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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 - Ecuador

Being a Manager in Ecuador

The business set up in Ecuador is very formal and intercultural management will be more successful if you are courteous at all times and treat those in positions of authority with respect and deference.

Spend time cultivating relationships and maintaining them once they are formed. Networking is extremely important in this relationship-driven culture. This is a country where "who you know" is often more important than "what you know". Interpersonal relationships, including loyalty to family and friends, are the linchpin of successful business interactions.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communication will be more effective when managing in Ecuador, if you keep it 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 Ecuador, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude towards 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

Ecuador’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. This country is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk.

The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required. Failure can be viewed as a personal short-coming and can cause a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid in Ecuador. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross cultural 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. Successful cross cultural management may require some degree of patience.

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

Ecuadorian business is rigidly hierarchical. There are still the remnants of social class distinctions in the business arena. Bosses are usually from a different social class than their subordinates and do not socialize with them.

Managers are more autocratic than in many other countries. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions, as they believe it would make them appear weak. For the most part decisions are reached at the top of the company and given to managers to implement. However, if the decision concerns something technical, the decision maker may seek group consensus, although he can override the group.

Subordinates often appear timid when dealing with someone in a position of authority. They attempt to avoid confrontation and tell their manager what he wants to hear, even if it is not the absolute truth.

Boss or Team Player?

Business in Ecuador is relatively hierarchical.

Managers tell subordinates what they want done and how they expect them to perform the task. They are also paternalistic and will assist their subordinates if they have personal problems. Employees follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status.

Successful cross cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with their subordinates. This can be as important as their technical knowledge.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Personal relationships are important to Ecuadorians. They prefer to deal with those they trust; therefore they take time to develop relationships and it may take several visits to accomplish a simple task. To avoid any cross cultural miscommunication, ensure you have all written material available in both English and Spanish. Ecuadorians do not like to disagree. Don’t assume that everything is going well just because nobody is challenging you. Many companies have a purchasing committee. Getting to know someone on this committee can speed up the decision making process.