Chilean companies & their employees – unproductive?

Sometimes the things that my classmates and teachers talk about surprise me and not at all in a negative way. Rather, I’m enlightened and many times struck by a ray of hope for the evolution of the average Chilean. Meaning my classmates and teachers seem to be, in my experience, not your everyday average Chileans and definitely not the Chileans that perhaps our parents once were (or still are.) Though there are many times when they talk about things I have no clue on (mainly knowledge one would have if he/she grew up here), there are other times when they talk about things I never expected, offering insight and opinions that shed some light on the changing profile of young executives in this country.

This was the case yesterday in class when we began deviating from the topic of the day. To offer a quick background, we were discussing how a company can be more than just a company but a brand in and of itself. The main requirement for this, in short, is to make sure that your internal client, i.e. employees, are happy. Happy employees will feel an affinity to the company’s brand. I was enjoying the discussion when all of a sudden the professor, a man between 45-50, professional and educated both here and in Spain, says to the class “Officially and on record, it’s been shown that Chile is the least productive country in regards to time management of employees and efficiency in the workplace.”

Scratch record, silence music, stop the presses.

Did my Chilean professor just say that in front of my Chilean peers and classmates?

Granted it’s something I’ve experienced, seen, heard about and witnessed in the past six years I’ve worked with Latin Americans but never in a million years did I expect to hear that from a Chilean in a room with other Chileans. Even more so, I never expected the majority of the Chilean classmates I have to actually AGREE with the statement.

What ensued was a series of examples and reasons as to WHY, from their perspective, Chileans weren’t productive. Words and phrases thrown out were (note that this was discussed in a general sense, in the “we” context, in the context of the work/labor force and delivered by Chileans. I.e. the foreigners, including myself, did not offer opinions):

  1. Chileans, as a general group, are lazy.
  2. Chileans lack motivation.
  3. Chileans lack good leadership.
  4. Chileans lack education.
  5. Even college graduates are unprofessional.
  6. Chileans are unreliable.
  7. There are fewer opportunities in Chile.

Other examples where offered but what I found to be more interesting were the anecdotes that followed each example of why Chileans were unproductive and inefficient in the workplace. For instance, one classmate shared with us that when it was time for her yearly review, her supervisor told her that she was “too anxious” because she consistently followed up with people on to-do’s and next steps. She stated that she had to be that way because following up once, twice and up to four times didn’t automatically make things happen. And for being proactive, she was labeled as “anxious” by her superior.

Another example (given by a classmate) is how Chileans will work until 7 or 8 p.m. when in comparison, Brazilians (in her example) will work until 6 pm. If she’s talking to a distributor for her company in Brazil and the line is disconnected, she stated that the Brazilians immediately call back. Whereas it was her experience that the same incident will happen with a Chilean and the Chilean will not only NOT return the call, but when she tries to call, the line rings and rings or it goes straight to voicemail. Upon locating the same Chilean distributor another day, the Chilean distributor will proclaim “Oh, I thought you were going to call ME back.” I did. “Oh yeah but it was 6:30 pm, I left of course.” In the middle of our pending phone conversation? Yes.

My contribution to the discussion did not involve bashing how Chileans work nor did it involve criticizing Chileans in any way. In fact, I offered this morsel of insight, valuable or not: I stated that in the U.S. most people learn proper business conduct and etiquette from the companies that hire them. We can study the most “random” things in college (English Literature, History, Anthropology, etc) and still find ourselves working in a financial firm, venture capital, branding or consumer products company. The point being that in the U.S., GENERALLY, we are taught the proper business culture when already in that culture. And I stated that from what I observed, Chileans were more preoccupied with making sure that one is the proper Ingeniero Comercial with the adequate amount of excel and economics and marketing courses necessary but with no aspect of how to properly function inside an organization.

I thought about it too. When I started my current job, I had zero experience in licensing. I had worked at a software company during the dot.com craze of the late 90s and when I was laid off due to lack of funding, I worked at a private wealth management firm. I was hired at my current company because I had the college education, I had the basic, fundamental skills needed and I had the drive and knowledge to learn a new business. Further, I had NO experience working with Japanese businesses nor did I have any idea how to conduct myself in a meeting or in negotiations with the Japanese. In fact, given that I was hired to work on the international side of the business, I didn’t have any idea how to do business with ANYONE who wasn’t American! Obviously it took a few months, but I learned all of that and I feel that I have even come to excel in some aspects of it. In the same situation, a Chilean company will try to find a candidate with the exact same business experience (or at least 80% of what’s required for the position) because to them, that’s what’s fundamental – past experience doing the exact same thing. But does that mean they’re hiring the most efficient person out there? Someone who may help increase productivity? If what our professor told us yesterday is true, then I think Chilean companies need to rethink how they do their hiring. That is, if they care about having productive employees.

The best example given yesterday (in my opinion) was by the women who work at Lider, one of the major supermarket/hipermarket chains here in Chile. Lider is now owned by Walmart and as such, we were given a top-line example of how the business culture at Lider changed when Walmart came with their team to implement the new procedures and spark the Walmart culture of “Save Money. Live Better.” Though we weren’t offered major specifics, the examples offered clearly demonstrated how Walmart, with its American business culture, spent time observing how corporate and retail Lider worked and implemented changes that would increase productivity and efficiency across the board. It’s a work-in-progress we were told, but already changes were apparent.

Then I got to thinking of the comment thrown out about professionalism and how many Chilean executives and professionals lack this fundamental quality in the workplace. I recalled stories I’ve heard about (mainly) women who go into their bosses offices here, only to sit down and literally start bawling. I’ve heard this more than once, with different women in different companies for different reasons. Regardless of the reason, I’m always taken aback by this. What kind of executive allows her superiors, even her peers, to see her break down in the office? Whether right or wrong, to do so only promotes the quick labeling of her (us) as weak or fragile and not someone who can carry a burden of responsibility. The UBER female in me wants to ask these women “Helllooooooo did you not see the episode of Sex and the City when Samantha and Charlotte talked about the effects of crying the workplace? Do I need to do a PSA about this for all those out there who feel the overwhelming need to bawl and ruin the reputation of the rest of us?” Because I would if I could. This is just one example of the unprofessional nature of some executives here in Chile, but I can add to the mix those who take their half hour cigarette breaks, those who go out for 2+ hour lunches, those women who abuse their maternity leave and tack on days that become weeks that turn into months outside the office because their baby spits up milk or whatever lame excuse is used…

I can’t say that the United States is the most productive or most efficient business capital of the world, nor can I attest that our workers don’t slack off. I’ve seen many who do, hiding behind the guise of a Senior This-or-That title and taking credit for work done by those working under them. I’ve seen those who stroll into work at 10 am and leave at 4 pm everyday. And I’ve seen those who sit at their computers watching YouTube all day long instead of working.

But in light of the fact that I live in Chile now, I wonder, if what our professor told us is true, what’s the real reason behind it? Further, how can it be changed?

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Lider’s Bicentennial GWP

For those who are unfamiliar with the letters GWP, they stand for “gift with purchase” and as it sounds, it’s usually a little trinket a buyer receives after buying something else. Usually, but not always, a company will do this type of promotion jointly with another company and together, they each have the opportunity to promote their product/brand. The best part is that the consumer generally wins because the GWPs tend to come with items one is already going to buy or is already willing to buy.

Lider, a (former) Chilean hipermarket purchased by the monster known as Walmart, is not one of my favorite places in the world and I rarely go there for my grocery needs. This is due in part to my great distaste for all things Walmart in general and also because Lider, as a place in existence to satisfy grocery needs, doesn’t speak to me at all. In fact, all it really says to me is “Andrea turn around and go to Jumbo.”

There’s one exception: the Lider Express located on Bilbao and Pedro de Valdivia, a few blocks from our apartment in Providencia. I won’t lie. This Lider Express has gotten us out of jams many a times and it’s the only Lider I’ve stepped foot in and actually purchased something since I moved here. That was the case this evening when G and I noted we didn’t have a single tomato in our apartment (crucial part of our weekly diet) or anything that could accompany the chicken we were thinking of bbq-ing for dinner. Enter Lider Express to save the day.

As we walked in, G said to me “Did you see their promotion?” What promotion? “If you spend $15,000 pesos (about US$30) you get a free Chilean Recipes Cookbook.” Cool.

I didn’t think much of it until G went to claim the GWP with our receipt of over $15,000 pesos spent. But once I saw it, I swooooooned!! Give or take, 42 glossy pages of the yummiest of Chilean recipes I could ever lay my hands on FOR FREE (kind of.) Everything from Chilean drinks, to Chilean seafood recipes, soups, casseroles and desserts. Hello, 7th Heaven!

Front cover of the recipe book. Unabashed marketing of the Lider Express brand but who cares? I want to know how one makes that empanada!

This is followed by pages and pages of images of typical Chilean dishes and their corresponding step by step instructions for do-it-yourself brilliance!

Almejas en Salsa Verde & Sopa de Choritos con Verduras (Clams in Green Salsa & Mussel soup with vegetables.)

Porotos granados con Pilco & Porotos con Choricillos (Typical Chilean beans with corn and Beans with Chorizo)

Sopaipillas con Pebre & Ajiaco (Sopaipillas that are generally salty rather than sweet, with a type of Chilean pico de gallo & Ajiaco – a type of potato and beef soup with A WHOLE LOTTA garlic. Nothing short of fabulous.)

Pastel de Jaiba (Crab casserole? Hello, lovely!)

Pastel de Choclo – the quintessential Chilean dish, following the empanada. (Corn casserole that contains meat, chicken, olives and onions. Delish!)

And much, much more!

I’m quite impressed with this marketing initiative on behalf of Lider Express and at home, we’re really excited to hop-to on many of these recipes. I love the small packaging, glossy photos and simple, yet delicious recipes that make up this GWP.

By far worth the minimum of $15,000 pesos Lider wants you to spend in their stores. At least in my book.

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Children’s Day (Día del Niño) – friend or foe?

In my attempt to understand the concept of Children’s Day (Día del Niño) which seems to be a big deal in many Latin American countries, I took to the Internet. I found out that Children’s Day is an idea adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954. The main message of this day is to recognize children, pay homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well being. Politically speaking, the idea of Children’s Day was enforced to promote the rights of all children around the world.

The Declaration of Rights of a Child, simply put:

1. All children have the right to what follows, no matter what their race, color sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or where they were born or who they were born to.

2. You have the special right to grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity.

3. You have a right to a name and to be a member of a country.

4. You have a right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.

5. You have the right to special care if handicapped in any way.

6. You have the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help.

7.You have the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful. Your parents have special responsibilities for your education and guidance.

8. You have the right always to be among the first to get help.

9. You have the right to be protected against cruel acts or exploitation, e.g. you shall not be obliged to do work which hinders your development both physically and mentally. You should not work before a minimum age and never when that would hinder your health, and your moral and physical development.

10. You should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.

I completely and totally agree with these rights granted to all children around the world and further, would personally work vehemently to always ensure that children are protected from any and all types of harm. In addition, I agree with the general mission of the UN’s General Assembly’s purpose behind promoting a Children’s Day: “a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.

Truly it’s a great principle, great mission, aims to teach great values and promotes the fraternity among children and the safekeeping of all children. What cold be wrong with Children’s Day??

I’ll tell you: the retailers and their aim to make you feel like a guilty mofo if you don’t go out and get your kids presents they’ve come to expect. These retailers, and their marketing strategy, aim to make you out as the best parent/uncle/grandparent/cousin/friend/what-have-you if you buy the child the latest and greatest gadget “available only at XYZ store” and for a “limited time.” The underlying message here is that if you don’t go out and buy said toy or gadget, you’re weird and plain wicked for not appreciating kids and how important they are to society.

Oh but the retailers aren’t at fault, really. Society believes the hype as we believe the hype about Christmas and birthdays and Valentine’s Day. If you were to encounter someone who say, never celebrated birthdays or gave gifts on someone’s birthday, I’m sure we’d all conclude the guy/woman is a nut and carry on our merry way. In this case, I’m the nut because in the States, I don’t recall ever celebrating – or even hearing about – Children’s Day. As I got older and began to work in the children’s entertainment industry, from a revenue generating level, I welcomed Children’s Day in other territories as a prime time to make some “holiday” cash by selling our goods and helping my bottom line. See? Even I succumbed to the hype surrounding Children’s Day, only it was from the worst angle possible! Using their desires to generate income for a business purpose. Ugly, to say the least.

From a more objective perspective one thing is decidedly clear: based on the advertisements I see on tv and in print, it appears that the Chilean retailers don’t embrace the true nature of Children’s Day. Perhaps they don’t because the consumer goes out and buys what’s necessary because it’s what has always occurred and what’s expected. I certainly get the retailer side of things and the fact that it’s all based on the general public’s actions and needs. I wonder if I’ll even see some kind of organized activity that truly embraces the nature of Children’s Day as the UN General Assembly had hoped: promoting fraternity and understanding between children.

Obviously I’m the big weirdo fighting the power here, and I’m ok with that. I stated on Facebook that I was anti-Children’s Day and I’m sure more people than not thought I was a b*tch for writing that. The thing is, I’m fine with being a weirdo because after some researching, I’m even more adamant about NOT going out and buying kids gifts this coming Sunday! Yes it’s partly due to having never celebrated Children’s Day growing up (though believe it or not, there IS an actual date dedicated to this back home) and yes, it’s partly due to not having kids of my own. But having worked in the children’s entertainment field, I can completely and totally attest that this day is nothing more than a marketing scheme embraced by retailers and all companies that make and sell children’s products. They all want to make a buck off you. Sorry dear parents, but it’s true. Much like Christmas and what it’s become to those who aren’t really celebrating family and/or the birth of Jesus Christ.

Someday in the future this will become a point of contention between G and me. We’re taking his kids snowboarding this weekend, which in my humble, non-parent opinion should suffice as celebration for their contribution to society and their mere existence. But of course, we were at the mall yesterday and he got them each a gift for Sunday as well. So be it. They aren’t my kids and I’m not about to force my wild opinions on him and influence how he is as a father to them.

But trust me. Someday with my own kids I hope to make Children’s Day more about getting along with other kids and less about what the hell I can buy them at Falabella or Jumbo.

Call me crazy.

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I choose my choice!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of kids lately, trying to come to terms with the fact that more than half of the people I went to either grammar school, high school or college with are now parents and I’m nowhere near the task. Arguably I’m more “ahead of that game” than an unmarried, otherwise single, counterpart I suppose, but mentally I’m no further ahead than I was when I graduate college. Obviously many personal factors contribute to this: 1) adjusting to a new country 2) analysis of the disadvantages thrown at mothers in the workforce, specifically in this country and 3) trying to have a couple’s life prior to the kiddo scenario, considering I married at a much later age. All of the above are important factors to consider prior to embarking on the role of a lifetime (i.e. parenthood), the most pressing of all, to me, is the stunted career I’ll have if I don’t play my cards right.

Then today I came across yet another variable to this ever-present “Maybe Kids … yes…no….when….what” library of questions. This article published earlier this month in New York Magazine entitled “All Joy and No Fun. Why parents hate parenting.” And before half the readers of this blog jump to defend the institution of kids and parenting, let me clarify that I am neither bashing, nor supporting this article. What I am doing is adding it to my database of “food for thought on” and “things to consider before.” Besides, there’s some great writing to be found in this article and it seems very well supported, siting numerous studies and books that speak into the subject of happiness, kids, relationships and parenting. I’m never one to pass up a good read and just because the subject is laced with controversy only makes me love it more (hence, I’m promoting your reading of it.)

It’s surprising to read that one study after another shows that having kids DOES NOT make women, men and couples happier. In fact, as far as couple’s are concerned, marital satisfaction takes a tumble once kids are born (though parents of babies and toddlers will be happy to know that this satisfaction increases between your kid’s ages of 6-12 … then plummets again when they’re teenagers – go figure.) Yeah, as a species it makes sense that we want to procreate, pass our genes on, contribute to a legacy, etc, etc but as individuals, this article really challenges the notion of whether as PEOPLE, cultural and social people, it ever makes sense to have kids.

And what’s the main reason behind the unpleasant view on parenting itself? We’ve become robots of perfection, buckling under the pressure of “not good enough” and transferring it on to the kids! In January I posted this, describing the competitive landscape of where I lived in California and this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes being a parent intolerable. This article states that before urbanization, kids were considered an asset to economic growth since they worked the farmland next to you or worked in the shop/small family business owned by the parents. Their existence had a purpose that propelled the entire family forward. Nowadays, children are not regarded in the same capacity, seen more so as “subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed” in order to promote the creation of supreme beings by the skillful hands of the parents. It’s not enough to have the big house, fancy car and European family trips – your kids need to be the personification of success just as the yacht might be.

Sounds like a lot of pressure to me. No wonder parents are stressed out and no wonder kids are stressed out. I’ve seen it first hand (and this article mentions it as well), but kids these days are over-scheduled. Can you believe such a notion? And to think that I had hours and hours of free time to play and pretend and cut coupons out of the newspaper so that I could play bank … with myself.

Geez, what a disadvantage I’ve created waiting this long to have kids. I’ve chosen to work on me, my career, my education, my life and now when I have kids, I’ll know exactly what I’m missing when I can’t focus on all of the aforementioned points. It’s different when young adults leave their parents house and shortly thereafter become parents. Chances are they haven’t had much time to notice what they’ll be missing once they do have kids.

Incidentally, when I finished reading this article it immediately occurred to me to Google the exact same phrase/notion in Spanish, specifically searching Chilean websites. I came across a lot of articles on the INABILITY to have kids, an article on couples choosing pets over kids (from a site called “Conciencia Animal” or “Animal Consciousness,” an article on a woman who dated a guy forever who didn’t want to have kids and who then ended up having kids with the woman he had a relationship with after her … and finally, at the very bottom of the first Google page, an article from Cosmo (hardly a Chilean publication) speaking to the notion of “So what if I don’t want kids?” In this very quick search (and I cannot stress enough how very quickly this search occurred), I did come across an article from a newspaper from the South of Chile called “Diario El Sur” where the writer speaks about the “dilemma” associated with the decision of having kids or not and how three entities affect this decision one way or another: 1) dedication to one’s career, 2) the “voice” of the Church, 3) contraception. But the best article I came across on Chilean sites (again, in my ever-so-quick search) talks about how the decision to have fewer kids is an active decision by educated adults who wish to focus on responsible parenting. Blogs, of course, provide a wealth of varying opinions on the matter and this one speaks quite candidly on the stance of “not wanting to be a mother someday.” Still, I have to say that the majority of the articles that come up when I Google “Tener hijos hace feliz?” or “Having kids makes one happy?” are about infertility, lower birth rates and selfish individuals. Check it out and see for yourself!

Just for the record folks, I’m not anti having kids. In fact, I’ve made reference to my relatively pro stance on the matter in the past. I do, however, find it quite interesting that the reality is SO different than what the marketers want you to believe. Parenting, in short, seems to kind of suck.

The Nestle’s, Proctor & Gamble’s and milk companies of this world (among so many other consumer products companies that exist), want you to believe that being a mom is the best job you’ll ever have … that’s the only way they’ll get you to buy that product that will FOR SURE prove to all the other parents that you’re the world’s best mom (or dad!) These companies market their products by speaking to the “proud parent” in all of you: you want your kids whites to be whiter than all the rest, right? Buy Tide! You want your kids to grow up with the healthiest bones so they can kick the goal at the last minute and win that soccer game, right? Then buy the yogurt! We build strong bones! The marketing to the inner proud parent is endless and so it’s NO WONDER (in my opinion) that one can barely find material on NOT having kids here in Chile. After all, in reference to my blog last week, the proud parent can be ABC1 or D – here is a motivating factor (to purchase a product) that doesn’t discriminate.

Anyway, I’m all over the place today and feel that I’ve covered many topics. I’d like to take this opportunity to focus my thoughts and note that my feelings can best be described by one of Charlotte York’s finer moments in Sex and the City, where she’s arguing with Miranda on her decision to quit her job in order to focus on being a wife. Whether you agree with Miranda on how socially acceptable doing that ultimately is, Charlotte has a point when she yells:

“I choose my choice!! I choose my choice, I choose my choice!”


That’s all we really want.

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