Intercultural Management - Lebanon
Being a Manager in Lebanon
To ensure successful cross cultural management in Lebanon, you need be aware of the strict protocols and rituals that exist. You may be able to relax your style over time as you develop a more personal relationship with your business colleagues.
Lebanese business is in a state of flux. Many companies, eager for international investment and trade, have adopted Western business practices while others have not. If chosen carefully a local agent or representative may be advantageous when scheduling meetings with a company you have not done business with previously. Do not rush the process of hiring an agent as your company will be judged on the reputation of this person and they will be viewed as your organization when you are not in the country.
After years of political turmoil, the international Lebanese business community is relatively small and your behavior will quickly become public knowledge. Therefore, it is important to behave in a businesslike manner at all times.
The Role of a Manager
Lebanese will ask for and expect business associates to grant favors. It is in your best interest to agree even if you do not think that you will be able to comply. They will understand that circumstances prevented you from taking action, but their honor will be preserved by your agreement.
If you are holding meetings remember that praise should be given to the entire group and not to individuals.
Approach to Change
Lebanon’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is low. Lebanon remains a low risk and low change-tolerant culture despite the apparent adoption of Western business practices. This means that change for its own sake is not necessarily considered a good thing, although in some circles it may be. Many older Lebanese continue to see change as a threat to the culture.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Lebanon is a fluid time culture, and as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Lebanon will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline.
When working with people from Lebanon, 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.
Decisions are generally made at the top of the company or by the key stakeholder if the matter is technical. Even when it appears that there is an open discussion and opinions from all levels are being sought, the ultimate decision rests with the most senior person. This may change somewhat with multinational companies where the decision making process is in line with the corporate culture of that company rather than the more traditional Lebanese hierarchical model.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working in Lebanon 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. As in most Middle Eastern countries, good personal relationships are the cornerstone of successful business. Companies are hierarchical with the highest-ranking person making the decisions. . Decisions are reached slowly and if the government is involved, discussions will take even longer since approval must often be given by the ministers of several departments.
Lebanese prefer not to give an overt “no” during negotiations and will often use elaborate language that says little to avoid saying something that could be contentious. Be prepared to offer concessions; however, do so with elaborate demonstrations of regret and reluctance. Asking for concessions in return brands you as a skilled negotiator.