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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Egypt

The tips offered below are for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Egypt.

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

Topics include:

  • Hierarchy
  • Decision making
  • Management style
  • Approaches to time 
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Being a Manager in Egypt

The business culture in Egypt tends to be formal, hierarchical, face-conscious and relationship-driven. If you want to manage successfully in Egypt you need to understand the local culture and religion.

  • The management style in Egypt can be characterized by a hierarchical and authoritarian approach, with a strong emphasis on respect for authority and formal structures.
  • Managers are often seen as figureheads, providing ideas and energy as well as acting as the decision-maker with power and responsibility.
  • There is also a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to the team/group/organization, and a desire to maintain harmony and stability.
  • Overall, the management style in Egypt is rooted in tradition and respect for authority but may need to adapt to embrace more modern and collaborative approaches to leadership.

The Role of a Manager

Managers in Egypt are expected to exhibit a high level of expertise in their respective fields, possess strong interpersonal skills, and demonstrate a deep understanding of the cultural norms and values that underpin the Egyptian business environment. They must be able to communicate effectively with subordinates, colleagues, and superiors, while also navigating the complex web of relationships that exists within the Egyptian business community.

  • 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.
  • Most Egyptians do not separate their personal and work lives.
  • Managers often adopt a paternalistic role with their subordinates.
  • They provide advice, listen to problems, and mediate disputes.

Approach to Change

Egyptian culture is generally hesitant of change. This means that change is difficult to bring about and is not received with any enthusiasm. With this in mind, you should consider that:

  • Projects will need to be carefully analyzed every step of the way to assure that all the risks have been assessed and understood.
  • It would help if you considered building your relationships with relevant stakeholders to enable full discussions and explorations of any proposed changes.
  • By getting their buy-in, you're more likely to get traction. 

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid. What does this mean for the workplace?:

  • Patience is the key to successful intercultural management when working in Egypt.
  • Essentially a relationship-driven culture, it should be understood that taking the time to get to know someone will always take precedence over any timelines.
  • Don’t rush the relationship-building process or you may jeopardise any future business dealings.
  • If working with people from Egypt, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
  • However, it isn’t unusual for a manager in Egypt to avoid confrontation over a deadline in order to maintain a positive relationship within the team.
  • 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

Managers reach decisions after many discussions with everyone involved. Once a decision is reached, it is given to subordinates to implement. You may find that within the Egyptian business culture: 

  • Employees do not publicly question managers’ decisions.
  • Risk-taking is limited to those in decision-making positions.
  • Managers in Egyptian business culture are expected to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and respond to new challenges as they arise.
  • They must be able to make sound decisions quickly, while also demonstrating a high level of flexibility and agility in their approach to problem-solving.
  • In addition, they must be able to balance competing demands and priorities, while also remaining focused on the organization's strategic objectives.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Egypt, it is important to remember that reputation plays an important role.

  • The risk to reputation/face becomes amplified in a public, team or collaborative setting.
  • 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.
  • Successful cross-cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with subordinates.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

The Egyptian communication style is typically indirect, high-context, and relationship-oriented.

  • Egyptians place great emphasis on building and maintaining personal relationships, and communication is often viewed as a means of establishing and strengthening these connections.
  • They like to know who they are working with and they also need to like you as a person.
  • At the beginning of the negotiation, wait to be told where to sit, as most seating reflects rank.
  • If the government is involved, discussions will take even longer since approval must often be given by the ministers of several departments.
  • It is advisable to include older people with impressive titles in your team since Egyptians respect age and experience.

Learn About Egyptian Culture

If you want to understand more, then we recommend this free eLearning course on the Middle East.

It also covers Egypt in detail and is useful for professionals wanting to better understand the business culture and communication style.

You can watch the free version [video only] below.



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