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 International Management Guides

International Management Guides

Designed specifically for the traveling manager, these short, sharp guides to being a manager in a foreign country offer invaluable insights and practical tips.

Intercultural Management - Cambodia

Being a Manager in Cambodia

To ensure successful cross cultural management in Cambodia, it is essential to maintain harmonious relationships and be cognizant of the need for people to retain face in all transactions.

The Cambodian culture places a great deal of emphasis on protocol. Intercultural sensitivity is essential and it is important that you are polite and exercise restraint and self-discipline in your business dealings.

When managing bear in mind that each person has a 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 not appropriate to consult subordinates in the decision-making process.

Networking with Cambodian government officials and business people can assist you in making connections that will facilitate your business dealings. Who you know and how well you know them can open important doors. This is not a culture where “cold calling” is effective.

The Role of a Manager

In Cambodia, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.

When in meetings, praise should be given to the entire group for any contributions, and not to individuals. Even then there may be a reluctance to accept it in order to appear modest.

Approach to Change

Cambodia’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for risk is minimal. Change is difficult to bring about and the idea of it is not received with enthusiasm. In order for change to take hold, the idea needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Cambodia is very relaxed with its attitude towards schedules and timelines. Cambodians will not upset others in order to force meeting a deadline, and while appointments and schedules need to be set in advance, these should be viewed as flexible. Patience is a necessary attribute to successful cross cultural management in Cambodia.

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.

Decision Making

Since Cambodia is a hierarchical culture, most decisions are made at the top of the company without seeking consensus from the employees who are simply told what has been decided and what they are to do. There may be informal networking among employees or between managers and subordinates, although actual power is generally held in the hands of a few key people at the top of the organization.

To ensure successful cross cultural management, you will need to bear in mind that because of the hierarchical culture, young employees often have difficulty delegating work to someone who is older than they are, even if their own position is superior.

Most Cambodians are risk averse and will, therefore, follow directions explicitly, and do no more and no less than asked.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Cambodia, it is important to remember that face and reputation play an important role. 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.

When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is necessary. 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.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Cross cultural management will be more effective if you understand the importance Cambodians place on personal relationships. Negotiations will be slow while they take the time to get to know you. It is worth being patient as any display of impatience could jeopardize the deal.

If proposing a large contract, it is advisable to first seek government approval. Remember that Cambodians are non-confrontational. They do not like saying "no" overtly. If they say "no problem" there is a problem and what you have asked for will not happen.

Strive to maintain your composure at all times. Displaying anger or irritation could negatively impact negotiations. In this poor country, price is often a determining factor in business decisions.