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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Mexico

The insights offered below are for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Mexico.

They provide useful information for managers who are relocating to the country for employment as well as those who may have Mexican employees in their global or multicultural teams.

Topics include:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Management in Mexico

Overall, the management style in Mexico is characterized by a focus on personal relationships, teamwork, indirect communication, and adaptability. By understanding and adapting to these cultural norms, managers can be more effective in leading their teams and achieving success in Mexican organizations.

  • Expect there to be rather strict adherence to protocol and ritual.
  • This is a culture where personal introductions are important. Much communication will be situation-specific and there will be little open disagreement, at least in public.
  • Demonstrating trustworthiness, sincerity, and integrity is crucial to building relationships.
  • Expect to answer questions about your personal background, family and interests.
  • Mexicans are more concerned about your character and reputation than the status of the company you represent.
  • The exception to this rule is multinational companies, where the name of the company and its market position is paramount.

The Role of a Manager

The management style in Mexico can vary depending on the industry, company size, and region, but some common characteristics can be observed.

  • One key aspect of the Mexican management style is the importance of personal relationships and hierarchy.
  • In many Mexican organizations, managers and subordinates maintain a formal relationship, with clear lines of authority and deference to those in higher positions.
  • Building personal relationships with colleagues and superiors is crucial in developing trust and effective communication.
  • People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
  • Managers and supervisors give clear-cut directions and in return, employees provide what is expected of them.
  • Subordinates follow established precedents and company directives.
  • In Mexico, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude toward their employees.

Approach to Change

Mexico’s tolerance and readiness for change are apparent although Mexico remains a country that is cautious in its business dealings. Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.

  • The fear of exposure and the potential embarrassment that may accompany failure mean intercultural sensitivity is needed.
  • While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Mexico causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are important traits for managers in Mexico.
  • The country's economy and business environment can be unpredictable, and managers need to be able to quickly adjust to changing circumstances and find creative solutions to problems.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Mexico is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Mexico will not want to upset others to push through a deadline.

  • While punctuality is generally expected in business meetings, there is often a more relaxed attitude towards time and deadlines.
  • This can be partly attributed to the concept of "Mexican time," which refers to a more flexible approach to scheduling and a tendency to be a few minutes late to appointments.
  • It is not uncommon for meetings to start a few minutes late, and for people to arrive gradually over the course of the first few minutes of the meeting.
  • Mexican business culture places a high value on personal relationships and socializing, which can sometimes mean that meetings may be interrupted by small talk or informal conversations.
  • This is seen as an important part of building rapport and trust between colleagues and business partners.
  • 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

Since business is hierarchical, it impacts the structure and pace of decision-making.

  • In meetings, subordinates demonstrate deference and respect towards those of a higher level.
  • Especially in smaller, regional or local companies, the president may assume a role akin to that of father.
  • His employees want to know that someone is taking care of them and looking out for their welfare and expect this.
  • In return, the owner of the company makes all major decisions.

Boss or Team Player?

Another important aspect of the Mexican workplace is the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. Mexican culture places a high value on family and community, and this translates into the workplace, where employees are often expected to work closely with others to achieve goals.

  • Collaboration and consensus-building are essential skills for managers to possess.
  • Cultural sensitivity is important and it is worth remembering that praise should be given to the entire group as well, and not to individuals.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

In terms of communication, indirectness and politeness are valued in Mexican culture. This means that criticism or feedback may be delivered in a more roundabout way than in some other cultures, with an emphasis on preserving harmony and avoiding conflict. As a result, managers should be prepared to read between the lines and interpret nonverbal cues to understand what is really being communicated.

  • Who you know is often more important than what you know.
  • Expect hand gestures and light physical contact as a part of communication.
  • In discussions, Mexicans may appear open to new ideas. However, this may not translate into new actions or opinions.
  • Never throw documents on the table during a business meeting as this is seen as highly offensive.
  • Decisions should always be followed by written agreements.

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