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Intercultural Management - Tanzania

Being a Manager in Tanzania
Management Guide Tanzania

The business set up in Tanzania is conservative and hierarchical and to ensure successful cross cultural management it is important to remember that strictly defined roles exist. Older people and those in senior positions should be deferred to and treated with the utmost respect.

The business environment has seen major changes since the government moved away from socialism and towards an open, market-driven economy. Many former state-owned (parastatal) enterprises have been privatized.

In order to succeed in business in Tanzania, it is imperative that you network with other business people. It is equally important that you join the local chamber of commerce, Rotary Club, or industrial association or trade organization.

Tanzanians will spend a fair amount of time on the getting-to-know-you part of relationship building since friendship and mutual trust are highly valued in their society. Patience will be a necessary cross cultural attribute.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communication will be more effective when you are working in Tanzania, if you remember that honour and reputation play an important role. When holding meetings, it is important to ensure that any ideas raised do not expose or embarrass the individual.

The paternalism between manager and employee means that the role of managers often extends beyond the working life.

Approach to Change

Tanzania’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is low. Its’ conservatism means that change can often be seen as a threat to society. Of course, change does happen, but effective management in Tanzania needs to take into account that any change is going to take longer to implement.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid. Patience is the key to successful intercultural management when working in Tanzania. Essentially a relationship-driven culture, it should be understood that taking the time to get to know someone will always take precedence over any timelines.

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

Managers rely on rules and regulations that employees obey without question. Managers must learn to motivate employees. Teamwork is a relatively new concept. In the past, employees preferred to work with others from the same ethnic origins. With the advent of more westernized business practices, managers must spend more time on team building strategies and guiding employees to treat each other with mutual respect.

Some intercultural sensitivity is essential and you should remember that it is important never to chastise or criticize an employee publicly. When providing criticism, even under the guise of helpfulness, tread lightly and understand that employees are not comfortable with the concept of constructive criticism.

Boss or Team Player?

When the manager needs to work collectively with his / her team however, then it is important that the need to work collectively is stated and that the team is encouraged to operate openly in a non-threatening environment.

If an individual makes any contributions which are seen as not useful or necessary, cross cultural sensitivity will be necessary. It is essential that the individual does not feel shamed in front of his/her colleagues and that the rest of the group feel able to continue participating and offering their contributions.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Wait to be told where to sit. There may be a seating plan. Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business. Companies are hierarchical. Ultimate decision-making often rests with the CEO. The process of getting decisions from government officials can be very protracted. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. They are seen as confrontational. Tanzanians have a difficult time disagreeing, so do not think that things are going well simply because no one is challenging what you say. Proposals and contracts should be kept simple.

Want more? Go to the Intercultural Management Guides page

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