Intercultural Management - Oman
Being a Manager in Oman
The business set up in Oman is extremely conservative and successful cross cultural management will understand the importance of maintaining a degree of formality. It is common to hire a local agent to act as an intermediary. This person can arrange appointments and make the appropriate introductions. The Chamber of Commerce or the commercial attaché of your country’s embassy in Oman can often recommend people to fill this important role. Although a local agent is not technically required to do business, it is often advantageous, especially is you do not have a large local presence.
Since Omanis prefer to do business with those with whom they have a personal relationship, a letter of introduction from someone they know facilitates their trust.
Omanis do not require as much personal space as most western cultures. As such, they will stand close to you while conversing and you may feel as if your personal space has been violated.
Omanis are extremely hospitable and enjoy hosting foreign guests. At the same time, they expect you to understand the rules of their country and obey them. This includes dressing appropriately and respecting prayer time.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural management will be more effective with an understanding of the individual roles and existing hierarchy. Employees do not question the decisions that have been reached. Managers or those in a position to do so will make decisions, while in general their subordinates will wait to be told what to do.
Approach to Change
Oman’s intercultural competence and readiness for risk is low. Oman is a low risk and low change-tolerant culture. New projects will be carefully analyzed to assure that whatever risk they represent is thoroughly understood and addressed.
In order for change to take hold, the idea needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group. Intercultural sensitivity is important with Oman’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Cross cultural understanding is important when reviewing the approach to timelines. Omanis will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline.
Things generally take longer than expected since meetings are frequently interrupted and several meetings may be required to do what could be handled by a phone call at home.
When working with people from Oman, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadline.
Globalization and intercultural expansion means some local managers may understand and appreciate the important of adherence to schedules and deadlines.
Managers reach decisions after many discussions with everyone involved. Once a decision is reached, it is handed down to subordinates to implement. Employees are generally treated with respect. In turn, employees treat their manager with the respect and deference attributable to their position.
Meeting deadlines is often secondary to maintaining personal relationships. Managers do not publicly chastise employees because it would cause the subordinate to lose dignity and respect so intercultural sensitivity will be needed.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working in Oman, it is important to remember that honour and reputation play an important role and so some cross cultural sensitivity will be required. 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 team-member participation is desired.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Decisions are reached slowly and patience is essential for effective cross cultural management. If you try to rush things, you could risk your business relationship. Omanis are event rather than time-driven. The actual meeting is more important than the timeliness or outcome. Omanis are skilled negotiators. They often see bargaining as entertainment. Negotiation generally follows a "win/lose" attitude. Be prepared to come down in both price and terms. Do not set your initial price so high that the ending price makes it apparent that you did not expect to settle at that rate. There is a tendency to avoid giving bad news and to give flowery acceptances, which may only mean "perhaps.
Need more in-depth cultural insights into Oman? We run cultural awareness training for Oman which also looks at management and leadership.