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 - Mexico

Being a Manager in Mexico

Effective cross cultural management needs to bear in mind the hierarchical business set up in Mexico. This means that you or a senior colleague should try to identify and gain access to the key decision-maker from the outset. Expect there to be rather strict adherence of protocol and ritual. This is a culture where personal introductions are important. Much communication will be situation-specific and there will be little open disagreement, at least in public.

At initial meetings, it is important that your delegation include an upper-level executive, who may be supported by mid-level executives. After the initial getting-to-know-you meeting, the senior executive does not need to attend meetings or be visible. This indicates you are now getting down to business and they are no longer needed to smooth the introduction.

Demonstrating trustworthiness, sincerity, and integrity are crucial to building relationships. Expect to answer questions about your personal background, family and interests. Mexicans are more concerned about your personal character and reputation than the status of the company you represent. The exception to this rule is multinational companies, where the name of the company and market position is paramount.

The Role of a Manager

When working in Mexico, cross cultural management needs to realize the importance of each person’s 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.

Managers and supervisors give clear-cut directions and in return, employees provide what is expected of them. Subordinates follow established precedent and company directives.

In Mexico, as in other hierarchical societies, managers may take a somewhat paternalistic attitude to their employees.

Approach to Change

Mexico’s intercultural tolerance and readiness for change is apparent although Mexico remains a country that is cautious in its business dealings. Changes are made, albeit slowly, and require a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation.

The fear of exposure and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure mean intercultural sensitivity is needed. While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Mexico causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.

Approach to Time and Priorities

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

Global and intercultural 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

Since business is hierarchical, it impacts the structure and pace of decision-making. In meetings, subordinates demonstrate deference and respect towards those of a higher level.

Especially in smaller, regional or local companies, the president may assume a role akin to that of father. His employees want to know that someone is taking care of them and looking out for their welfare and expect this. In return, the owner of the company makes all major decisions.

Boss or Team Player?

When meeting together and moderating ideas, 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. Intercultural sensitivity is important and it is worth remembering that praise should be given to the entire group as well, and not to individuals.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Since Mexicans are status conscious, you should have someone on your negotiating team who is an executive for initial meetings. Who you know is often more important than what you know. If you do not speak Spanish fluently, hire an interpreter to avoid any cross cultural miscommunication. Expect hand gestures and light physical contact as a part of communications. In discussions Mexicans may appear open to new ideas. However, this may not translate into new actions or opinions. Never throw documents on the table during a business meeting as this is seen as highly offensive. Decisions should always be followed by written agreements.