Intercultural Management - Burkina Faso
Being a Manager in Burkina Faso
Cross cultural sensitivity is essential when dealing with business set ups in Burkina Faso. This is a culture that places a lot of weight on age. Treat all people with respect as harmonious relations are important, but be especially cautious when dealing with elders or those in higher positions to pay homage to their life experiences.
Burkinabés never publicly disagree with someone who is older or more senior to themselves. It is a good idea to emulate this behavior.
If you are younger than 45, your status within your company will be evaluated from cues such as the hotel you stay in and the quality of your clothes. Staying in a first class hotel indicates that your company views you as a person of significance. Nonetheless, it is important for relatively young businesspeople to make a concerted effort to maintain a mature and businesslike demeanor.
The Role of a Manager
Burkinabés believe that managers are in their position because they have more experience than those they manage. Therefore, they do not expect managers to seek their input in an official manner, although they prefer managers who build consensus before reaching a decision.
Successful cross cultural management will be more easily achieved if you understand the importance of harmonious relations to the Burkinabés. You need to be careful not to publicly chastise or criticize employees. If you have something serious to discuss with a particular employee, it is often beneficial to use a trusted intermediary rather than handle the discussion yourself.
As in most hierarchical cultures, managers are expected to take a paternalistic attitude to their employees. This may include going to funerals or other rites of passage in an employee’s family.
Approach to Change
Burkina Faso’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is apparent, however, it would be imprudent to introduce rapid change. Tradition is valued, thus change is not readily embraced simply because it is new.
It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Burkinabés do not want to upset others in order to enforce strict adherence to a deadline. Although appointments and schedules need to be in advance as a sign of respect for the individual, these schedules are viewed as flexible so successful cross cultural management will require some patience.
Since time does not have the same meaning that it does in many western cultures, employees are not expected to work late. What is not finished today can always be done tomorrow. However, global and intercultural expansion means that some managers are beginning to understand the importance of adherence to schedules and deadlines.
Similar to the family structure, business is hierarchical. Employees are expected to show proper deference and respect towards those in higher positions. Although they may unofficially make an attempt to reach a consensus before reaching a decision, managers are the ultimate decision makers.
Expatriate managers are expected to show respect for what has been done prior to their arrival. Although the expat may be an expert in a particular area, the Burkinabé possesses the local knowledge of how to accomplish things within the culture. Intercultural sensitivity is important and you need to demonstrate respect for the local staff.
Boss or Team Player?
Burkinabés like working in teams and collaborate quite well with other employees of the same relative level. The communication within a team is generally quite open and friendly, although it may at times appear somewhat direct and blunt. Role allocation within the team is generally clearly defined and people will take greater responsibility for their specific task than for the group as a whole.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Effective cross cultural management will understand the importance of respecting the values of the Burkinabés. Since age is thought to indicate wisdom, it is a good idea to include older business people on your negotiating team. Recent university graduates will not be given credence since they do not have sufficient life experience.