhists) or Dear Lord (for Christian)

Please help me to perform my work well, to have the memory of an elephant (let suppose that elephants never forget) and by some miracle please enable me to do five things at once – answer two telephone calls, greet a client, find a file, all while typing a letter that “must go out today”. When that letter doesn’t get singed until tomorrow, please give me the strength to keep my mouth shut. 

            Dear Buddha/Lord, never let me loose my patience, even when the boss has me searching files for hours for report that is later discovered on his desk. Give me the intelligence of University Professor, although my education is limited to only a diploma or a University Degree lower than my boss’s, and even if I have not had any formal secretarial training. 

            Help me read his mind, to decipher his handwriting, and to carry out all his instructions which are often given without any explanation. Let me always know exactly where my boss is and when he will be back, even though he may never tell me where he is going and let him keep his mobile phone or pager on. 

            And Buddha/Lord, when the year ends, please give me the foresight not to throw out records that will be asked for in a couple of days, even though I was told emphatically, “destroy these – they are messing up the place.” I ask for your blessing, in the name of secretaries everywhere. Amen! Sathu!” 

            This “Prayer” is not my own version but I have read it from somewhere and had used it everytime I pray and really like it, may be a bit of an overstatement but from the smiles on my face I‘m sure you will agree that there is a lot of truth in it. 

            The most important factor is to understand what your “Farang” boss expects of you is simple: “Look. Listen. Ask.” 

            There is no such thing as a dumb question. What is dumb is to keep quiet when you need to know something in order to do your job. Almost any question is far better than a dumb mistake. 

            “Farang” boss must find a staff or secretary who has qualifications and knowledge in the field in which he works. A boss normally choose an employee who can get along with him. I think he expects a staff to work accurately, do a neat and tidy job, and have good communications skills. 

            But a secretary must also sometimes understand that when the boss has a lot of work, he might become emotional.

Getting to know your boss leadership styles can solve communications or team problems. 

            No two bosses are the same, just as no two secretaries are alike. First of all you have to Learn your boss style, his character, his personality, strengths and weaknesses, his biases, his abilities, his attitudes, again is to “Look. Listen. Ask.” 

            “Look” – means to see both the details and the big picture. 
            “Listen” – means to hear, analyze, understand and remember what is said. 
            “Ask” – means to open your mouth to get the clarification you need to understand at least enough to do the task assigned. 

            For instance, ask yourself – how do I know or learn what my boss expects of me, when he does expect it, how, and in what form? What writing style does he want for his letters, memos, reports, etc.? There may be a corporate form manual – if so, then study it, and follow it.

On an individual level, “Look. Listen. Ask.” What hours will you boss keep – what hours can you keep? Can you work OT? Do you have to work OT? How often? How long? You do have a private life.

Is your boss organized and neat, or cluttered and disorganized? What is his personality and
character? Is he a team player or does he work alone? What kind of person is he? Is he a person who inspires confidence? Is he fair, open-minded, a listener? How does he handle his mistakes? Your mistakes? Is he courteous, respectful, accepting, compromising, demanding, strict, a stickler for details? Does he shout? Is he moody, short tempered or even tempered? Does he have a sense of humor? Is he a people person (sociable) or a loner, decisive or avoids decisions? Is he a doer or a procrastinator, a delegator or must he do everything himself? Is he protective and supportive? Is he an effective leader or is he not a leader? “Look. Listen. Ask.”

Sometimes, a staff cannot clearly understand their boss style because different kinds of bosses and jobs will have different kinds of roles. For example, a consumer product company and a services firm will have different communications requirements and teams to solve their problems.

Working for expatriates – how to overcome cross-cultural barriers and what to do and don’t. 

            When a boss is of one nationality or upbringing in one culture and the staff is of another, there are ALWAYS cross-cultural barriers – to challenge and cross those barriers you can not be afraid to recognize a cross-cultural situation for what it is nor be hesitant to try to find a way to treat it so you can accept the solution. That can take a lot of understanding, diplomacy and patience. Since you reached the level of Executive Secretary or Personal Assistant, you should already have the experience and judgment necessary to handle most of these situations. 

            At the same time your boss must have patience, understanding and diplomacy to handle the delicacies of a cross-cultural challenge – and not all “Farang” are the British are different from French. Australians are different from Americans – and all are different from Thais.

Recommendations to Thai Nationals in Multinational Companies 

            To fully understand their expatriate co-workers, a Thai national worker in a multinational corporation must learn several key issues. The first and most important issue is that Westerners value their freedom above all other things: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equality among all people. These values are the driving force behind their history. Achievement and competition is stressed as an individual aspiration, and therefore, western individuals are very open and direct. The highly structured American society results in expatriates being very systematic which is completely different from the more social Thai society. 

            Expatriates may sometimes appear very assertive and outspoken which may be seen as a problem to the Thai employee. This American trait is due to the influence of the culture which encourages every person to express their opinions. Sometimes, these direct
actions may include criticism directed towards the Thai nationals. However, the criticism is meant to be constructive, and therefore, should not be taken to heart. In the western business style, a clear distinction is made between personal and business relations.
Therefore, the expatriate may not understand that his/her comment was taken personally. 

            However difficult it may be, Thai nationals must comprehend that they are not expected to be polite at all times. Saying “yes” or nodding means full comprehension and agreement to a westerner. Thais must also learn to say “no” when they do not understand. Saying “yes” and meaning “no” is the main communication problem, and in the eyes of the expatriates, communication and understanding is essential in doing business. 

            Most evaluation methods in multinational corporations are based on the western personal merit system. The merit system is a quantitative analysis of the employees performance.
Therefore, Thai nationals must realize that contacts and personal favors have no direct bearing on their climb up the corporate ladder. 

            To be effective in Thailand, the “Farang” Boss will have to learn about many Thai traits and characteristics, for example – Thai politeness, the Thai smile, humbleness, saving face, hiding emotions, avoidance of conflicts, the value of compromise, Thai time, the Thai way, the role of contacts and relationships, “Kreng-Jai”, “Sanuk”, status, age, respect, “jai yen”, the Thai social structure, the close knit family structure, and the Thai reverence of the monarchy. 

            In the staff point of view it is difficult to understand an expatriate boss because he will have different culture and customs. Employee must understand the accent of his native country to communicate with him in English effectively.

Keeping up with your boss changing roles and responsibilities 

            In today‘s world of computers, cyberspace, e-mail, internet, dot com, e-commerce, EDI, cellular telecommunications, GPS, biotechnology, sustainable development, cloning, alternative forms of energy, alternative medicine – the technology advances so fast that business must respond and react to changes in the business environment almost on a daily basis. For example, did you know that for the past 15 years or so each year the number of transistors on a computer chip of a fixed size doubles? The flip side is that the same number of transistors fit on the same chip in half the space. Globalization, financial crises, and restructuring, the computer age, desk top video conferencing, digital images and sounds, satellite/cable TV are with us daily. Yet, five years ago they were little known. 

            “If you don‘t keep up, you will be left behind – it is that simple.” In the very competitive world in which we live and work and learn, being left behind can mean failure. 

            How to keep up – read; ask for and attend training courses – self-help, in-house and outside; get colleagues to teach you. Use your imagination to find ways. 

            Employees must obtain more knowledge to improve him/herself so that he/she will be able to keep up with his/her boss.

Building up trust and develop trustworthiness 

            The nature of a staff-boss relationship is that they are a team. A team requires mutual trust. The better the mutual understanding, respect, cooperation, patience, time spent in working together, the more effective the team, the better the results, the fewer the mistakes. Mistakes will be made – don‘t be afraid to make mistakes – you learn from what you do wrong, not from what you do right. But please, don‘t make the same mistake over and over again. 

            With teamwork comes confidence building in the other‘s performance, knowledge, reliability and judgment. That‘s called trust. If your boss has to check all your work all the time, then the team is not functioning up to par and trust can‘t exist. Check yourself – did you “Look. Listen. Ask.”? Did you “keep up”? If you did and the trust doesn‘t build, then go to your boss, tell him of your concern and discuss how to create that trust which is lacking. 

            If you still don‘t have your boss’s trust, then either you don‘t have the needed ability, you are not paying attention, your boss is just a micro manager, or he doesn‘t know how to use his employee and so you must either teach him – or as a final option, you may have to find a new boss!

Staff must always work honestly, so that the boss can trust her/him. 

            Thinking ahead of your boss – what he/she wants you to do to help keep things on track 

            From the employer’s view point- an efficient, competent, friendly, dependable, skillful, intelligent, honest, confident, organized, detailed, right thinking employee who knows to do their job, his/her abilities and limitations, who can take responsibility, and who freely communicates with the boss is a gift from God. A smooth working staff-boss team can perform wonders. But a poor relationship is a misery for both the employee and the boss and neither can work at anywhere near their potential. The good team doesn‘t just happen. It takes work, work, and more work plus practice, practice and more
practice by both staff and boss to make it work – each must teach one another, and each must learn from the other. Boss who doesn‘t “Look. Listen. Ask” or keep up with the changing world is foolish, disrespectful of his staff and a poor team player. He is cheating himself and his staff of the ability to work at their full potentials and their employer is ultimately the loser. 

            In Thailand there is a language barrier between the “Farang” boss and his Thai secretary. Like it or not, English is the generally accepted common language today between different nationalities in the business world. Therefore, to succeed in a multinational multicultural business environment, whether or not English is your native language, it is imperative that staff learn more and more English and use it properly. 

            English is probably not your first language; “Farang” ways are still “Farang”, but these barriers are not valid excuses to avoid learning and correctly using the English language for business communications and in the international worlds of trade, media, science, academic,government, culture and civil society. 

            Correspondingly, the “Farang” boss should try to learn some Thai. In any event, to avoid miscommunications in the multicultural environment, he must be very patient to insure his instructions, desires and needs are very clearly expressed in English and are understood in full by his staff. 

            In closing – on behalf of all the “Farang” bosses please allow me to say this “You have a brain. Use it.” Use it to think. Use it to organize. Use it to plan. Use it to question. Use it to learn how to act. Use it to anticipate. Use it to learn. Use it to apply what you have learned. Use it to remember. Use it to visualize how your job can be done better. Use it to improve your knowledge and your skills. Use it to help you stay ahead of your boss. 

            Having work for various multinational firms and expat boss as Private or Executive Secretary for the last 15 years, I have learnt to cope up with the bosses. One thing I could is say that I had greatly profited from working with expat bosses, I gained vast knowledge and experience, I learnt how to accept their style of working. Working with them had thought me how to plan and how to think ahead how to help him to do his work on time according to the task deadlines. In turned I have gained their trust, faith, confidence and respect which to me is much more worthy then the high salary they paid. 

            Don’t be afraid to work with “Farang” boss, not all of them are orgy, some are so kind and protective like guardian angles. The main thing is you have to be able to communicate with them to enjoy working for them.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Lifestyle

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