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Intercultural Management - Chile

Being a Manager in Chile
Management Guide Chile

The business set up in Chile is very formal and cross cultural management will be more successful if you err on the side of being overly formal and conservative rather than jeopardize a potential business relationship because you were too informal and appeared flippant.

For the most part, Chileans are formal in their business dealings, at least until a personal relationship has been developed. Good manners and proper etiquette are seen as a sign of good breeding.

It is a good idea to have a wide range of contacts. This is a country where knowing the right person is often more important than what you know. Interpersonal relationships, including loyalty to family and friends, are essential to business success.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communication will be more effective when managing in Chile, if you keep it in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

In Chile, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.

Approach to Change

Chile’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is apparent although changes are still made slowly, requiring a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation. It would be perceived as imprudent to introduce rapid change, and yet it would be recognized as poor management to resist change unnecessarily.

Cross cultural sensitivity is important with Chile’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid in Chile. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross cultural management.

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. Successful cross cultural management may require some degree of patience.

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

Decisions are reached at the top of the company, often after seeking input from all the stakeholders. Since Chileans believe business should be "win-win" scenarios, they attempt to find solutions that are in the best interest of all concerned.

Managers are more autocratic than in many other countries. They tell subordinates what they want done and how they expect them to perform the task. Subordinates follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status.

Boss or Team Player?

Chilean business is relatively hierarchical and managers are somewhat more autocratic than in many other countries. There are still the remnants of social class in the business arena. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions.

Managers tell subordinates what they want done and how they expect them to perform the task. They are also paternalistic and will assist their subordinates if they have personal problems. Employees follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status.

Successful cross cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with their subordinates. This can be as important as their technical knowledge.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

The formality apparent when dealing with Chileans extends into the board room. Wait to be told where to sit; there may be a seating plan. You can expect senior and mid-level executives to attend initial meetings. Mid-level executives will attend follow-up meetings. Chileans are extremely conservative; they value honesty and truth and do not appreciate “hard sell” techniques. Relationships are important and time is spent developing these. Intercultural adaptability and patience are essential as Chileans do not like to be rushed.

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