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Cross Cultural Management Guide – Portugal


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 Portugal:

  • 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 Portugal business venture by: 

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

Being a Manager in Portugal

In order to achieve successful cross cultural management you will need to understand the business set up in Portugal is hierarchical.

  • Although warm and hospitable, Portuguese are also conservative and traditional.
  • They behave formally and display proper etiquette in all situations. It is important to follow etiquette and not appear overly emotional (especially in the early stages of a relationship), which might be mistaken for aggression.
  • This is a relationship-based culture, where it is important to allow your business associates to develop a sense of your personal integrity and trust before commencing business discussions.


The Role of a Manager

When managing in Portugal, 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.

  • It is the expectation that supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge than those they manage. Therefore it is unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
  • In Portugal, 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

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

Portugal is a fluid time culture, and, as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented.

  • People in Portugal will not want to upset others in order to push through a deadline.
  • 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 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

For effective cross cultural management it is important to remember that power is held in the hands of the few.

  • This hierarchical nature is reflected in the degree of formality observed among people in business situations. Great deference is paid to authority figures. Job function, scope of responsibility, and reporting relationships are clearly defined and strictly followed.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working with people from Portugal, it is important to 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 depend on the individual’s ability to harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Portuguese put great importance on the character of the person with whom they do business, so they will take time to get to know you.

  • Portuguese prefer to do business for the long-term although at times they focus on short-term gains. Business is conducted slowly and you must not appear impatient.
  • Have printed material available in both English and Portuguese to avoid any possible cross cultural miscommunication.
  • Do not use high-pressure sales tactics as the Portuguese are offended by aggressive behavior.

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