Intercultural Management - Bahrain
Being a Manager in Bahrain
The business set up in Bahrain is extremely conservative and successful cross cultural management will understand the importance of maintaining a degree of formality. It is essential to defer to older people and those in senior positions and treat them with utmost respect. Appearances are extremely important so always wear good-quality conservative clothes and stay in a high standard international hotel.
Never do anything that would embarrass a Bahraini in the eyes of bystanders; status is important and you would be wise to flatter your business colleagues frequently.
The Bahrain business community is relatively small and your behaviour will quickly become public knowledge so intercultural sensitivity is extremely important. Once a relationship has developed, it will last a lifetime.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural management will be more effective with an understanding of the individual roles and existing hierarchy. Employees do not question the decisions that have been reached. Managers or those in a position to do so will make decisions, while in general their subordinates will wait to be told what to do.
Approach to Change
Bahrain’s intercultural competence and readiness for risk is low. Bahrain is a low risk and low change-tolerant culture. New projects will be carefully analyzed to assure that whatever risk they represent is thoroughly understood and addressed.
In order for change to take hold, the idea needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group. Intercultural sensitivity is important with Bahrain’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Cross cultural understanding is important when reviewing the approach to timelines. Bahrainis will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline.
Things generally take longer than expected since meetings are frequently interrupted and several meetings may be required to do what could be handled by a phone call at home.
When working with people from Bahrain, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
Globalization and intercultural expansion means some local managers may understand and appreciate the important of adherence to schedules and deadlines.
Managers reach decisions after many discussions with everyone involved. Once a decision is reached, it is handed down to subordinates to implement. Employees do not question the decisions that have been reached. Managers or those in a position to do so will make decisions, while in general their subordinates will wait to be told what to do. Risk-taking is limited to those in decision making positions.
Who you know is often more important than what you know in this relationship-driven culture. Having the right contacts helps move business along at a more rapid pace. Intercultural sensitivity is essential. Showing respect is an important value in Islamic societies, and while it is a hierarchical society, external signs of respect are expected towards all people.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working in Bahrain, it is important to remember that honour and reputation play an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate fully that team-member participation is desired.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Decisions are reached slowly and patience is essential for effective cross cultural management. If you try to rush things, you could risk your business relationship. The Bahrainis are skilled negotiators who view high-pressure sales tactics as offensive.
There is a tendency to avoid giving bad news or to do so indirectly. It is also common to give flowery acceptances, which may only mean "perhaps".
If you change the lead negotiator, negotiations will start over so the Bahrainis can develop a personal relationship with this person.
Bahrainis do not require as much personal space as most western cultures. As such, they will stand close to you while conversing and you may feel as if your personal space has been violated. Do not back away, as your business colleague will attempt to close the gap between the two of you and you may find yourself backed up against a wall.