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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 - El Salvador

Being a Manager in El Salvador

In order to achieve successful cross cultural management, it is essential that you understand this is a country where knowing the right person is often more important than what you know. Interpersonal relationships, especially loyalty to family and friends, are the glue that binds the country together.

Trustworthiness, sincerity, and integrity are crucial to building relationships. Expect to answer questions about you personal background, family and interests. Although these facts have nothing to do with business, they allow your Salvadoran colleagues to get to know you as a person. Do not attempt to rush this getting-to-know-you process. Relationships take time to develop. You should show a sincere interest in the people you meet with and demonstrate a willingness to get to know them as individuals.

The Role of a Manager

When managing in El Salvador, it is important to keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order. Intercultural adaptability relies on an understanding of this hierarchical system. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

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

Approach to Change

El Salvador’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is medium. Changes are still made slowly, requiring a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.

Intercultural sensitivity is important with El Salvador’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. Patience is the key to successful intercultural management when working in El Salvador. 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.

When working with people from El Salvador, 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 El Salvador to avoid confrontation over a deadline in order to maintain a positive relationship within the team.

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

Salvadoran business is hierarchical. Job functions, roles and responsibilities are well-defined and respected. Even in meetings, subordinates will demonstrate deference and respect towards those at a higher level.

Most expatriates find Salvadorans hard-working. Individual initiative usually takes into account what is in the best interest of the group. If a choice must be made between what is best for the team and what is best for the individual, the team will win. This is something to consider when delegating tasks. Although individual achievement is a virtue, Salvadoran managers do not praise their employees in a public arena. Praise is given privately as it prevents others from losing honor.

Subordinates expect their boss to be decisive and even somewhat dictatorial. Always remember, this is a hierarchical society.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working with people from El Salvador, it is important to remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration.

Subordinates expect their boss to be decisive and even somewhat dictatorial.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Since Salvadorans are status conscious, you should include an executive on your negotiating team. Who you know is often more important than what you know.

If you do not speak Spanish, to avoid any cross cultural miscommunication, hire an interpreter. Negotiations will include a fair amount of haggling. Do not give your best offer first. Salvadorans see negotiations as win/lose propositions. Granting a concession allows them to "win". Deadlines are seen as flexible and fluid, much like time itself. Decisions are only reached by senior executives. Use a local attorney to prepare contracts.