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Insights into Working Effectively in Vietnam
Working effectively in Vietnam’s business environment requires a nuanced understanding of the local mindset and work culture. This article delves into the five distinct mindsets of Vietnamese workers based on their individual environments, shedding light on their attitudes towards work and reward.
The Varied Paces of Vietnam’s Economy
Vietnam’s economy operates at five different speeds, shaped by a combination of local and global factors. These speeds encompass various working environments, ranging from the government sector to foreign companies. Understanding these distinct paces is crucial for anyone seeking success in the Vietnamese business landscape.
The Five Personae in Vietnamese Business
1. The Frozen Civil Servant
The frozen civil servant: he started at early age -with a salary circa US$250 per month- thanks to cooptation, he gets employment for life and at age 60 -with an end-career income of 400$ to US$1,400/month for a minister + some food and transportation allowance. He is frozen because he has no incentive to work and improve. The more the pushback, the more it creates an incentive (a bonus) to ‘speed up the process of stamping approval.
2. The Local Employee
Similar to the frozen civil servant, local employees also respond to incentives. However, these bonuses are often distributed privately and tend to stay within predetermined boundaries set by employers or buyers of their services.
3. The Fast and Furious Oligarch
The fast and furious oligarch, has tremendous privileges in 1 sector or across sectors as ‘a license to monopoly’. He must act fast to get the most out of this ‘term’ in political parlance. Typically within 2 to 5 years great things can and must be accomplished if ‘you want to become a billionaire’. À short to medium term view, unless the Billionaire hiring you is also a visionnaire.
4. The Foreign Company Staff
The foreign company staff, this is the same profile anywhere in the world. We don’t need to elaborate on the profile and expectations, you just need to have lunch at a grade A office building in any capital city of Asia. Or invite some corporate guys of various ages to dine home and you will get the picture from school graduation, to manager and all the way up to ‘the lifetime achievement farewell’. Then comes the ‘well-deserved, quiet and resting’ retirement gardening or golfing depending on the company ladder top rung you reached, when the farewell party is past.
5. The Countryside Peasants
This is a status very specific to Vietnam. It happens fairly often every year after Tet holidays or after an economic crisis (by sector or global) when times get tougher or… too tough to be worth the struggle in town. It can be a semi or permanent exit from the rat race. The employee decides to ghost the job or the business world and return to the countryside, to the rental-free family home, to accept less income to help the family make more or less money, enjoy his time and avoid anything near stress or burnout. It is not heaven but every one else can ‘go to hell’.
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