Cross Cultural Management Guide - Hungary


What will you Learn in this Guide?

In this guide, expatriate managers will gain an understanding of a number of key cross cultural areas when working in Hungary:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling 
  • Communication style and; 
  • Negotiation style 


 Gain an Expert Understanding:

Once you've read this guide, ensure the success of your Hungary business venture by: 

Being a Manager in Hungary

Although some companies are more egallitarian, the business culture in Hungary tends to be hierarchical and formal. As such, cross cultural management needs to adopt a formal approach and pay close attention to hierarchy and status.  You are likely to find that:

  • The way you dress an present yourself is important in Hungary.  If you are in a management role, then it's important that you dress the part and present yourself well.
  • Hungarians are highly individualistic and proud of their personal accomplishments.
  • They work exceedingly hard and will work extra hours to complete a job to the best of their ability.
  • They enjoy socializing with people from work and do not separate their business and personal lives as is done in many other cultures.


The Role of a Manager

Newcomers to the Hungary management style should carefully study the corporate culture of specific companies because they may vary from being hierarchical to rather egalitarian. This well help you to establish whether employees feel empowered to speak out in the management process, or, whether they believe it is most important to simply execute the instructions by their leadership. Depending on situation, you should adapt your style accordingly. You may also find that:

  • Some employees in Hungary do not feel that they are authorized by station, education, or position, to either aspire to leadership or to express themselves freely in management circles. Nevertheless many do, and especially with the influence of globalization and intercultural expansion, organizations are tending to rely more heavily on the wisdom of their people and not just the direction of leadership.
  • For more hierarchical companies, where decisions are made by senior personnel and communicated to staff for implementation, you may find that employees are less likely to offer opinions or suggestions.  You may need to make it very clear that you would like contributions and create an atmosphere where all contributions are equally valid. 


Approach to Change

Hungary’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is medium. What might this mean in the work place?:

  • Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.
  • It would be perceived as imprudent to introduce rapid change, and yet it would be recognized as poor management to resist change unnecessarily.
  • Tradition is valued, thus change is not readily embraced simply because it is new.
  • 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 mean intercultural sensitivity is needed. While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Hungary causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.


Approach to Time and Priorities

Hungary is a moderate time culture and typically and there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines. Nevertheless, the expectations of global business have caused the Hungarian to adopt relatively strict standards of adhering to schedules.

  • Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to provide and enforce timelines.
  • If your team have a more fluid approach to timescales and deadlines, then it will be necessary to communicate the benefits that timely delivery of a task might bring to the business.  It may even be prudent to communicate an artificial deadline which falls in advance of the actual deadline. 


Decision Making

Hungarians are individualistic and therefore do not always work well in teams. If you plan to use a team, make sure that everyone understands that they have been selected because of their unique talent.

  • If you facilitate a collective decision making session, then ensure you compliment individual members for their contributions
  • Conformity is not viewed necessarily viewed as a positive attribute. As such, creating a 'safe' environment in which all contributions are welcome will likely to yield some diverse opinions.  A fall out of this is, however, that consensus is often seen as a sign of weakness which may make a final decision difficult.  As a manager, you may wish to take responsibility for making the final decision if necessary. 


Boss or Team Player?

In post-communist countries, there is a tradition of teamwork inherited from the communal aspects of the previous era where groups and work units commonly met together to discuss ideas and create plans. However, those plans seldom resulted in implementation or results, leading to apathy and cynicism among the workers.

  • Today the after-effects are still evident among much of the older generation resulting in, what some perceive to be, a lack of drive and energy. However, getting them on board and ensuring they see traction in changes and projects will hep turn this around. 
  • The younger generation will participate in teams and share ideas, but they will need to be coached in the process.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Business is conducted slowly so patience is a necessary cross cultural skill. Do not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol. Hungarians are very detail-oriented and want to understand every innuendo before reaching an agreement.

  • Do not remove your suit jacket without asking permission. Decision making can be prolonged as the person making the decision will often seek input from several stakeholders first. Maintain direct eye contact while speaking. Contracts should be clear and concise.

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