Intercultural Management - Iraq
Being a Manager in Iraq
To ensure successful cross cultural management in Iraq, you need be aware of the strict protocols and rituals that exist. In business it is important to maintain a degree of formality. Older Iraqis and those in senior positions should be treated with respect and deference.
Iraq is undergoing a period of transition. Intercultural adaptability needs to take into account the recent upheaval that the country has seen. Most of the country’s political, social, physical, and economic infrastructures are in the process of being rebuilt. In June 2004, the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) was formed as a transitional, interim administration to restore security and stability in Iraq, create institutions for representative governance, and facilitate economic recovery. Due to the number of foreign companies involved in the reconstruction of the country, the predominant business culture may superficially appear more western than Iraqi.
Although a local agent is not technically required to conduct business in country, you will benefit from having an Iraqi representative or partner who knows the country and can win local support. In many ways Iraq is still a tribal society. It can be difficult for foreigners to function in the north without the support of Kurdish leaders, in the center of the country without Sunni Muslim support, and in the south of the country without Shi’ite Muslim support.
The Role of a Manager
In Iraq, 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. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.
Approach to Change
Iraq’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is minimal. This means that change is difficult to bring about and is not received with any enthusiasm. Projects will need to be carefully analyzed every step of the way to assure that all the risks have been assessed and understood.
Failure in Iraq causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others. 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 Priorities
Iraq is a fluid time culture, and as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Iraq will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline, and while appointments and schedules need to be set well in advance as a sign of respect for the individual, you need to understand that those schedules are seen as flexible, not necessarily needing to be adhered to.
When working with people from Iraq, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
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.
In general, business retains a strong hierarchical structure and intercultural sensitivity is required. Employees show respect to those in positions of authority. Managers tend to be dictatorial and autocratic. They expect their subordinates to follow established procedures without question.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working in Iraq intercultural sensitivity is essential. It is important to remember that reputation plays 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 their participation is desired.
Successful cross cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with their subordinates.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Effective cross cultural management will need to understand the importance placed on personal relationships. Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business. Companies are hierarchical and the highest-ranking person reaches decisions, albeit slowly. If you try to rush things, you will give offense and risk your business relationship. Iraqis are skilled negotiators. Iraqis may ask the same question several times to see if your response is consistent.