Cross Cultural Management Guide - Iraq


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 Iraq:

  • 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 Iraq business venture by

  • Enrolling on our online Middle Eastern training course, which is authored by Middle Eastern experts. This course will help you navigate Middle Eastern 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 Iraq country and culture training experts or;

Being a Manager in Iraq

To ensure successful cross cultural management in Iraq, you need be aware of the strict protocols and rituals that exist. In business it is important to maintain a degree of formality. Older Iraqis and those in senior positions should be treated with respect and deference.

  • Iraq is undergoing a period of transition. Intercultural adaptability needs to take into account the recent upheaval that the country has seen.
  • Most of the country’s political, social, physical, and economic infrastructures are in the process of being rebuilt.
  • In June 2004, the Iraqi Interim Government (IIG) was formed as a transitional, interim administration to restore security and stability in Iraq, create institutions for representative governance, and facilitate economic recovery.
  • Due to the number of foreign companies involved in the reconstruction of the country, the predominant business culture may superficially appear more western than Iraqi.
  • Although a local agent is not technically required to conduct business in country, you will benefit from having an Iraqi representative or partner who knows the country and can win local support. In many ways Iraq is still a tribal society.
  • It can be difficult for foreigners to function in the north without the support of Kurdish leaders, in the center of the country without Sunni Muslim support, and in the south of the country without Shi’ite Muslim support.

The Role of a Manager

In Iraq, 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.


Approach to Change

Iraq’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 Iraq 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

Iraq is a fluid time culture, and as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. Culturally, this means that relationships are prioritised above time. If you are in a meeting, then you may find that other people walk into the meeting room uninvited and that your host happily sits and chats to them for a while. Your host may also take calls during a meeting. This is not intended to be rude. It merely demonstrates the priority given to one’s relationships.

  • People in Iraq 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 Iraq, 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

In general, business retains a strong hierarchical structure and intercultural sensitivity is required.

  • Employees show respect to those in positions of authority. Managers tend to be dictatorial and autocratic.
  • They expect their subordinates to follow established procedures without question.
  • In a business sense, this means that employees are less likely to show initiative and complete tasks outside of their remit. If they haven’t been overtly asked to do something, then it’s unlikely to get done.
    If you are managing an Iraqi team, then you may need to adapt your management style to ensure that you give your team the guidance needed.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Iraq, then 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.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Effective cross cultural management will need to understand the importance placed on personal relationships.

  • Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business.
  • Companies are hierarchical and the highest-ranking person reaches decisions, albeit slowly.
  • If you try to rush things, you will give offense and risk your business relationship. Iraqis are skilled negotiators.
  • Iraqis may ask the same question several times to see if your response is consistent.

Learn About Arab Culture

If you work with Iraqis and want to learn more about the Arab culture, then our online course is perfect!

We have a free version you can watch here or over on the course page itself.



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