International Management Guides

International Management Guides

Designed specifically for the traveling manager, these short, sharp guides to being a manager in a foreign country offer invaluable insights and practical tips.

Intercultural Management - Ethiopia

Being a Manager in Ethiopia

The business set up in Ethiopia is formal and cross cultural management will be more successful if you adopt a formal demeanor and demonstrate deference to position, age, and rank. It is almost a cultural imperative to develop a personal relationship prior to conducting business. Any attempt to by-pass or rush what can be a time-consuming process could severely limit business success.

Patience is a necessary attribute to successful cross cultural management. Never appear irritated by the time it takes to get things done. Things generally take much longer than expected. It often requires several meetings to accomplish what could be handled by a telephone call at home.

The government exerts great influence in the business sector, particularly in matters pertaining to contracts and non-Ethiopian companies. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain cordial contact with government officials and agencies.


The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management will be more effective if newcomers to the Ethiopian management style study carefully the corporate culture of specific companies because they may vary from being hierarchical to rather egalitarian. Consequently, employees will range from feeling empowered to speak out in the management process, to those who believe it is most important to simply execute the instructions by their leadership.

Approach to Change

Ethiopia’s intercultural competence and readiness for risk is low. Ethiopia is a low risk and low change-tolerant culture. New projects will be carefully analyzed to assure that whatever risk they represent is thoroughly understood and addressed.

In order for change to take hold, the idea needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group. Intercultural sensitivity is important with Ethiopia’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Ethiopia is a moderate time culture and typically and there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.

When working with people from Ethiopia, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.

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

Business is extremely hierarchical and employees are expected to show proper deference and respect towards those in superior positions. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions.

As in many other relationship-driven cultures, Ethiopians do not strictly separate their personal and work lives. Managers often adopt a paternalistic role with their subordinates. They provide advice, listen to problems, and mediate disputes, both personal and business.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Ethiopia, it is important to remember that honor and reputation play 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.

When meeting together and moderating ideas, intercultural sensitivity is required. 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. If someone is exposed and embarrassed, they may likely not participate again, and it will stem the flow of ideas and the participation of the entire group.

Praise should be given to the entire group, and not to individuals.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

The social side of business is very important. Many companies are family-owned and therefore, extremely hierarchical. In most companies the highest ranking person makes decisions. Although negotiations may be conducted with lower-level staff, they are seldom granted full authority to make commitments for the company.

Most business dealings involve the government in some fashion, which further lengthens the decision making since the ministers of several departments must often give approval. Do not criticize anyone publicly. It is important that you do not cause your Ethiopian business associates to lose dignity and respect.

When granting a concession, do so with great reluctance and make it conditional on a concession from your Ethiopian counterparts. Delivery dates and deadlines are considered estimates rather than firm commitments since only God knows what the future holds.