The concept of Bapakism is often discussed with regard to approach to management in Indonesia.
Bapak 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.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Indonesia. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Indonesia and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: