Malaysians are a multi-ethnic society and hence cross-cultural issues should be remembered at all times. When working as a manager in Malaysia, there are a few pointers that have to be followed and adhered to for successful management experience with the employees, potential customers and investors. Most of these are in relation with the culture of Malaysians and this therefore requires a quick study of their culture once one gets to their country.
One of the most important things to know as a manager is that employees in the company will be multi-ethnic from the three main ethnic groups of Chinese, Malays and Indians. This combination of the employees based on their ethnicity demands ethnic diversity and sensitivity when dealing with them (King, 2010). It is important to learn about each of their important traditions and especially in relation to food and festivities which they hold dear. The most common tradition despite the diversity is their love for food. Food is essentially any icebreaker even in meetings. When holding business negotiations, friendly meetings or even employee staff meetings, it is necessary to have food (Yousof, 2013). People in this country generally bond over food. The food has to have representation of all the ethnic groups as well as mind the religion of the people. An example is that Muslims which make up half of the religious population do not eat pork or drink alcohol and Chinese do not eat beef. In the meetings therefore, beef and pork have to be present together with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well in order to make every race, religion and ethnic group feel represented.
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Even though Malaysia is becoming an industrialized nation, English is not the national language and hence not everyone is versed with the language. It is therefore important for the new manager to learn the essential words in the national language of Malay. This will go a long way into making the manager be considered part of the in-group as well as seal many business deals as she will be more local than foreign. It is however important to consider the forum of speaking either of the languages in order not to be considered racist or a non-conformist. In majority of the formal meetings and encounters for example, English language has to be used. When it comes to informal gatherings or a mixture of both formal and informal such as dinner meetings at the offices, then a combination of the two languages is considered appropriate to be used. The use of the national language breaks the leadership barrier and allows for easier communication and opening up of the employees and the rest of the people (King, 2010).
The other most important thing to remember as a manager in Malaysia is that the culture is more collectivist than individualist. This means that they are largely and in-group people and the manager should try to fit into an in-group for sustainable success in the organization (Siddiquee, 2013). In addition to this, Malaysians take on a more paternalistic attitude and culture. This means that in order to succeed in leadership and decision making with the employees, the manager has to take note of the employees’ personal life and demonstrate concern. This attitude is in areas such as their families and health among other non-work aspects. This leads to a show of adherence to culture, increase the element of trust with the employees as well as makes the leader also be considered a team player. All these may be aspects foreign in US leadership but they are what moves decision making and successful leadership and organizational management in Malaysia.
Lastly, in order to cement any business deal or win in any negotiations, a manager has to be patient and play the culture card of offering food and sticking to protocols. The manager cannot hurry any business deal to close, but rather needs to be persevering and persistent as the decision making process is slow (Mallin, 2011). An example is that Malaysians like to pause for long before answering or making any final decision and they cannot be hurried during this pause as this is considered rude and may end the negotiations abruptly and on a negative note.
All in all, when one gets to learn the basics of Malaysian culture, adhere to the cross-cultural issue at work by making all employees’ culture equal and being in their in-group, then success as a manager will be eminent. All that one requires is patience and positive results will be yielded in the long run by the manager.
- King, V. (2010). Malaysia – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture. Kuala Lumpur: Kuperard.
- Mallin, C. (2011). Handbook on International Corporate Governance: Country Analyses. Washington DC: Edward Elgar Publishing.
- Siddiquee, N. (2013). Public Management and Governance in Malaysia: Trends and Transformations. Hong Kong: Routledge.
- Yousof, G. (2013). Issues in traditional Malaysian culture. Singapore: Partridge Singapore.