[ Hi there: I can’t apologize for the wry or pessimistic nature of the post; but I hope you’re not too put off by it Precious Reader. Most of the time we celebrate the positive aspects of the Pinoy personality. Just not this time. Thanks and acknowledgment for the plasticman pic to cooltoyreview.com and happy workweek ahead, everyone! ]
YOU KNOW it, I know it, we all know it.
“Kaplastikan” (the first and last time I’ll mark the word with quote marks, it is, after all used almost universally where Filipino is spoken) is as much a part of Pinoy existence as rice, videoke and halo-halo. It is time to acknowledge it, at home, in the workplace and in public life, and to accept it for what is: something that all of us use, recognize and live with.
As a working definition, let me offer one: behavior or speech that is often insincere but more or less acceptable to the listener or person/s around, designed to avoid awkwardness, unnecessary disagreements or minor misunderstandings which do not affect the result of the current interaction “facilitated” by such plastic behavior (the adjective form of kaplastikan).
Frequently we all deride or disparage our countrymen or women kabayan of kaplastikan but the truth is, all of us, no exception (unless you’re a living saint or a hermit), behave with kaplastikan regularly, occasionally or once in a while, as the need arises.
We do this to smooth things over, to please or mollify our superiors, or because we need a favor or two from someone we’d rather not interact with. No one can deny the utility of kaplastikan, where we (1) avoid making statements that, although true, would hurt or criticize the listener, (2) exaggerate the qualities of the listener in order to make him/ her feel better, (3) make white lies to avoid conflict between the speaker and the listener, or even third persons not around.
I won’t say these are personal experience/s (wink, wink), but here are a few specific workplace situations where, in my humble opinion, kaplastikan works :
Your co-worker doesn’t observe hygiene at a level you’re used to. This is probably one of the most common instances where kaplastikan is observed. Someone doesn’t brush or floss regularly, is very lax on deodorant, and shampoos the hair only during holidays. You would love to tell that person even ONCE that he or she is exhibiting oppressive behavior making life difficult for everyone around them.
But you don’t. Moreover, you pay compliments that are likely to distract, confuse or divert attention to the real problem of the co-worker’s lack (or total absence of ) hygiene. Reasons? You work with this person 8 or more hours a day, five days a week, and 50+ weeks a year. Whatever satisfaction you might derive telling that person off, you have to live with the consequences because you will continue to co-exist with that person, who has now realized you can’t stand his/her bad breath / body odor / hair odor.
So you (try to) focus on the positives and compliment that person on his/her cheerfulness, work attitude, and clean uniforms. You have to, because the alternative would be to hurt the person’s feelings (even if your sense of smell has long been offended). That is kaplastikan.
Listener doesn’t take criticism well and is in a position of authority over you. Specifically, in a position to make life miserable for you, all because you mentioned that person’s lack of fashion sense. That’s just a random example, but a similar trifle or minor detail is enough to wind up this type of person enough to put you in his/her crosshairs, just because you were a bit too candid for comfort.
The solution? It’s a bit drastic, but never mention anything negative, and only mention something when it’s positive. If it means being less than truthful, then you’re doing it in the spirit of self-preservation, which is after all one of the pillars of kaplastikan.
Obviously, this takes a lot of discipline, self-restraint and with some persons, denying what you see right in front of you. But keep practicing and with time, it will become second nature to you. Trust me, kaplastikan works with a lot of Pinoys.
when the evil avoided by kaplastikan is greater than being honest or sincere. You admit to everyone present that you are dismayed by your colleague’s quality of work. But in the process alienate yourself from everyone. You withhold your praise for your supervisor (and thus deny him/her the unanimous approval of his/her team he needs for full bonus / incentives), not the least because he/she doesn’t deserve it, but because you’re the only one who withholds, you’re a moving target for extra work and sh*tty shift hours. What to do, what to do?
Simple lang yan, bro / sis. DON’T be dismayed, DON’T withhold praise, in fact go the other way and tell everyone within earshot that your work mate is the best and praise your bisor to the high heavens.
Why? Because that is the way of the world, and that is how things get done. You go plastic, and you prove yourself a team player. Yung nga lang, truth is the first casualty. But you know what? In this case/s, there are things more important than truth.
Just a few specific situations, but you get my meaning, kabayan. Kaplastikan goes a long way, sometimes nga lang at the expense of truth. But everything balances out in the end.