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Cross Cultural Management Guide – Taiwan


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 Taiwan:

  • 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 Taiwan business venture by

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

Management in Taiwan

To ensure successful cross cultural management in Taiwan, it is essential to remember that communication is both formal and somewhat indirect at the same time. Since Taiwan is a homogeneous country, much can be expressed and understood without words. It is often difficult for westerners to appreciate the subtleties of certain situations and cross cultural miscommunication may occur.

  • Rank and status are extremely important in business.
  • Communication is formal, especially when dealing with someone of higher rank.
  • Treating them too informally, especially in front of their peers, may ruin a potential deal.
  • Do not continue business discussions during meals or social events.
  • Your senior Taiwanese colleague will generally want his subordinates to attend meals or socializing, and business is never discussed in front of subordinates.
  • The Taiwanese have many rules of etiquette that dictate how people must behave towards each other.

The Role of a Manager

In Taiwan, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.


Approach to Change

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

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

To ensure successful cross cultural management, you will need to bear in mind the hierarchical business set up.

  • In general, the manager may function autocratically and dictate to his subordinates. Management is Confucian style, which means that subordinates are expected to provide unquestioning obedience in return for wise and paternalistic leadership.


Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Taiwan, it is important to remember that in Taiwan there is a significant deference to.

  • This may be a particular challenge in a collaborative or team environment. More recently, this trait has been changing in the younger generations who have found employment in multinational companies and have embraced the idea of teamwork and participation.
  • When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is necessary. It is important to qualify ideas that are raised in a gentle manner, protecting the reputation of those bringing up ideas, so no one is shamed.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

Cross cultural management will be more effective if you understand that personal relationships are crucial to business.

  • Taiwanese do business with people rather than companies.
  • Designate the most senior person in your group as your spokesperson.
  • Avoid putting your Taiwanese colleagues on the spot. Taiwanese are non-confrontational. They will not overtly say "no"; they will say "they will think about it" or "they will see". Try to phrase your questions so that they require more than a yes or no response. This will allow you to be certain you were understood.
  • Always provide a way out so that your Taiwanese colleagues do not lose face.
  • Avoid losing your temper or you will irreparably damage your relationship.
  • The Taiwanese often drag out negotiations to wear you down. If you mention that you have a deadline to conclude negotiations, they may slow down even more to gain the upper hand. Negotiations often continue after a contract has been signed.
  • Deadlines are not strictly adhered to, although they are not typically missed by more than one week.
  • If you are signing a contract, an astrologer may be called upon to determine the signing date. Never sign your name using red ink.

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