Indonesian Management Style

The concept of Bapakism is often discussed with regard to approach to management in Indonesia.

literally means father and Bapakism refers to the absolute need Indonesians feel to show respect to elders or superiors. The role of the manager is to accept the position of superiority and to use that position to further the aims of the organisation or group. The manager is expected to make decisions and to convey them, in detail, to subordinates. The subordinate then expects to carry out those instructions to the letter (no more and no less), even if it is obvious that the instructions or decisions are flawed. A subordinate would not disagree with the boss – and especially not in public.

In return for accepting the role of manager and the loyalty that naturally accrues from that position, the manager is expected to look after group interests as well as the interests of the individuals within the group. Special attention should be made to ensure that people are not placed in a position where they could possibly lose face. Do not give people roles which will stretch their capabilities, hoping that they can learn from any mistakes they make – mistakes made can cause loss of face. Similarly, any praise or censure is best addressed to the whole group rather than any individual – being singled out can cause enormous embarrassment.

At peer level, managers will be expected to reach decisions through a consensus-forming process, which can prove very time-consuming. It is important that during these peer level discussions all parties strive to maintain the harmony of the group. Any individual who is perceived to be causing disharmony is likely to be viewed with suspicion.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Indonesia

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Indonesia is complex. That is hardly surprising given the fact that the country spans thousands of islands, has over 300 languages and population of about 243 million (which is rising rapidly.) Navigating your way around Indonesia is both literally and figuratively difficult.

However, Indonesia is a country which has tremendous economic potential. The Indonesian government is working hard to try to reduce the country’s dependence on exports of (raw) commodities and to diversify into both the manufacturing and service sectors. In addition to this, vast sums are being pumped into the basic infrastructure of a nation which has suffered from some core infrastructure weaknesses for decades.

About 50% of Indonesia’s population are under the age of 28 which means that the country has a huge demographic dividend with large numbers of people about to enter the workforce. This younger generation is aspirational and consumerist in nature. It could be argued that internal demand for goods and services in Indonesia is about to explode in the next decade.

Many observers believe that, provided some form of political stability can be maintained, Indonesia represents a country with massive growth potential. If Indonesia is to achieve its potential it needs a great deal of external stimulus and support. It needs Foreign Direct Investment and it needs skills and expertise. Indonesia probably needs your goods or services and you are advised to seriously consider Indonesia as a future market if you are not already operating there.

However, Indonesia is a thoroughly Asian country with a rich and unique business culture. The Indonesian approach to business is heavily relationship focused. You need to take time to develop deep and lasting alliances and you need to really understand Indonesian business culture if you are to avoid alienating potential partners.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Indonesian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips