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brazilian management style guide

Cross Cultural Management Guide for Brazil


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

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


Topics include:

  • Trust & relationships
  • Decision making
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Being a Manager in Brazil

To be an effective manager in Brazil, you need to understand Brazil's particular approach to hierarchy. What does this mean for the workplace?

  • Decision-making is often reserved for the most senior people.
  • Junior employees rarely expect to be included in the decision-making process and are typically happy to execute decisions as they are cascaded down. 
  • Taking the time to build strong working relationships is crucial to your success.
  • People are likely to be more open and forthcoming with those they trust.
  • Coming in as an outsider is often difficult as Brazilians often show a preference for working with either people they trust, or, people that have been recommended to them by people they trust. As such, it is advisable to have a third-party introduction where possible. 
  • Business practices vary by region. In the major cities of Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, many companies are accustomed to dealing with international businesses. In other areas, business practices may be less international and more patriarchal.

The Role of a Manager

In Brazilian work culture, everyone has a distinct role within their organization.

  • Team members are likely to believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage.
  • It is, therefore, considered unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
  • In many smaller companies, the management style is paternalistic, with the boss taking on a parental role.
  • Their objective is to guide employees and help them achieve their goal.
  • When empowered and encouraged to do so, Brazilians are extremely creative and work well in teams.
  • When meeting together and moderating ideas, it is important that managers 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, and it will likely stem the flow of ideas and the participation of the entire group.

  •  Cultural sensitivity is important and it is worth remembering that praise should be given to the entire group as well, and not to individuals.

Approach to Change

According to intercultural studies, Brazil has a medium tolerance for risk and change.  You may find that:

  • Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.
  • It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
  • The fear of exposure and the potential embarrassment that may accompany failure mean sensitivity is needed.
  • While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Brazil causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Brazil is a time-fluid culture, and, as is the case with similar cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. These values are likely to manifest in the following ways:

  • People in Brazil will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.
  • 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

Generally-speaking, power in Brazil is held in the hands of the few. There is a great disparity in areas such as wage differentials, lifestyles and aspirations among the different classes in Brazil. You will see this reflected in:

  • The hierarchical structures and formalities, deference to those in authority, job functions, responsibility and reporting relationships 
  • These structures are also reflected in the decision-making process. 
  • Decisions are typically made by those in power and communicated to junior staff for implementation. 
  • This set-up may slow decisions down somewhat if the decision maker is absent from key meetings. 

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Trust is essential at all levels of communication and business processes such as negotiation and sales.

  • To help build trust, take the time to build relationships and engage in small talk.
  • Don't move on to discussions of business until your counterpart has signalled that they are comfortable with this.
  • Often the people you negotiate with will not have decision-making authority. To avoid any misunderstandings, it is advisable to hire a translator if your Portuguese is not fluent.
  • If you need to use lawyers and accountants for negotiations then ensure they are locals as Brazilians typically resent an outside legal presence. 

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