To be or to do? Gapfill!

The behaviours of ‘western’ and Indonesian businessmen eloquently discussed by George B. Whitfield, III.

  • What advice would you give to foreign businessmen in Indonesia?!
  • Is there a right and a wrong way for them to behave?
  • Have you ever witnessed any ‘wrong’ behaviour? Comments below!

Fill in the gaps with words and phrases from the box. Then click ‘Check your answers!’ for feedback. (There are more words and phrases in the list than there are gaps!)

If you agree or disagree with any of the claims made by the writer, add a comment and let’s discuss!


Instructions

Enter the following items into the gaps, then click 'Check your answers!'
nose, acceptance, time is money, threat, bakso, dismiss, welfare, nurture, Gudang Garam, common ground, goal setting, strive for, on the go, boredom, doers

Is it necessary to accomplish great things to feel your life has been worthwhile? Is it enough just to be content with one’s place in the natural order of the universe? These questions address the issue of what a culture considers the proper activity of Mankind.

Anthropologists make a distinction between people who are “doing,” and people who are “being.” Most expatriates from Western cultures living in Indonesia are “ (1) .” This means they hold the belief that if people work hard they will be rewarded, looking to tomorrow for the rewards worked for today.

Western proverbs like “Idle hands are the devil’s workplace,” “No rest for the weary,” and “Keep your (2) to the grindstone” refer to the ethic of hard work found in many western cultures.

In a western culture, an idle employee might hear his manager tell him, “If you can’t find something to do yourself, I will find something for you.” With the implied (3) that what your manager finds for you to do will not be as pleasant as what you could find yourself.

People who are “doers” tend not only to work hard but to play hard also. This means that leisure time may be filled with activities to keep the person from becoming bored, (4) considered something to be avoided at all cost.

Western managers are often perceived by Indonesians as always (5) , never stopping to talk or to build relationships. This can also be interpreted as an indifference or even dislike on the part of the foreign professional toward his or her Indonesian co-workers.

This ‘doing’, action-oriented mentality is generally not found in traditional Indonesian business culture. In Indonesia, there is a belief that there is a natural order to the universe. Man need not (6) what is not destined to be; one should be content with one’s place in the natural order.

This translates into an attitude in the office that some things are beyond human control and that there may not be anything that one can or should do about a particular situation. If a production line shuts down because of poor maintenance, if a deadline is missed, or a meeting isn’t scheduled, the common Indonesian attitude is one of (7) . There is nothing that can be done about the situation so there is no reason to worry about it.

In the West this may be seen as a sign of incompetence on the part of the employee responsible for the situation. However, remember that in Indonesia incompetence alone is not a valid reason to (8) an employee.

The work relationship in Indonesia is paternal. The Bapak, the father, looks out for the (9) of the employees in return for loyalty. The maintenance of the harmony in the office will normally take precedence over work performance.

Indonesian managers should understand that productivity, efficiency and (10) are usually top priorities for Western managers. Forming an effective, third “Corporate Culture” which draws from the best of Western and Indonesian business cultures requires that the professionals on both sides find some (11) with which to work. Indonesian managers will have to understand cause and effect relationships, and that productivity can be improved through diligence, planning, and hard work.

For the expatriate manager, this means taking the time to show an interest in your Indonesian co-workers and in the Indonesian culture in general. Western business culture is often cold and impersonal with a “ (12) ” attitude. Feelings on the part of the foreign professional that something is “nothing personal, only business,” will not be understood in Indonesia. Here, all business relationships are personal relationships which one must take time to build and (13) .

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