By Kirsten Groenen
The Aruban population has a diverse ethnical field, with many different cultures and languages. However, it is still known as “One Happy Island”. The fact that everyone lives happy with and next to each other on the island, doesn’t automatically mean that they work at “One Happy Workplace”.
When I started my internship as a hostess in the F&B outlet, I immediately sensed some tensions, but I could not figure out wat it was. Then, one day, the answer came to me, after an incident during the breakfast buffet.
As a hostess it is my job to make sure that the guests are honestly divided between the servers. A few days ago, there were some guests who preferred to have their meal outside. They also requested to be served by Lynn. Lynn, a server from the Philippines, was working indoors that day. There were only Hispanic colleagues working on the patio, so I approached them and told them that Lynn was serving a table in their station. The Hispanic servers started an argument with me in front of the guest, because they did not think it was fair to give this table to Lynn.
This reaction surprised me, because the servers had always shared their tables the weeks before. I asked my supervisor what the big issue was this time. Apparently, in the other situations, they had been sharing tables within their own ethnical group and that’s not a problem at all, because all the Filipinos are working together and sharing their tips, just like the Hispanics do.
After the incident everything became clear to me. The team is divided in two groups: the Hispanics and the Filipinos, who tend not to work together. During the seventies, the Philippines suffered from a recession. That caused many Filipinos to search for work overseas. Because the Philippines and Aruba both were a Spanish colony, they share not only a language, but also a part of their culture. That made Aruba a good place to work for the Filipinos. However, the Filipinos also share some of their culture with the Asians, where the Arubans share some of the African and Dutch culture. Therefore, the Hispanic and Filipino cultures have at least as many differences as similarities
After the incident I did not only learn that I have to deal with a divided group, but I also learned to see the differences between the ethnical groups and accommodate my behaviour. For instance, when I communicate with the Hispanic girls, I speak with more attitude, but when I communicate with the Filipinos, I am more serious and compassionate.
To cut a long story short: It is possible to work with a divided team, when you pay attention and are open to learn. If you use the differences in a team to your advantage, it doesn’t weaken the team. It enriches it.