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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Greece

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

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

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Being a Manager in Greece

The business set-up in Greece is hierarchical and managers are more likely to succeed if they behave formally until a personal relationship is developed.

  • Treat those in positions of authority with respect and deference.
  • Use titles and surnames and do not move to a first-name basis until the more senior person makes the suggestion.
  • Arrive punctually for meetings, but expect to be kept waiting.

The Role of a Manager

Foreign managers need to bear in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.

  • People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge than those they manage.
  • Therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
  • In Greece, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.

Approach to Change

Greece’s cultural readiness for change is developing all the time.

  • Greece is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk.
  • 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 of embarrassment that may accompany failure, bring about aversion to risk and the need to thoroughly examine the potential negative implications.
  • Because of this attitude, cultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made by participating individuals.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid.

  • Patience is the key to successful cross cultural management when working in Greece.
  • 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.
  • Greeks have a relaxed approach to life.
  • Everything gets done eventually, but seldom according to a schedule or timetable.
  • The word "avrio" (tomorrow) means some time in the future.

Decision Making

Greek business culture is hierarchical and decisions are reached at the top of the company and handed down to subordinates to implement.

  • It is common for managers to seek consensus before making a decision.
  • In general, Greeks do not like admitting mistakes.
  • They will become evasive or silent if pressured.
  • This is not a deadline-driven culture.
  • Maintaining harmonious working relationships is more important than accomplishing something at a specific time.

Boss or Team Player?

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

  • When meeting together and moderating ideas, cultural sensitivity is required.
  • 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.
  • If you disagree with a Greek counterpart, then be very tactful and diplomatic in the way in which you communicate your disagreements.
  • Doing so in a way that causes them to feel embarrassed is likely to damage your relationship. 

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Greeks prefer face-to-face meetings rather than doing business by telephone or in writing, which are seen as too impersonal. 

  • It takes time to develop relationships: this can be done in the office, over extended lunches, dinners, and social outings.
  • Many discussions are held in "kafeinos" (male-only coffee shops).
  • Many businessmen use these as unofficial offices and prefer to discuss serious matters here rather than in their offices.
  • Offer to pay at a kefeino, but expect to be turned down.
  • Suggesting your colleague be your guest at a pastry shop demonstrates an understanding of Greek social mores and hospitality.
  • Forming a personal relationship is critical to developing a successful business relationship.
  • Greeks are skilled negotiators.
  • They quite enjoy haggling, so be prepared to defend your position. 
  • It's prudent to go in with a higher price than the price you'd ultimately be happy with to allow for haggling to take place. 
  • Maintain eye contact when negotiating with your counterparts and ensure you present a confident demeanour. 
  • Decision-making is held at the top of the company. Imposing a deadline on reaching a decision may end the negotiations.
  • Contracts are often quite simple since the personal relationship dictates that accommodations will be made on either side should the need arise.
  • Many Greeks will not sign contracts or have important meetings on Tuesday, which is the day the Byzantine Empire fell.

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