Intercultural Management - Costa Rica
Being a Manager in Costa Rica
The business set up in Costa Rica is very formal and cross cultural management will be more successful if you bear in mind the importance of being courteous at all times. Unlike many other cultures, Ticos do not make distinctions based upon social class, perhaps because the middle class is the largest segment of their society. They strive to maintain their own and each other’s dignity and respect at all times. Therefore, it is imperative that you never do anything to embarrass a business colleague or diminish their reputation, especially in public.
Appearances matter. Ticos will judge you on where you stay, so choose a first class international hotel. Although business is less formal in the coastal areas, it is best to err on the side of being overly formal, and you can become more casual as it fits the situation.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural communication will be more effective when managing in Costa Rica, if you keep it in mind that each person has a very 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 inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
In Costa Rica, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns.
Approach to Change
Costa Rica’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is becoming more apparent although changes are still made slowly, requiring a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.
Cross cultural sensitivity is important with Costa Rica’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Deadlines and timescales are fluid in Costa Rica. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross cultural management.
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.
Since Ticos see everyone as deserving respect and dignity, business people take a collaborative approach to doing business. Decisions are generally reached by a consensus of the stakeholders rather than the most senior person. This allows everyone involved to have input and to feel that they are part of the process.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working with people from Costa Rica, cross cultural management will be more effective if you remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration. Unlike most other Latin cultures, Costa Ricans are generally comfortable working in groups to gain consensus. They believe that each member of the team has something to offer and should be respected for that expertise.
If you would like to encourage participation, it is important to establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate clearly that their participation is desired.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Expect a fair amount of small talk before getting down to business. Ticos prefer to get to know people before doing business with them. Senior level executives do not generally come to meetings until after the personal relationship has been developed.
Although many Ticos speak English, not all do. If you are not fluent in Spanish, you might want to hire an interpreter for sensitive negotiations to avoid any cross cultural misunderstandings. Negotiations and decisions take a long time. You must be patient. Decision-making involves reaching a consensus with all involved stakeholders, which can be time-consuming.