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Cross Cultural Management Guide – Singapore


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 Singapore:

  • 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 Singapore business venture by: 

  • Taking part in a two-hour live webinar, customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our Singapore country and culture training experts or;
  • Investing in a full Country Insight Report wich covers the culture and business environment.

Management in Singapore

Successful cross cultural management is more likely if you bear in mind that business in Singapore is formal and strict rules of protocol are generally observed.

  • The group (company or department) is viewed as more important than the individual.
  • People observe a strict chain of command, which comes with expectations on both sides. In order to keep others from losing face, much communication will be non-verbal and you must closely watch the facial expressions and body language of people you work with.
  • Relationships take time to develop. You must be patient as this indicates that your organization is here for the long-term and is not looking only for short-term gains.


The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management needs to bear in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order.

  • In Singapore, 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

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

Singapore is generally quite careful about time guidelines in business situations where schedules and deadlines are regarded seriously.

  • Effective cross cultural management skill will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.


Decision Making

Singapore is a hierarchical culture, so the boss is considered to be superior to their subordinates. Subordinates do not ask their boss questions, as it would indicate that the boss had not done a good job of explaining what was necessary. Subordinates will canvass other workers and come to a group consensus of what should be done and how it should be accomplished.

  • The respect a Singaporean shows their boss might seem strange to many western cultures. Bosses are treated with the same respect one shows their parents.
  • Since asking questions is not part of the culture, managers spend a great deal of time writing instructions that guarantee everyone will understand what’s required of them.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Singapore, it is important to remember that face and reputation play an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting and 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.

  • Cross cultural sensitivity is essential and you must avoid exposing or potentially embarrassing anyone in public.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Always send a list of people who will be attending the negotiations and their title well in advance.

  • Personal relationships are crucial to conducting business and, as such, Singaporeans must like you and feel comfortable with you to do business.
  • Always wait to be told where to sit as there is a strict hierarchy that must be followed.
  • Business negotiations happen at a slow pace and patience may be a necessary cross cultural attribute.
  • Singaporeans are non-confrontational.
  • Singaporeans tend to lean towards an indirect communication style. As part of this, they will not overtly say "no"; likewise, their "yes" does not always signify agreement.
  • Singaporeans give a respectful pause of up to 15 seconds before answering a question. If you are signing a contract with ethnic Chinese, the signing date may be determined by an astrologer or a geomancer (feng shui practitioner).

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