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Intercultural Management - Kazakhstan

Being a Manager in Kazakhstan
Management Guide Kazakhstan

Intercultural adaptability is essential when working in Kazakhstan and you need to understand the importance of investing time in developing and cementing relationships with your Kazakh business colleagues. Business practices may adhere to a more rigid hierarchy than many people from western countries are comfortable with and you must demonstrate patience and accept that things progress slowly and always seem to take twice as long as anticipated.

Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communication will be more successful if you recognize and value the specialized knowledge that employees at all levels bring. The most successful managers in Kazakhstan harness that wisdom and empower their employees to contribute. In Kazakhstan, as in most egalitarian cultures, positions of authority are earned largely on the basis of individual achievement and people at all levels of the organization, while respecting authority are free to aspire to those positions.

Approach to Change

Kazakhstan has a low tolerance for change and risk. Intercultural sensitivity is important as while in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Kazakhstan causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Kazakhstan is a moderate time culture and traditionally schedules and deadlines are viewed as flexible. However, the expectations of intercultural and global expansion have caused the Kazakhs to adopt relatively strict standards of adhering to schedules.

When working with people from Kazakhstan, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.

Decision Making

Decisions are reached slowly and patience is the key to successful intercultural management. This is a hierarchical culture where decisions are reached at the top, often with little input from the people below. Tribal loyalties are often more important than reporting relationships and supervisors may confer with someone with whom they feel a bond rather than with someone who has a technical expertise.

Subordinates are comfortable being dictated to as it is often the only way they have seen business conducted. Some younger, more entrepreneurial Kazakhs may find the old ways tiring and time-consuming, especially if they have lived in a foreign country.

Boss or Team Player?

Cross cultural knowledge and understanding of the hierarchical system is essential. Successful intercultural management will understand the importance of maintaining their positions of authority. Subordinates are comfortable being dictated to as it is often the only way they have seen business conducted. Some younger, more entrepreneurial Kazakhs may find the old ways tiring and time-consuming, especially if they have lived in a foreign country.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Kazakhstanis expect a certain amount of small talk before getting down to business. You should ask about the well being of the person you are meeting with and his household. Meeting with the head of an organization is fundamental to getting anything accomplished. Kazakhstanis place a high value on establishing social relationships during business negotiations. Casual and extended discussions over tea are an important part of conducting business.

You will have to be both patient and firm to negotiate in Kazakhstan as Kazakhs are tough negotiators. Your first offer should be realistic while allowing room for negotiation on both sides. Negotiations with privatized businesses may proceed more rapidly than those with government agencies. Important decisions are reached by the highest-ranking person so it is imperative that you ensure that the decision-maker is part of the negotiation process. If he is not, the process will take even longer than usual.

To avoid any cross cultural miscommunication, you should always arrange for your own translator. Many Kazakhs are not fluent in English and many will not speak the language at all.

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