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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Taiwan

The guide below is for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Taiwan.

It provides some useful information for managers who are relocating to the country for employment as well as those who may have Taiwanese employees in their global or multicultural teams.

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

Management in Taiwan

Confucianism has had a significant impact on Taiwanese culture, including management practices. Key aspects include respect for authority, hierarchical structures, and the importance of harmony and consensus in decision-making.

  • Rank and status are extremely important in business.
  • Communication is formal, especially when dealing with someone of a 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 socialise, 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.

  • Taiwanese managers value hard work, discipline, and dedication.
  • Long working hours and a strong commitment to the job are common.
  • Maintaining a strong work ethic is highly regarded in the Taiwanese business culture.

Approach to Change

Taiwan’s cultural appetite 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 embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk.
  • Because of this attitude, cultural sensitivity will be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.
  • Taiwanese managers recognize the importance of continuous learning and adaptability in a rapidly changing business environment.
  • They encourage employees to acquire new skills and knowledge to stay competitive and seek opportunities for professional development.

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 online 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.
  • Taiwanese managers tend to have a long-term perspective and prioritize stability and sustainability.
  • Building strong relationships with employees, customers, and partners is emphasized to foster trust and loyalty.

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.
  • Group consensus is often sought in decision-making processes.
  • Managers in Taiwan value input from team members and aim to create a collaborative environment where different perspectives are considered before making important decisions.

Boss or Team Player?

Taiwanese organizations typically have a hierarchical structure with clear lines of authority. Managers are expected to provide guidance and make decisions, while employees are expected to follow instructions and respect authority.

  • 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, cultural 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

The Taiwanese communication style tends to be indirect and subtle, emphasizing politeness and avoiding confrontation. Managers often use implicit cues and non-verbal communication to convey their intentions and expectations.

  • 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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