Intercultural Management - Brazil
Being a Manager in Brazil
Effective cross cultural management needs to bear in mind the hierarchical business set up in Brazil. Decision-making is often reserved for the most senior people. Taking the time to build the proper working relationship is crucial to your success. Coming in as an outsider is often difficult, so it is advisable to have a third-party introduction.
Business practices vary by region. In the major cities of Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, many companies are accustomed to dealing with international businesses. In other areas, the business practices may be less international and more patriarchal.
The Role of a Manager
When working in Brazil, good cross cultural management needs to realize the importance of each person’s distinct role within the organization. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
In many smaller companies, management style is paternalistic, with the boss taking on a parental role. Their objective is to guide employees and help them achieve the goal. When empowered and encouraged to do so, Brazilians can be extremely creative and work well in teams.
Approach to Change
Brazil’s intercultural tolerance and readiness for change is apparent although Brazil remains a country that is cautious in its business dealings. Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.
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 mean intercultural sensitivity is needed. While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Brazil causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Brazil is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Brazil 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.
There is a great disparity in terms of wage differentials, and therefore lifestyles and aspirations, among the different classes in Brazil. Power is held in the hands of the few. This hierarchical nature is reflected in the degree of formality observed among people in business situations. Great deference is paid to authority figures. Job function, scope of responsibility, and reporting relationships are clearly defined and strictly followed.
Boss or Team Player?
When meeting together and moderating ideas, 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. If someone is exposed and shamed, they may likely not participate again, and it will likely stem the flow of ideas and the participation of the entire group.
Intercultural sensitivity is important and it is worth remembering that praise should be given to the entire group as well, and not to individuals.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Expect questions about your company since Brazilians are more comfortable doing business with people and companies they know. You should wait for your Brazilian colleagues to raise the business subject. Often the people you negotiate with will not have decision-making authority. To avoid any cross cultural misunderstandings, it is advisable to hire a translator if your Portuguese is not fluent. Use local lawyers and accountants for negotiations. Brazilians resent an outside legal presence. Brazilian business is hierarchical. Decisions are made by the highest-ranking person.