Cross Cultural Management Guide - Jamaica


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 Jamaica:

  • 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 Jamaica business venture by: 

  • Taking part in a two hour live webinar, customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our Jamaica country and culture training experts or;
  • Contacting us in respect to our Jamaica consultancy services

Being a Manager in Jamaica

The business style in Jamaica is rather straightforward. In fact, many business practices mirror the UK or the USA since migration from Jamaica to both countries is quite common.

  • Treat everyone with respect and dignity. Avoid “hard sell” techniques. Communicate clearly and concisely without using hyperbole or superlatives.
  • Women often play significant management roles. Once they have attained these higher positions, women’s opinions are generally well respected and they can be tough negotiators.


Role of a Manager

Successful intercultural management will be more easily established remembering that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.

  • Jamaicans value hierarchy within business and social spheres. This means they typically believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making. As such, decisions are made by someone in management and then directed through the hierarchical structures in place within the business setting.
  • In Jamaica, 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 and strictly professional concerns. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.


Approach to Change

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

  • The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and the need to thoroughly examine the potential negative implications.
  • While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Jamaica 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

Jamaica is a moderate time culture and therefore there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.

  • Nevertheless, the expectations of intercultural expansion and global business have caused the Jamaicans to adopt relatively strict standards of adhering to schedules.
  • When working with people from Jamaica, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.


Decision Making

Businesses retain hierarchical structures and the person with the most authority generally makes the decisions.

  • Even though there is a hierarchy within each organization, there is a natural tendency for Jamaicans to poke fun at or even playfully challenge the person in charge among others of their rank.
  • Due to the value placed on hierarchy, chains of authority are respected and it’s quite common for Jamaican employees to consult with their manager for feedback and direction as needed. If you are working in Jamaica and you are from a more egalitarian culture, it’s important you accustom yourself to becoming more involved in the day to day work of your direct reports. Unless you have explicitly given them authority to make decisions, then don’t expect initiative.
  • In many smaller companies, the management style is paternalistic, with the boss expressing concern and oft-time intervening in personal issues. Their desire is to guide the employee and help them achieve their personal and professional goals. When empowered and encouraged to do so, Jamaicans can be extremely creative and work well in teams.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working with people from Jamaica, cross cultural management is more likely to succeed if you remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration.

  • Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills. It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with, or ask ideas of one of a lower status.
  • This is changing somewhat in younger generations, particularly those employed by multinational corporations. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate clearly that their participation is desired.
  • Successful cross cultural management will recognize that teamwork is becoming increasingly important in most organizations.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Expect a minimal amount of small talk before getting down to business.

  • Older Jamaicans want to get to know people before doing business, while younger businesspeople are more likely to start business discussions with a bare minimum of formalities.
  • Jamaicans speak English. 
  • To avoid any cross cultural miscommunication, if you are not fluent in English you should hire an interpreter.
  • Avoid high-pressure sales tactics ad they are seen as confrontational and remember that relationships are viewed as more important than rules.

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