• +44 0330 027 0207
  • +1 (818) 532-6908
Cultural diversity management elearning course


Discover what it takes to manage culturally diverse teams.

This Introduction to Cross Cultural Management eLearning Course teaches essential insights and strategies.

Get started in minutes!


Indian management style guide

Cross Cultural Management Guide for India


The advice offered below is for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of India.


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

Topics include:

  • Role of a manager
  • Approach to change
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication
  • Negotiation style


Being a Manager in India

The key to being a successful manager in India is understanding that there are protocols and rituals that exist to maintain harmony. It's crucial that this is never threatened, so cultural sensitivity is vital. 

  • The Indian workplace is hierarchical in nature, with organizations being vertical.
  • When managing in India, 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.
  • It's important that you respect the hierarchy as failing to do so may lose you the respect of your colleagues and any reporting team members. 
  • Trying to engage subordinate employees in decision-making may also work against you as they may view you as having insufficient expertise for your role. 
  • Be aware that the honour of those with whom you work is very important.  Be very careful not to criticise or embarrass anyone in front of others.
  • Don't challenge people in such a way that they feel shame at not having the right response. 

The Role of a Manager

In India, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude toward their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.

You should also consider that:

  • It is the manager’s job to regularly check on the work of a subordinate and to provide regular constructive feedback.
  • This may include monitoring work quality and the timing of its completion.
  • Failing to provide regular feedback and guidance may make your subordinate feel that they are not being suitably managed. 

Approach to Change

According to intercultural studies, India has a moderate tolerance for change and risk. What does this mean for managers proposing changes?

  • It is important for innovations to have a track record or history, noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
  • It is also of benefit to outline the value that these changes will bring to the company as a whole. 
  • Since India is a relationship-based culture, then it's fair to say that personal and group impacts shouldn't be underestimated. 
  • You may well find that the value of change to the group is given priority to the value of the change on time savings or the financial bottom line.
  • As such, emphasising these areas will benefit you.
  • A well-known saying in India asserts that 'nothing is impossible'. Indians tend to rise to the challenge and typically like to see beyond potential barriers.
  • As such, dealing with unforseen outcomes, particularly within the framework of change, is often taken in one's stride and viewed in a sense of 'challenge on'. 

Time and Priorities

Indians are generally quite careful about time in business situations. Schedules, timelines and deadlines are taken seriously.

  • However, where, timescales seem less important, then they may well be overlooked. 
  • It's important to remember that Indian culture is concerned with relationships so there may be instances where there is some flexibility to strict standards of adhering to schedules.
  • To err on the side of caution, when working with people from India, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
  • Successful management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.
  • 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

The culture in India is very relationship and group-oriented, so a strong emphasis is placed on maintaining harmony and proper lines of authority in the workplace. This means that in some cases, Indians may not say what they think to avoid offence or causing upset.  This is particularly the case with people that they don't know, or, people higher up in the hierarchy.

However, where relationships are strong then, it may well be the case that Indians are far more direct, in which case you can deal with them in the same way:

  • The manager makes decisions and accepts responsibility for work performed by subordinates.
  • The middle manager may consult with subordinates before reaching a decision, although it is more likely that he will confer with trusted advisors or relatives.
  • You will need to bear in mind the importance of people in the office sticking to their roles.
  • For instance, it would be inappropriate for a manager to make photocopies or move a piece of furniture because these tasks belong to someone else.
  • Be careful not to engage in behaviour that would be seen as inappropriate for a manager.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in India, then you will find that managers tend to adopt more of a 'boss' role. This is not necessarily always the case though.

  • Indian managers try to find a balance between being a strong, directive boss and a caring, concerned leader.
  • It is not uncommon for managers to know the ins and outs of their employees' lives and show interest in their personal circumstances.
  • On the whole, managers tend to give tasks or work to their team as opposed to also getting involved with it.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

To be effective when working with Indians you need to understand the importance of personal relationships. They are crucial to conducting business and are based on mutual respect and trust. It takes time to develop a comfortable working relationship and you will need patience and perseverance.

  • Indians are non-confrontational. It is rare for them to overtly disagree, although this is beginning to change in the managerial ranks.
  • Decisions are reached by the person with the most authority but reaching that decision can be a slow process.
  • Never appear over-legalistic in negotiations; in general, Indians do not trust the legal system and someone’s word is sufficient to reach an agreement.
  • Successful negotiations may be celebrated over a meal.

elearning course on Indian business culture


Take a Course in Indian Business Culture

Ensure your success by taking our eLearning Cultural Training Course on India - it's packed full of great advice and insights for managers.


License Our Management Guides

Management guides for license

Did you know you can upload all our Management Guides onto your company intranet?

Connect your expatriate and international business staff with customised country information at the touch of a button.

Click here for more information.