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 - Guatemala

Being a Manager in Guatemala

The business set up in Guatemala is hierarchical and intercultural management is more likely to succeed if you understand and adhere to the protocol. Spend time cultivating relationships and maintaining them once they are formed. Networking is crucial. This is a country where "who you know" is often more important than "what you know". Interpersonal relationships, including loyalty to family and friends, are the linchpin of successful business interactions.

A Guatemalan’s dignity must be maintained at all times. Never embarrass a business colleague. Telling them that they are incorrect, especially publicly, risks ending the relationship since you have caused the person to lose honor. You, too, will lose honor with others since you have broken the unwritten rule of allowing someone to maintain their dignity and respect.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management needs to bear in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization, and maintaining that role helps to keep order. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and greater knowledge than those they manage, and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.

Managers are more autocratic than in many other countries. Managers do not seek a consensus before making decisions. They tell subordinates what they want done and how they expect them to perform the task. Subordinates follow a manager’s instructions without comment, as it would be rude to challenge someone of a higher status. For the most part decisions are reached at the top of the company and given to managers to implement.

Approach to Change

Guatemala’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. Guatemala is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a record noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.

The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and the need to thoroughly examine the potential negative implications. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid. Patience is the key to successful intercultural management when working in Guatemala. 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.

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

Guatemala business is hierarchical, which plays a pivotal role in the structure and pace of decision-making. Job functions, roles and responsibilities are well defined and respected. Even in meetings, subordinates will demonstrate deference and respect towards those of a higher level.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Guatemala, it is important to remember the role that hierarchy plays. 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.

Guatemalans pride themselves on their cooperative nature and ability to work well on teams. If you are managing Guatemalans, you may find that they will claim to understand instructions even when they do not in order to protect their honor and preserve their dignity. Therefore, it is crucial that you confirm instructions carefully, perhaps by asking the person to demonstrate.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Personal relationships are important to Guatemalans. They prefer to deal with those they trust; therefore they spend time developing the relationship before conducting business. Relationships are more important than business documents. To avoid any cross cultural miscommunication have all written material available in both English and Spanish.

Business is hierarchical. The person with the most authority makes decisions. Include an executive on your negotiating team. This will please status conscious Guatemalans who are known to be uncompromising negotiators.