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 - Puerto Rico


Being a Manager in Puerto Rico

Intercultural management is more likely to succeed if you understand that although outwardly warm and hospitable; Puerto Ricans are also conservative and traditional. They behave formally and expect proper etiquette at all times. It is important to mind your manners and not appear overly friendly before you have developed a personal relationship.

Puerto Rico is very much a Latin culture tempered by its close association with the USA. Expect to find an intriguing blend of Latin charm intertwined with North American drive.

Puerto Ricans prefer to do business with "familia" (extended family or friends who are treated as family). Therefore, they have a desire to turn business colleagues into "familia". This requires getting to know each other as individuals. Puerto Ricans enjoy leisurely lunches and dinner and tend to dine late. Cross cultural sensitivity and an awareness of the local etiquette and protocol is necessary. These more relaxed meetings are important opportunities for building trust, establishing credibility, and allowing an informal exchange of ideas and information.


The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communication will be more effective when managing in Puerto Rico, if you keep it in mind that 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.

In Puerto Rico, 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. This may include involvement in their family, housing, health, and other practical life issues.

Approach to Change

Puerto Rico’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is apparent although changes are still made slowly, requiring a considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation. It would be perceived as imprudent to introduce rapid change, and yet it would be recognized as poor management to resist change unnecessarily.

Intercultural sensitivity is important with Puerto Rico’s attitude toward risk dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Deadlines and timescales are fluid in Puerto Rico. Patience will play an essential part in successful cross-culture management.

While timescales and deadlines need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, it should be understood that these will be viewed as flexible.

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

Puerto Rican business is hierarchical and managers tend to be autocratic. They tell subordinates what they want done and often how to do it. They do not expect their subordinates to question them. At the same time, they are also paternalistic. They get to know their personal lives of their subordinates and will assist them if they have personal problems. The goal of the manager is to make his subordinates feel that their place of work is a substitute family.

Maintaining personal integrity is an integral part of business. Therefore, if a manager must chastise a subordinate, it will be done in private to allow the subordinate to retain their self-respect.

Boss or Team Player?

If you are working with people from Puerto Rico an intercultural understanding of the importance that hierarchy plays is needed. Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills. It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with someone from a lower status.

This is changing somewhat in younger generations, particularly those employed by multinational corporations.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Expect small talk before getting down to business since Puerto Ricans want to get to know people before doing business with them. Wait for your Puerto Rican colleagues to raise the business subject. Patience is a necessary cross cultural attribute. If you try to rush the process, you will be thought both rude and aggressive. Decisions are often based upon the personal preference of the decision maker, which is why spending time to develop trust and personal relationships is crucial.