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 - Libya

Being a Manager in Libya

To ensure successful cross cultural management in Libya, you need to maintain a degree of formality until you develop a personal relationship. It is crucial to demonstrate respect and deference towards older businesspeople, those in senior positions, and government officials.

Libyans are more comfortable conducting business with those with whom they have a personal relationship rather a stranger. Therefore, they may spend time getting to know you as a person. This is a vital part of business and you should not attempt to rush the process.

Libyans are extremely hospitable to visitors, although they expect you to understand the rules of their country and to obey them. Intercultural sensitivity is essential and you should never criticize the ruler, even in jest. Relationships take time to grow and must be nurtured. This generally requires many face-to-face meetings and cups of coffee in a local café.

Libyans do not stringently divide their business and social lives. Therefore, they will telephone a business colleague at home over the weekend, late in the evening, or early in the morning if they have a question. Likewise, they will raise business subjects during social engagements and discuss social matters during business meetings.


The Role of a Manager

Successful cross cultural management will keep 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.

In Libya, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees. They may demonstrate a concern for employees that goes beyond the workplace and strictly professional concerns.

Approach to Change

Libya’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is low. Libya remains a low risk and low change-tolerant culture despite the apparent adoption of Western business practices. This means that change for its own sake is not necessarily considered a good thing, although in some circles it may be. Many older Libyans continue to see change as a threat to the culture.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Libya is a fluid time culture, and as is the case with many fluid time cultures, it is also very relationship-oriented. People in Libya will not want to upset others in order to force adherence to a deadline.

When working with people from Libya, 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

Employees are generally treated with respect. In turn, employees treat their manager with the respect and deference attributable to their position. Managers do not publicly chastise employees because it would cause the subordinate to lose dignity and the manager to lose respect.

Once a decision is reached, which may be by a committee rather than an individual, it is generally given to subordinates to implement. Hierarchy dictates that managers tell employees what to do and provide them with the necessary tools to do so.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working in Libya intercultural sensitivity is essential. 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

Good personal relationships are important since trust is required in order to conduct business. Companies are hierarchical and comments should be addressed to the highest-ranking person. Decisions are reached slowly since they are generally not made by a single individual. In many cases, a committee or several committees may be involved. If you try to rush decisions, you will jeopardize your business dealings. Libyans are skilled and direct negotiators, taking a straightforward approach and putting all their cards on the table early in the process. They expect others to do the same. Do not use high-pressure sales tactics. Proposals and contracts should be kept simple. Prices are generally quotes in Euros. Contracts must be written in Arabic.