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 International Management Guides

International Management Guides

Designed specifically for the traveling manager, these short, sharp guides to being a manager in a foreign country offer invaluable insights and practical tips.

Intercultural Management - Nigeria

Being a Manager in Nigeria

The business set up in Nigeria is formal and cross cultural management will be more successful if you adopt a formal demeanor and demonstrate deference to position, age, and rank. Nigerians believe that life seasons people and that they learn from their various experiences. They may bow to an older person or someone who is in authority. They never publicly disagree with someone who is older or more senior to themselves. It is a good idea to emulate this behavior.

Since the business culture relies on personal relationships, expect businesspeople to devote a great deal of time and attention to getting-to-know-you conversations. Rushing this process is viewed as an insult and patience will be a necessary cross cultural attribute.

The Nigerian business style adheres to many British protocols. Avoid "hard sell" techniques and maintain a courteous demeanor at all times. At the same time, there is an entrenched bureaucracy and a great deal of government red tape.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management will be more effective if bearing in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.

In Nigeria, 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.

Approach to Change

Nigeria’s intercultural competence and readiness for risk is medium. Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation. It would be perceived as imprudent to introduce rapid change, and yet it would be recognized as poor management to resist change unnecessarily. Tradition is valued, thus change is not readily embraced simply because it is new.

The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk. 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

Deadlines and timescales are fluid in Nigeria. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross cultural management.

While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.

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

Business is extremely hierarchical and employees are expected to show proper deference and respect towards those in superior positions. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions.

For the most part, Nigerians can be strict managers. They are openly critical of employees and their performance. They do not expect their staff to demonstrate initiative, originality, or independent thinking. There is little delegation of authority. Managers give their staff explicit instructions and expect them to follow the instructions to the letter.

Boss or Team Player?

People from Nigeria like working in teams and collaborate quite well across hierarchical lines. The communication within a team is generally quite collegial, albeit somewhat direct and blunt.

The successful cross cultural manager will harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business. Since age is considered indicative of wisdom, include older businesspeople on your negotiating team. Wait to be told where to sit. Status often dictates a seating plan. Companies are hierarchical. Ultimate decision-making often rests with the CEO. Decisions are reached slowly. If you attempt to rush the process, you will give offense and risk your business relationship. Getting decisions from government officials can be extremely protracted. Nigerians can be tough bargainers. They will state their position clearly and may get into heated discussions. You will be expected to honor any promise you make. The initial agreement is generally verbal, which is then followed up with a contract. For the most part, Nigerians expect flexibility in working out the details.

Looking for more help on managing in Nigeria? We run cultural awareness training courses on Nigerian culture which can help!