Intercultural Management - Egypt
Being a Manager in Egypt
The business set up in Egypt is very formal and intercultural management will be more successful if you are courteous at all times and treat those in positions of authority with respect and deference.
You will need an Egyptian agent to act as an intermediary and arrange appointments. If you are doing business in both Alexandria and Cairo, it is best to have separate agents for each city. You can find an agent by contacting the commercial attaché of the Egyptian Embassy in your country, the commercial section of your country’s embassy in Egypt, or the Egyptian Department of Commerce.
Expect to be offered coffee or tea whenever you meet someone, as this demonstrates hospitality. Even if you do not take a sip, always accept the beverage. Declining the offer is viewed as rejecting the person.
Since Egyptians judge people on appearances, stay in a high standard international hotel. Likewise, wear good quality conservative clothes since they mark you as a person of status.
The Role of a Manager
Cross cultural communication will be more effective when managing in Egypt, if you remember each person has a very distinct role within the organization. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
Most Egyptians do not separate their personal and work lives. Managers often adopt a paternalistic role with their subordinates. They provide advice, listen to problems, and mediate disputes.
Approach to Change
Egypt’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is minimal. This means that change is difficult to bring about and is not received with any enthusiasm. Projects will need to be carefully analyzed every step of the way to assure that all the risks have been assessed and understood.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Deadlines and timescales are fluid. Patience is the key to successful intercultural management when working in Egypt. Essentially a relationship-driven culture, it should be understood that taking the time to get to know someone will always take precedence over any timelines. Don’t rush the relationship building process or you may jeopardise any future business dealings.
When working with people from Egypt, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization. However, it isn’t unusual for a manager in Egypt to avoid confrontation over a deadline in order to maintain a positive relationship within the team.
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.
Managers reach decisions after many discussions with everyone involved. Once a decision is reached, it is given to subordinates to implement. Employees do not publicly question manager’s decisions. Risk-taking is limited to those in decision making positions.
Employees are generally treated with respect. In turn, employees treat managers with the respect and deference attributable to their position.
Boss or Team Player?
If you are working in Egypt, it is important to remember that reputation plays an important role. The risk becomes amplified in a team or collaborative setting. 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.
Successful cross cultural management will rely on the individual’s interpersonal skills and ability to maintain cordial relationships with their subordinates.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Egyptians must know and like you to conduct business; personal relationships are necessary for long-term business. At the beginning of the negotiation, wait to be told where to sit, as most seating reflects rank. If the government is involved, discussions will take even longer since approval must often be given by the ministers of several departments. It is advisable to include older people with impressive titles in your team since Egyptians respect age and experience.
To ensure you avoid cross cultural miscommunication, contracts and agreements should spell out, in minute detail, what the expectations are for both sides.