Business Culture In Asia

An expatriate Australian sales manager slashed the corporate entertainment budget and told his salespeople to stop getting drunk with customers and get on the phone, or make ordinary sales visits. This approach, routine in Australia, proved disastrous. The Korean customers were used to being wined and dined.

A Western business visitor was annoyed by an Indian CEO interrupting their meeting for phone calls and discussions with others, on both business and private matters. However, it is part of the Indian CEO’s culture to do several things at once, in contrast to the Western preference for finishing one task before turning to the next.

An group of Australian business people thought they were making progress with a Thai group in negotiations to set up a joint venture. Every time they asked the Thais whether they were interested, the Thais would answer “yes”.

But it was part of their culture not to be so rude as to say “no”. A better approach for the Aussies would have been to ask “When will we be moving on to the next level of our business relationship?” The answer, by Thai courtesy principles, may have been “It is difficult at this time”. Enough said. The Australian group never got its deal.

A Malaysian manager uses meetings as a means of exercising power and a forum for communicating his decisions to others, who are then permitted to make constructive remarks. By asking critical questions, an Australian manager will cause the leader to lose face.

The Chinese in business are very hierarchical. Not only do managers expect employees to do exactly as they say, no excuses, they must also do it in the way specified.

Employees must also refer decisions to their bosses. If an Australian asks her Chinese counterpart a question by email, the Chinese employee must ask the boss whether it is alright to give the information.

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