Japanese managers do their best to avoid telling anyone what to do.
This strategy, which is diagrammed on the right, is essential in a culture driven by honour, and it is possible thanks to strong intuitive communication traits.
In fact, every country has a unique management structure like this, according to linguist Richard Lewis, who has given us permission to publish the fascinating if sometimes mystifyingly complex management diagrams from “Cross-Cultural Communication: A Visual Approach.”
To hear Lewis speak, sign up for his talk on the challenges of going global on April 22 in San Francisco, with a free webinar and article available for our readers.
Argentine managers win over their staff with a 'combination of intellectual argument and openly friendly stance.'
'The Aussies want their boss to join them in a healthy disrespect for rules and formalism, to lapse into broad speech and cuss a bit, to be affable and ironic at the same time, and to avoid flowery or obscure expressions.'
Austrian managers use 'a combination of folksy Austrian-accented German and sophisticated French loan-words.'
Brazilian managers are 'very concerned with cosiness and cheerfulness, freedom of expression and extroversion, and sometimes racial harmony.'
Canadian managers use a low-key and humorous tone as 'a tool for motivating laid-back, calm, modest, tolerant staff.'
'Chinese managers rely heavily on Confucian precepts.' Also 'politeness and courtesy are mandatory.'
Danish 'excels in confiding, almost conspiratorial tones,' which allows the manager 'to share ideas in a closely confidential manner with colleagues.'
Estonian managers 'address their staff in a very factual manner, though elegance of vocabulary is admired.'
Finnish bosses 'can be cold, terse, and factual in one mode, then switch to a richer, more flowery one when it suits their purpose.'
Hispanic American managers tend 'to soften the delivery and the message' in order to show understanding of human problems.
Cantonese, the language of management in Hong Kong, 'is essentially a language of commerce and is consequently faster, blunter, and more factual than most Chinese dialects.'
'Successful Hungarian managers are expected to have mastery of the language, which is rich in imagery.'
Iranian managers 'offer help where needed, have bottom line focus, and give staff members as much freedom as possible to prosper.'
'Irish leaders apply a poetic touch to their dialogue and command allegiance through a skillful combination of ironic humour, subtle references, and reasonable proposals.'
'Kazakh leaders preach a more relaxed form of Islam than the others and their close oil-related involvement with foreigners has encouraged pragmatism and a more international outlook.'
Korean managers are authoritarian and direct and 'beat about the bush much less than Japanese or Chinese.'
Latvian 'managers address staff in a cool, measured manner.' They like to 'mix optimism with realism.'
'Lithuanian is a rich, expressive language, enabling managers to revel in its aesthetic, archaic constructions.'
The energetic and distinctive tones of the Norwegian language serve 'to link managers more closely to their staff.'
'The language of the Pakistani manager emphasises the collective nature of the task and Islamic solidarity.'
'Managers may use facts and figures to motivate, but the key to the Polish heart is sentimental romanticism.'
Portuguese managers use their language skillfully to create 'an impression of deep human understanding.'
In Saudi Arabia (and other Arab countries) 'a good manager is a good Muslim. The language used will make frequent references to Allah and align itself with the precepts of the Koran.'
'Scot leaders address subordinates in an inspirational, commanding, yet folksy manner. Their speech is direct and crisp, and orders are clear.'
Serbian managers use the rhetoric of the Serbo-Croat language, which is 'persuasive, manipulative, and effectively coercive' to mould behaviour.
Sub-Saharan African managers use the 'powers of oratory, symbolism, and ability to call on the influence of ancestors' to manage effectively.
Swedish language tends to 'stratify managers at the same level as their colleagues,' because it heavily uses the informal 'du' form.
'Swiss managers address their subordinates in four different languages,' but all styles 'share Swiss reserve, caution, and common sense.'
Thai 'leaders are expected to be kind to subordinates and will command their loyalty by taking into consideration their needs and desires.'
US managers are 'viewed in a positive and sympathetic light, as one of the figures responsible for the nation's speedy development and commercial services.'
Moralistic doctrine is a priority in Uzbekistan, 'though they let little stand in the way of doing business.'
'Managers address their staff in a folksy way without any trace of superior airs.' Also, 'there is generally a lot of human contact between Welsh managers and their staff.'
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