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Intercultural Management - Argentina

Being a Manager in Argentina
Management Guide Argentina1

The business set up in Argentina is hierarchical and, as such, clearly defined roles exist. To ensure successful cross cultural management it is important to remember this. People believe their supervisors have been chosen for their greater experience and it would be inappropriate for managers to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

Managers in Argentina are often paternalistic and relationships with their employees usually overlap into personal areas.

The Role of a Manager

If you are working with people from Argentina, it is important to remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration. Cross cultural communication needs to take into account that traditionally it would have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with, or ask ideas of one of a lower status.

However, this is changing and if you would like to encourage participation, you need to make it clear this is welcome and ensure you establish a non-threatening environment. Any ideas that are raised need to be treated gently so as to protect the reputation of the participant.

Because of the paternalistic attitude of managers, the role often extends into one of giving advice on personal matters.

Approach to Change

Argentina’s intercultural readiness for change is slight. A long and turbulent political and economic past has created a low tolerance for change and the risk associated with it. Although changes are made, they are made slowly and require a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.

Failure in Argentina creates long term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others and is not viewed as a positive opportunity to learn from mistakes as it may be in more risk-tolerant countries. Because of this attitude it is important for innovations to have a track record noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Argentina is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Argentina will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.

While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.

Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.

Decision Making

Business can be slow while decisions are referred to the top of the hierarchy and patience is the key to successful intercultural management. Decisions can be based upon the personal preference of the decision maker, which is why spending time to develop trust and personal relationships is essential.

In trying to achieve a decision, avoid high-pressure sales tactics as these are seen as confrontational and repeat important points after they have been stated.

Boss or Team Player?

The hierarchical nature of the Argentinian business world means it is important that the manager maintains his/her role as boss.

When the manager needs to work collectively, this needs to be clearly stated.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Successful cross cultural communication will need to take into account Argentina’s relationship-driven culture. If at all possible, it is important to be introduced by a third-party. The Argentine embassy in your country, your embassy in Argentina, or the Chamber of Commerce can often recommend people to fill this important role.

It takes time to develop relationships and Argentines prefer face-to-face meetings. You should expect these in the office as well as in social situations. Argentines will want to get to know you as an individual before they will conduct business with you and, once a relationship has developed, their loyalty will be to you rather than to the company you represent. This is why it is important not to change your negotiating team.

Intercultural sensitivity is important. Be prepared for lots of name-dropping. Nepotism is rife in Argentina and does not have the same negative connotation that it carries elsewhere.

Although it is not necessary to speak Spanish, any attempt to do so is greatly appreciated and marks you as an individual who is interested in developing a long-term relationship.

Want more? Go to the Intercultural Management Guides page.

If you want some formal training on working in Argentina, we run our own Cultural Awareness Course on Argentina.

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