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Cross Cultural Management Guide - Iran


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 Iran:

  • 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 Iran business venture by: 

  • Enrolling on our online Iran training course, which is authored by Iran business and culture experts. This course will help you navigate Iranian business culture, create trusting relationships and maximise your business performance.

  • Taking part in a two hour live webinar, , customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our Irancountry and culture training experts or;

Being a Manager in Iran

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

  • When managing in Iran, 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.


The Role of a Manager

In Iran, 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.
  • It is the supervisor’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.


Approach to Change

Iran’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is minimal. This means that change is difficult to bring about and is not received with any enthusiasm.

  • Projects will need to be carefully analyzed every step of the way to assure that all the risks have been assessed and understood.
  • Failure in Iran 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

People in Iran will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline, and while appointments and schedules need to be set well in advance as a sign of respect for the individual, you need to understand that those schedules are seen as flexible, not necessarily needing to be adhered to.

  • When working with people from Iran, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
  • 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

Many companies are family-owned. Decisions are usually made at the top of the company, either by the most senior ranking person or by a small council of senior level staff.

  • Decisions are often reached after discussions with everyone who will be affected. Once a decision is reached, it is handed down to subordinates to implement. Employees do not question the decisions that have been reached. Managers or those in a position to do so will make decisions, while in general their subordinates will wait to be told what to do. Risk-taking is limited to those in decision making positions.
  • Employees are generally treated with respect. In turn, employees treat their manager with the respect and deference attributable to their position.
  • Meeting deadlines is often secondary to maintaining personal relationships. Intercultural sensitivity is necessary and you must remember that managers do not publicly chastise employees because it would cause the subordinate to lose dignity and respect.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Iran intercultural sensitivity is essential. It is important to remember that reputation plays an important role.

  • The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate fully that their participation is desired.
  • Successful cross cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with their subordinates.
  • The hierarchical nature of Iranian business culture means that employees expect their managers to have greater expertise, insights and knowledge than themselves. It may damage your reputation if you try to get too much input from your employees as this may position you as lacking the necessary knowledge to do the job.
  • Iranians are generally very keen to learn and are open to gaining new skills and building their knowledge and understanding. If you create a learning environment, then your Iranian employees will undoubtedly value the opportunity to develop their expertise.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

It takes time for Iranians to become warm towards foreign business people. Until then, they may appear somewhat stiff and formal.

  • Cross cultural management will be more effective when working with the understanding that personal relationships form the basis of business dealings and decisions are made slowly.
  • Iranians are deliberate negotiators who can drive a hard bargain.
  • Do not use high-pressure tactics as they are generally counterproductive. Iranians may display emotion, or even walk out of the meeting, or threaten to terminate the relationship in an attempt to convince you to change your position.
  • Do not emulate this behavior. Iranians often use time as a negotiating tactic, especially if they know that you have a deadline.
  • Be cautious about letting your business colleagues know that you are under time pressure.
  • If your Iranian counterpart disagrees with you, then you may find they don’t overtly  communicate this to you. Instead, they may show their disagreement by failing to carry out instructions properly or that they demonstrate their disagreement through other passive means. 

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