Intercultural Management - Trinidad and Tobago
Being a Manager in the Trinidad and Tobago
The business set-up in the Trinidad and Tobago is generally straightforward. Many business practices mirror the UK or the USA. To ensure successful cross cultural management it is worth remembering that although status is important, it is a good idea to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
Women have not achieved parity in business situations, although many women work outside of the home. In many ways, Trinidad and Tobago is a macho culture, and women are not considered to be the equal of men, especially in business situations and some intercultural sensitivity may be required.
People from Trinidad and Tobago are outwardly warm and friendly. This is part of their charm. While it is a good idea to mirror their behavior, do not appear overly familiar at the initial greeting. It takes time to develop relationships: in the office, and over extended lunches or dinners. Business people will want to get to know you as an individual before conducting business with you and patience may be a necessary cross cultural attribute. Once a relationship has developed, their loyalty will be to you rather than to the company you represent.
Role of a ManagerSuccessful intercultural management will be more easily established if you bear in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.
In Trinidad and Tobago, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.
Approach to ChangeTrinidad and Tobago’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Trinidad and Tobago 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.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk. 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 PrioritiesTrinidad and Tobago is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Trinidad and Tobago 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 MakingBusinesses retain hierarchical structures and the person with the most authority generally makes the decisions. Smaller companies can be paternalistic with the boss taking on the role of parent. Their goal is to guide the employee and help them achieve the goal.
Boss or Team Player?If you are working with people from the Trinidad and Tobago, it is important to remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration. Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills. It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with, or ask ideas of one of a lower status.
Successful cross cultural management will recognize that teamwork is becoming increasingly important in most organizations.
Communication and Negotiation StylesExpect some small talk before getting down to business. Business people often want to get to know people before doing business with them. However, younger business people are likely to start business discussions with a bare minimum of formalities. English is the language of business, although it often takes time to understand the cadence. Defer to the person with the most authority, as they are most likely the decision maker. Decisions are often based upon the personal preference of the decision maker, which is why spending time to develop trust and personal relationships is crucial. Business people are generally direct and say what they mean. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. They are seen as confrontational. Bargaining is customary and expected.
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