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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Bangladesh

The guidance offered below is for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Bangladesh.

It provides some useful information for managers who are relocating to the country for employment as well as those who may have Bangladeshi employees in their global or multicultural teams.

Topics include:

  • Hierarchy
  • The role of the group
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Being a Manager in Bangladesh

The business set-up in Bangladesh is extremely conservative and successful  management requires an understanding of the importance of maintaining a degree of formality:

  • Older people and those in senior positions, especially government officials, should be deferred to and treated with dignity and respect.
  • Use titles where possible. 
  • Bangladeshis prefer to deal with those they know, meaning they devote a lot of time to building relationships.
  • It is important that you appreciate the importance of building trust and getting to know people in advance of jumping into business discussions.
  • Don’t rush this process, as the perceived absence of trust will affect your ability to get things done.
  • It will also benefit you to start building relationships with people you feel may be an important part of your future network. 
  • Never do anything to affect the honour of one of your Bangladeshi colleagues, it's important that you do nothing that could be construed as belittling or criticising them in front of others. 

The Role of a Manager

Foreign managers will be more effective when working in Bangladesh if they have an understanding of the importance of individual roles within the organisational hierarchy. The hierarchical structures within Bangladesh mean that:

  • Managers or those in a position of authority have responsibility for decision-making, while in general, their subordinates will wait to be told what to do and carry out tasks accordingly.
  • Employees typically don't expect to be included in the decision-making process and rarely question the decisions that have been reached.
  • In Bangladesh, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude toward their employees.
  • They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns.
  • If you are working in Bangladesh, a sensitivity towards honour and reputation is essential.
  • As such, managers should be very careful about how they address people in public; particularly within a group 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.
  • It is important to qualify ideas that are raised in a gentle manner, protecting the reputation of those bringing up ideas, so no one is shamed.

  • If someone is exposed and embarrassed, they may likely not participate again, which will stem the flow of ideas and the participation of the entire group.

  • Praise should be given to the entire group, and not to individuals.

Approach to Change

Bangladesh’s readiness for risk is low. This means that:

  • Bangladesh is 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.
  • Cultural sensitivity is important with Bangladesh’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

It is important that managers working in Bangladesh have an understanding of the different approaches to scheduling and timelines. You may find that:

  • There is a laxity about meeting deadlines with Bangladeshi managers not wanting to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline.
  • This is due to the fact that Bangladeshis prioritise relationships over timescales and will be reluctant for an issue over timescales to risk trust within a relationship. 
  • If it is imperative that a certain timetable is met, artificial deadlines in advance of the actual date, coupled with repeated follow-ups help to ensure compliance.
  • Global working means some local managers may understand and appreciate the important of adherence to schedules and deadlines.

Decision Making

Bangladeshi managers tend to have a rather autocratic style which manifests in the following way in the business setting:

  • Decisions are typically made at the top of the organisation and handed down to subordinates to implement.
  • Although the decision maker may consult with technical experts before reaching a decision, he/she is not seeking consensus, simply sufficient information to make an intelligent decision.
  • Subordinates do not generally question what a manager says, as this would be considered inappropriate behaviour.
  • You should be prepared for the decision-making process to take much longer in Bangladesh than it might in your home country. Don’t try to rush the process.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Communication in Bangladesh is typically very indirect and well-mannered.  You are unlikely, for example, to see anyone raising their voice or being offensively blunt with their speech. Other considerations are as follows:

  • The only proper way to approach someone you do not know is with a formal introduction.
  • The ideal person to handle this is a high-status person or company known to both parties.
  • This third-party introduction bridges the relationship gap between you and the person with whom you wish to meet.
  • Negotiations often take a long time due to the lengthy processes of building trust and relationships.
  • Do not remove your suit jacket without permission. Even then, unless the most senior-ranking Bangladeshi person does, it is a good idea to keep your coat on despite the heat and humidity.
  • Bangladeshis will seldom say "no" overtly, so you must watch their non-verbal cues.
  • In a bid not to offend or upset you, you may find that you are told 'yes', even though they mean 'no'.
  • This isn't an attempt to deceive you but instead an effort to protect the relationship.
  • In general, Bangladeshis expect concessions in both price and terms.
  • It is acceptable to demand similar concessions for each one you grant.

Get Expert Support

Once you've read this guide, ensure the success of your Bangladeshi business venture by:

  • Taking part in a two hour live webinar, customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our Bangladesh country and culture training experts or;
  • Contacting us in respect to our Bangladesh consultancy services.

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