Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Guide for Project Management Consultants in Dealing with Korean Engineering & Construction Companies (Part 2)

Here's the Part 2 of the article...

This article focuses on understanding the Korean way of doing business from the perspective of an employee. 

Working with Koreans can be rewarding, only that you have to understand well their culture. 

At the core of it, Koreans are more humane in their dealings and familial in business practices.

With this, I mean, Koreans value harmony. As such employees of Korean companies should behave or at least be perceived as harmonious. That is why, you can't be too pushy if you want to get results. There is a right way to do that. You have to follow-up in a gentle way, though you have to be persistent if still you can't get the results you need.

Another thing to consider is the hierarchical structure of Korean society. A junior staff cannot push (in a western sense) his or her superior as it is generally viewed disrespectful. As such, it is advisable for project management consultants to go directly to the superior if he/she needs something to be done. It will be more efficient for there is generally no rigid work procedure in place. The "work procedure" is left to the wisdom/prioritization of the superior in-charge.        

Many Koreans also like efficiency that is why they also act fast. This emanated from their 'pali-pali' culture which means that Koreans are always in a hurry. The downside to their 'pali-pali' culture is that sometimes critical details are overlooked. That is why, if you are working with Koreans, you have to be very careful so that the outputs will not be problematic later on. 

Let me expound further on the Korean concept of harmony as I might be accused of being biased if I will not mention this. In the workplace sometimes, there are higher-ups who would shout at each other if they disagree. Sometimes, Korean folks are expressive of their emotion especially when they are angry. This might seem counterintuitive to the claim that Koreans value harmony. While those that I mentioned occur in the workplace, it is not a prevalent sight or it is just confined between the disagreeing persons. So then, Koreans still want harmony to prevail in the workplace.

Among the complaints I heard from fellow Filipino engineers is that their Korean boss or counterpart does not trust them. This is manifested by the fact that they are given menial tasks or their opinions are not being listened to.

What I realize from this  situation is that this is not just true for Koreans. This is also true for any nationality. The common tenet is that, in order for you to be trusted, you have to exhibit trustworthiness. Your Korean boss/counterpart might at first be skeptical of your abilities. But as you go along, show him/her what you are capable of doing. If you already established your trustworthiness, that's the time your Korean boss/counterpart gives their full trust and they might listen to your opinion.  

Companies the world over would describe their workforce as a "family." Indeed, this notion of a workforce as family is clearly substantiated in Korean companies. The evidence of this is that Korean companies usually provide their employees with meals, accommodation or gym membership among others. They regularly conduct team building activities in which the head of the department/section leads it in a paternal way. Korean bosses would also appreciate if his/her subordinates are open to him/her about their concerns or problems regarding work or colleagues. Sometimes, even with personal problems, they are willing to extend help. If the boss is reassigned to another project, he would prefer to staff it with people he has already worked with. This in essence, a Korean company operates like a true family.

For some, it is daunting that in some instances Koreans do not follow exactly the contract. More so, the policies change from time to time. The way I see it, Korean business practices tend to be flexible and more accommodating. They do this in ways beneficial to contracting parties and project participants.    

What I can only conclude having worked for several companies in the past years is that there is no such thing as a perfect company or workplace. There is only a company which can give opportunity to a certain extent optimal. And certainly, that is what Korean companies can offer. Aja!

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