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Intercultural Management - India

Being a Manager in India
Management Guide India

To ensure successful cross cultural management in India, you need be aware of the strict protocols and rituals that exist. The official caste system may be illegal, but a strong hierarchical structure, based upon job title, still exists in business.

When managing in India, it is important to keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.

The Role of a Manager

In India, 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. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.

It is the supervisor’s job to regularly check on the work of a subordinate and to provide regular constructive feedback. This may include monitoring work quality and the timing of its completion.

Approach to Change

India’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. India is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.

Failure in India causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Indians are generally quite careful about time guidelines in business situations where schedules and deadlines are regarded seriously. In addition, however, Indian society is concerned with relationships so there may be instances where there is some flexibility to strict standards of adhering to schedules. When working with people from India, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization. Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.

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.

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Decision Making

The culture in India is very relationship and group-oriented, so a strong emphasis is placed on maintaining harmony and proper lines of authority in the workplace. Some Indians, however, are extremely direct, in which case you can deal with them in the same way.

The manager makes decisions and accepts responsibility for work performed by subordinates. The middle manager may consult with subordinates before reaching a decision, although it is more likely that he will confer with trusted advisors or relatives.

To ensure successful cross cultural management, you will need to bear in mind the importance of people in the office maintaining the proper behavior relative to their position. For instance, it would be inappropriate for a manager to make copies or move a piece of furniture because these are tasks that lower level people do. To engage in behavior beneath you would lower your esteem in the office.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in India, it is important to remember that honor and reputation play an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is necessary. It is important to qualify ideas that are raised in a gentle manner, protecting the reputation of those bringing up ideas, so no one is shamed.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Cross cultural management will be more effective if you understand the importance of personal relationships. They are crucial to conducting business and are based on respect and trust. It takes time to develop a comfortable working relationship and you will need patience and perseverance.

Indians are non-confrontational. It is rare for them to overtly disagree, although this is beginning to change in the managerial ranks. Decisions are reached by the person with the most authority but reaching that decision can be a slow process. Never appear over legalistic in negotiations; in general Indians do not trust the legal system and someone’s word is sufficient to reach an agreement. Successful negotiations may be celebrated over a meal.

Want more? Go to the Intercultural Management Guides page

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