Cross Cultural Management Guide - Indonesia


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 Indonesia:

  • 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 Indonesian business venture by: 

Being a Manager in Indonesia

To ensure successful cross cultural management in Indonesia, you need be aware of the strict protocols and rituals that exist.

  • When managing in Indonesia, 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.
  • If you are a manager, then try not to disregard the hierarchy by being overly friendly with your staff or behaving as though you are 'one of them' as this will lose the trust of your subordinates. 


The Role of a Manager

In Indonesia, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to 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 may also find that:

  • Managers are directive in their approach and that subordinate staff diligently follow the directions of their manager. 
  • Subordinate staff do not expect to be included in the decision making process, as decisions are typically made by senior staff. However, they will expect to implement the decisions where necessary. 


Approach to Change

Indonesia’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Indonesia 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.

  • Failure in Indonesia causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.


 Approach to Time and Priorities

Indonesians are generally quite careful about time guidelines in business situations where schedules and deadlines are regarded seriously. In addition, however, Indonesian society is concerned with relationships so there may be instances where there is some flexibility to strict standards of adhering to schedules.

  • When working with people from Indonesia, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization. Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.
  • 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

The culture in Indonesia is very relationship and group-oriented, so a strong emphasis is placed on maintaining harmony and proper lines of authority in the workplace. 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.

  • To ensure successful cross cultural management, you will need to bear in mind the importance of people in the office maintaining the proper behavior relative to their position.
  • For instance, it would be inappropriate for a manager to make copies or move a piece of furniture because these are tasks that lower level people do.
  • To engage in behavior beneath you would lower your esteem in the office.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Indonesia, it is important to remember that honor and reputation play an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is necessary. 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. The value placed on maintaining positive relationships means that managers may use an intermediary in some cases to manage a difficult discussion with a member of their team:

  • The concept of group and collectivism is very strong in Indonesia.  As such, teams are happy to work collectively and to support each other in task delivery. 
  • Team members are typically very loyal to their teams and will not try to assert their opinion if it doesn't adhere to their opinions of other team members. 


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Cross cultural management will be more effective if you understand the importance of personal relationships. They are crucial to conducting business and are based on respect and trust. It takes time to develop a comfortable working relationship and you will need patience and perseverance.

  • Indonesians 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.


License Our Management Guides

Did you know that 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.

© Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd. 2022 All Rights Reserved.