Intercultural Management - Latvia
Being a Manager in Latvia
The basic business style in Latvia is formal. In other words, in business it is best to adopt a formal approach and cultural management should bear in mind that Latvians pay close attention to hierarchy and status. Latvians respect corporate hierarchy and those who have attained positions of authority. In general, they have adopted a Western European approach to conducting business.
The Role of a Manager
Successful intercultural management is more likely to be achieved with some knowledge and understanding of Latvia’s history. Management in countries of the former Soviet Union is a complex, constantly evolving state-of-affairs, each country moving towards a market economy (with its’ accompanying protocols) at a different pace.
The transition to a free-market economy has brought about remarkable, but not wholesale changes in the business culture. Generally, among the older generation, you will find deference to authority, coupled with a sense of loyalty and a detached attitude for meeting objectives and goals of the company. Among younger workers, however, you’ll find an eagerness to explore the new opportunities that the market has to offer.
Approach to Change
Latvia’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. This country is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and because of this attitude, cross cultural sensitivity is going to be required. Failure can be viewed as a personal short-coming and can cause a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by the group.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Latvia is a moderate time culture and typically there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.
When working with people from Latvia, in order to achieve successful cross cultural management, it is 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 businesses that retain a strong hierarchical structure, managers tend to be autocratic. They expect their subordinates to follow standard procedures without question. In such companies, getting things accomplished is often a matter of knowing the right people who can then help circumvent the bureaucracy. In more entrepreneurial companies, individual initiative is prized and managers expect subordinates to work out the best course of action according to the current situation.
Boss or Team Player?
In post communist countries, there is a tradition of teamwork inherited from the communal aspects of the previous era where groups and work units commonly met together to discuss ideas and create plans. However, those plans seldom resulted in implementation or results, leading to apathy and cynicism among the workers.
Today the after-effects are still evident among much of the older generation resulting in a lack of drive and energy. However, there is vibrancy among the younger generation, who seem to be eager to tackle many of the challenges and take the opportunities presented. They will participate in teams and share ideas, but intercultural sensitivity will be needed and it should be understood that they will need to be coached in the process.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Latvians prefer to get down to business quickly and only engage in brief of small talk. You should never interrupt someone who is speaking and make sure you maintain eye contact while speaking. To avoid any cross cultural miscommunication, make sure your printed material is available in both English and Latvian. Latvians are deal-focused, although this is more the case with younger workers.
Business is hierarchical and decision-making is held at the top of the company. Decisions are reached slowly. Latvians often use time as a tactic, especially if they know that you have a deadline. Be cautious about letting your business colleagues know that you are under time pressure or they will delay even more. Latvians prefer detailed contracts and any contract will be followed precisely.