Working In Thailand
I was lucky enough to be offered a position in Thailand. I’ve been here many times since my first visit in ’86, but that was always as a tourist. Now I was coming here to work. I gave up a nice position in Australia and headed out for a
6 month contract which is a probationary period before being offered a 3 year contract. Half way through this, what have I learned?
Like many people (as I suspect) the first stop is the internet to find out the differences and the peculiarities of working out here, 100’s of sites give you the advice, however on reflection, until you’re out here you don’t
Last month I delivered a presentation to a group of 40 students in the last few weeks of their MBA program on “How to get a Job”. One of the students asked a very pertinent question “How much have I had to change my cultural
beliefs and management style and how much change was I expecting from my Thai workers in order to be successful.” Not really a question I was expecting, however I did my best to answer.
In my terms I’ve learned to smile a lot and nod my head, whilst inside start screaming with frustration (I actually lost it last week when a bank employee “lost” 1 million baht of the companies money and was a bit upset
that I should demand to know where it had gone), but that’s been the only time I’ve showed anger. Rather than side with me, my staff were a bit surprised at my outburst. In terms of my management style I gleaned a lot of info from
Stick’s site especially the “Teaching in Thailand” section because essentially I have to teach or add value to my staff here, so our office is a fun office, we have lots of laughs and they are beginning to understand that
as long as the work is done, we can have fun. Our training sessions are interactive and are short and sharp. Tiger Woods once said that it takes 60 hours of practice to change one element of his golf swing (I think if he were ½ Thai it would
be more) and it does take time for some basic skills to sink in, however they do sink in eventually. Timekeeping, well they are getting better, nowadays, they are all in the office by 10 past 9 (for a 9 AM start), but none of them leave at 5.30,
sometimes well past 8 PM before the office is clear (I should state that I am generally gone by 5.45 and try to get them out, but they won’t budge). There is no confrontation in the office and I believe no “office politics”
which makes a refreshing change, all seem to work well, given the chance of an individual prize and target or a team one, the whole office wanted a team one.
The one area that I wanted change was that when I want something done, I usually want it done now, not in a week’s time or forget it, and I suppose that is the one area that I have asked them to change, and it’s slowly but surely is working,
however they are seeing the benefit in this as well.
I’m still not a real expat in Thailand. I still wait for the locals to cross the road and join in rather than take the lead, but I’m really enjoying my time here. I’m learning and developing into what I believe is a better
manager and person by trying to understand those cross cultural differences and if you do get the chance to work here, grab it, its very different from the holiday, but very worthwhile.
Yes working in Thailand is different, working with Thais is different. However when I left the services and joined the real world, I had to change. When I moved from England to Australia 5 years ago, I had to change, so no difference here.
I’ve had to change some more. Is it worth it, you betcha!
Would be interesting to hear from you again at the end of your contract.