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Do not take fear as your Advisor

"VIETNAMESE WOMEN – DO NOT TAKE FEAR AS YOUR ADVISOR" - A typical Netherlands woman, Mrs Nienke Trooster - Netherlands Ambassador in Vietnam, shares thoughts about Vietnamese people in general and Vietnamese women in particular, with more than four years of experience living and working in Vietnam.

Ms Ha Dang (Founder of Respect Vietnam) :

"Thank you Ambassador for your time, joining us in a very humble effort. We try to help women at work. It is talking about female leaders, female practitioners, female professionals or any people who actually a wage earner at work to see a lot of challenges happening to them everyday. So our platform is women for women simply, it is a chance for us to share inside stories, experience and opinion about all things within the boundaries of workplaces. So today is an honor to us to have your time and it will be amazing to have your story, simply any story that you feel like on the top of your head, your experience over the past few years working in Vietnam that you see that would be one of the fascinating stories you would like to tell us about how you and your team were able to achieve in Vietnam so far which I believe which be countless but pick one."

Madam Ambassador :

Vietnamese women. They are great Vietnamese women, let me tell you. They are really hard-working and clever and we have a lot of fun.

Well, I have worked here for 4 years and it's very hard to pick one success story and I don't like so much the idea of success stories because I do think there's not one success, the success of a team is that you have a constant trust among each other and I think that is very important.

And I think that's what our team is most of them are women, Vietnamese women. They are great Vietnamese women, let me tell you. They are really hard-working and clever and we have a lot of fun.

Ms Ha Dang: I think exactly that is the one because we have so many stories as we are getting so far people seeing the Vietnamese workforces is more like sentimental, sentimental in the way that's very easy to get into personal with something that professional at work. They put in this their emotion into their treatment the relationship is supposed to be professional is personal. What do you think about this opinion?

Madam Ambassador: For me, it is hard to say. I mean I am not a perfect.... ….either. There are different ways of dealing with things and you have to talk to my staff to get the real picture. (Laugh)

I do think there are many more interesting and important things than just work, you know family is expecting your help. I mean that's your life-work balance has to be bright and I sometimes struggle with that as well. I have 2 kids and that's always there and I have to say I admire women here because they very often have a double burden. They have to look up to their family and do their normal job.

So I have different responsibilities, that's why I'm the boss. But that doesn't mean that my task is in any way more important than the lady who comes to bring me coffee because I can't perform well if she so we all have in this, you know, we all have hard contribution and if we are respectful to each other and are genuinely interested in how the other is functioning in his work then it will work.

One of the challenges, of course, is that people are not brought up to come forward with their own ideas so much. We especially in the Netherlands, are very assertive. We are known as very direct, we don't beat around the bush to ask a lot of questions about the weather or how nice things are or your family.

And I think here in Vietnam, people at schools and universities and especially women I think are not seen as people that can speak up for themselves. You know, they are more there to follow and to serve others and I think for us it is very necessary to see that we got the talents and the brainpower and the passion and ideas and the inspiration of everybody because I'm sure that you know, there is an interesting person behind everybody's face.

Ms Ha Dang: It always takes time and within limited resources especially limited of time how you can manage, you know, have so many talks, you are working in so many different fields, you know, or expertise economic, social, so many. What is the backbone for all the dialogues and communication make sure that go through all that?

Madam Ambassador: I think it maybe it's being yourself. I said it before being honest as a genuine as an authentic person with a smile, a smile is very important. Don't take yourself too seriously. That's extremely important. Don't take yourself too seriously. Have a smile.

Ms Ha Dang: Do you have any advice for the young Vietnamese?

Madam Ambassador: Let me first say that I'm inspired very much by young Vietnamese women. One of the things that I think maybe Vietnamese women should do is not think that they need advice so much from others because they can look at themselves. They are doing very well and they are having so many qualities. So I think what I would say is be proud and one of the things also I would say: Don't fear. Even though you sometimes feel that you're in a situation where all this may expect you to behave in a certain way because you're a worker or an employee or a woman, you know people give you a certain role.

I have fears every day and think so but I think trying to think "I don't take fear as an advisor, you know, I know I'm a person that can think well that has good intentions". So with good intentions, you should be able to say what you want and do what you think is best to do.

Maybe my best advice is the advice my mom gave me and I love my mom. She's not here with me anymore. But I think of her every day my mom said to me number one in life is to love yourself, most important.


Madam Ambassador: I recall a special example, one of my support staff, years ago. She was a graduate. She was very knowledgeable. She was supposed to do accounting. She was so bad at it, always she would make mistakes in calculations even if she used a calculator. So, I was talking with her and I realised, she comes from a family, she was working just for fun, she did not have any economic compulsion to work.

No financial burden because her family lived in an area where the land value suddenly went up, so they sold some land and they had a big income from the bank, from the money deposit. She just came to work for fun, she had no responsibilities at all. Anything other than her responsibility, she could do, which she liked, but this accounting she didn’t like. So then I realised that I gave that to somebody else, whose job actually was not that, but who was good in math, and then I gave that responsibility to that woman.

It was good, at the end of the day, the lesson for me was that you have to complete the task, you have to find a way to reach your goal, so that’s what I did.



Madam Ambassador: I found that suddenly some staff members, with minimum notice, are leaving to other embassies, getting, being trained, and leaving. It was such a disappointment when that happened because that is something really different I find with Sri Lanka. Because in Sri Lanka, people sometimes, you know, being a developing country, everybody has issues of money, you want to get your life better and you want a better salary, it’s understandable. But I still find most people in Sri Lanka, if they leave for a better salary or, not that you hate the place and you know, it’s really difficult to work and you leave. But if you are going for economic reasons, you feel bad.

But here I do not see that. So it’s not how much you have learned or anything, it is finally what you are going to get, so you leave, and then. So there is no feeling towards what you have learned and what you have gained through the process, which is not good. I think as human beings, not being grateful or responsible is not a good thing, that is a bad thing which I have noticed.

Ms Ha Dang (Founder of Respect Vietnam): So overall, if you can do it again or you can do better, you can have time, and if you use some other way to do it differently, what do you think you could have done differently to not just handle, but manage those people to make them work better for you?

“Learn, learn and move, you are not to stay in this embassy forever. You do not get career advancement as such, because this is a small organisation, so you need to go to another embassy, international organisations, larger embassies, international organisations, big private companies, always look forward to the move”

Madam Ambassador: Well I would love to do a staff meeting if possible, every week to review. For this, I simply do not have time. So, to discuss how was their weekend, and what were their problems. I do that, but it’s extremely ad hoc. So I wish I could do it more frequently, and let them do things on their own. Sometimes I do let them do certain things and mess it up, and I said: “well, you didn’t think of this, you didn’t think of that, I kept quiet to see how you would handle it.”

So certain small projects which I don’t mind having the maximum impact, I just let them go and let them handle. It’s also Sri Lankan staff as well. So I let some projects, smaller ones, just be done on their own. And I would be the happiest if they can do it.

I always tell my staff: “learn, learn and move, you are not to stay in this embassy forever. You do not get career advancement as such, because this is a small organisation, so you need to go to another embassy, international organisations, larger embassies, international organisations, big private companies, always look forward to the move.” I encourage them, from the day that I came.

You have to go up in life, do different things, and get different experiences, I always encourage that. I always encourage people to move on, not to get stuck in one place, because life is short, and you have to do as many things as possible and get different kinds of experiences.

Ms Ha Dang: Well, thank you Madam Ambassador, the stories feel very real and very honest and full of experience. With what we are seeing, with so many activities of the Sri Lankan embassy in Vietnam, so exciting, so many, and with not many really big teams, but you can handle everything, that would show us how much the workforce’s actually put together under your leadership and management. So, we really appreciate your time sharing with us, and we hope that even current staff, and future ones, watching and learning from those experiences, will understand your expectation, and more dialogues like you said, more talking, and sharing information. And sometimes we have to spend time and make time to exchange information, and that would make, you know, a much more meaningful and interesting and fascinating experience for Sri Lankans in Vietnam. Thank you very much.


​"There are no great organizations.

There are only great people who make great organizations"


Respect Vietnam prepares purpose-driven leaders

& people-centric organizations

in the face of the fast-changing world of work

1 Comment

Aide Aker
Aide Aker
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