Intercultural Management - Azerbaijan
Being a Manager in Azerbaijan
Management in countries of the former Soviet Union is a complex, constantly evolving state-of-affairs and successful intercultural management requires some understanding of the history.
In spite of declarations of equality among everyone in the society, there was a clear distinction between Communist Party members and the working classes. By extension, this created groups of "haves" and "have-nots", and a hierarchical structure developed as a result.
Generally, among the older generation in Azerbaijan, you will find deference to authority, coupled with a sense of loyalty and a detached attitude for meeting objectives and goals of the company. Among younger workers, however, you’ll find an eagerness to explore the new opportunities that the market has to offer.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural communication will be more successful if you remember that Azeri business is hierarchical and the management style tends to be more autocratic than western style of leadership. Managers tell subordinates what they want done. They do not attempt to reach a consensus, as they believe doing so would make them look weak.
Managers often treat subordinates as extended family.
Approach to Change
Azerbaijan has a medium tolerance for change and risk. Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation. Tradition is valued, thus change is not readily embraced simply because it is new.
It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
Intercultural sensitivity is important. While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Azerbaijan causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Azerbaijan is a moderate time culture and traditionally schedules and deadlines have been viewed as flexible. However, the expectations of intercultural and global expansion have caused the Azeris to adopt relatively strict standards of adhering to schedules.
When working with people from Azerbaijan, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
Decisions are reached slowly and patience is the key to successful intercultural management. Subordinates follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status.
Boss or Team Player?
Cross cultural knowledge and understanding of the hierarchical system is essential. Successful intercultural management will understand the importance of maintaining their positions of authority. Subordinates are expected to open doors for their superiors and stand when their superiors enter the room, in much the same way young people are expected to behave to older people in social situations.
Today, apathy and cynicism exists among the workers, inherited from the communist era where plans seldom resulted in implementation or led to results. However, there is an eagerness amongst the younger generation to tackle the opportunities and challenges presented. They will participate in teams and share ideas, but they will need to be coached in the process.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
It is crucial that you treat people formally and with proper respect and deference. This includes using titles and first names and the plural word for you ("siz") when addressing someone of a higher status or someone with whom you do not have a personal relationship. Let your Azeri business colleagues determine when your friendship has progressed to the point where you may use the singular form or the first name without the honorific title.
Azeris are polite and formal in business and traditional attitudes abound under a cosmopolitan veneer in Baku. Many business people are not as westernized as they first appear and intercultural sensitivity is essential. In order to avoid cross cultural miscommunication, it is a good idea to hire an interpreter unless you are certain of the English language proficiency of the people you will be meeting.
Azeris are tough negotiators and you should expect a fair amount of bargaining and haggling. Direct questions are rarely used, with Azeris preferring to talk around the issue. However, you should never appear impatient or attempt to rush a decision as this can be counterproductive.