Intercultural Management - Russia
Being a Manager in Russia
Management Guide Russia
Intercultural adaptability is essential when working in Russia and you need to understand the importance of an open and honest approach. It is important to establish your credentials and authority quickly since Russians respect both status and technical expertise. Although they value firmness and dignity, it is advisable to appear approachable and friendly as well.
Management in countries of the former Soviet Union is a complex, constantly evolving state-of-affairs, each country moving towards a market economy (with its accompanying protocols) at a different pace.
Role of a Manager
Cross cultural communication will be more successful if you recognize that although Russians may initially appear stiff and reserved, they often warm up when socializing. Relationships are often developed in after-hours socializing. Most Russians do not trust people who are "all business". Meals and entertainment provide a venue to get to know you as a person. An indication that you have successfully developed a personal relationship is being asked for a favor by that person.
Although courtesy is important in all business relationships, this is especially true in Russia. Businesspeople have long memories for behavior they deem insensitive. Small slights that might be overlooked elsewhere are remembered here.
Approach to Change
Russia has a low tolerance for change and risk. Intercultural sensitivity is important as while in risk tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Russia causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Russia is a moderate time culture and traditionally schedules and deadlines are viewed as flexible. However, the expectations of intercultural and global expansion have caused the Russians to adopt relatively strict standards of adhering to schedules.
When working with people from Russia, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization. Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.
In general, many businesses retain a strong hierarchical structure. Employees show respect to those in positions of authority. Russians generally value age, rank, and protocol. Managers tend to be dictatorial and autocratic. They expect their subordinates to follow established procedures without question. Subordinates do not publicly challenge their manager, as it would make the manager lose dignity and respect. Managers are not comfortable empowering employees.
Boss or Team Player?
Cross cultural knowledge and understanding of the hierarchical system is essential. Successful intercultural management will understand the importance of maintaining their positions of authority. Subordinates are comfortable being dictated to as it is often the only way they have seen business conducted. Some younger, more entrepreneurial Russians may find the old ways tiring and time-consuming, especially if they have lived in a foreign country.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Meetings and negotiations are slow. Russians, especially middle-aged and older do not like being rushed. It takes time for Russians to become warm towards foreign business people. In the first meeting it is best if you appear dignified and firm, yet approachable. Once a relationship is established, allow yourself to be seen as reliable, down to earth, and sincere. Hierarchy is important to Russians. Make sure you have written materials available in both English and Russian to avoid any possible cross cultural misunderstanding. Likewise, hire an interpreter if you need to. Be sure to bring all the copies of everything you need from your home country. Faxes, copy machines, and computers may not be readily available outside of Moscow. Russians are not always comfortable trying new ways of doing things. Do prepare your team in advance so that you have a unified front in the meeting. Russians may lose their temper, walk out of the meeting, or threaten to terminate the relationship in an attempt to coerce you to change your position. Careful minutes, called "protokol" should be taken during the meeting and signed at the end by everyone present. Nothing is final until the contract is signed. Even then, Russians will modify a contract to suit their purposes. Make sure you have an expert in Russian law review your contract thoroughly. Contracts should be translated into both Russian and English.