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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Bolivia

What will you Learn in this Guide?

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

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation style

Being a Manager in Bolivia

The business set-up in Bolivia is very formal and cross-cultural management will be more successful if you bear in mind the importance of being courteous at all times:

  • Treat those in positions of authority with particular respect and deference.
  • It is better to err on the side of being overly formal rather than jeopardize a business relationship by being too informal and appearing flippant.
  • Spend time cultivating relationships and maintaining them once they are formed.
  • This is a country where "who you know" is often more important than "what you know".
  • Interpersonal relationships ("personalismo"), including loyalty to family and friends, are the linchpin of successful business interactions.

The Role of a Manager

Communication will be more effective when managing in Bolivia, if you keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization:

  • People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
  • In Bolivia, 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.
  • This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.

Approach to Change

Bolivia’s readiness for change is apparent although changes are still made slowly, requiring a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation. How does this impact the workplace?

  • It would be perceived as imprudent to introduce rapid change, and yet it would be recognized as poor management to resist change unnecessarily.
  • Cultural sensitivity is important with Bolivia’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid in BoliviaAs such:

  • Patience will play an essential part in successful management.
  • While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.
  • Global working 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.

Decision Making

Decisions are reached at the top of the company, often after seeking input from all the stakeholders. This impacts the Bolivian workplace in a number of ways, mainly that:

  • Since Bolivians believe business should be "win-win" scenarios, they attempt to find solutions that are in the best interest of all concerned.
  • Managers are more autocratic than in many other countries.
  • They tell subordinates what they want to be done and how they expect them to perform the task.
  • Subordinates follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working with people from Bolivia an understanding of the importance that hierarchy plays is needed:

  • Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills.
  • It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with someone from a lower status.
  • This is changing somewhat in younger generations, particularly those employed by multinational corporations.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

  • Personal relationships are important to Bolivians.
  • They prefer to deal with those they trust; therefore they spend time developing relationships.
  • It may take several visits to accomplish a simple task.
  • Bolivians are skilled negotiators and drive hard bargains.
  • Bolivians negotiate with people, not companies.
  • Therefore it’s important not to change your team during negotiations, or you may have to start the process over.
  • Deadlines are not seen as important and contracts are negotiated in stages.
  • Agreements may be reversed until the final contract is signed.

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