People wishing to manage others effectively in Malaysia need to be aware of certain critical issues, which may vary enormously from their own country of origin.

Firstly, as an hierarchically oriented country, managers are expected to be people who are viewed as being worthy of respect and this respect is based rather on personal attributes than on more task-oriented matters. People are worthy of respect if they are older and have the wisdom that age brings. People are also worthy of respect when they show respect to the face of others. Therefore, the manager should never do anything to make a subordinate lose face. Reprimands are often best done through the use of a third party. It is also difficult to respect those who are overly direct – vagueness and diplomacy are an art form, whereas directness can be construed as uncivilised and uneducated behaviour.

The manager is also expected to take a holistic interest in the well-being of the subordinate – both in work and outside. The relationship could be construed as being more like father and son than the western view of boss and subordinate.

Secondly, as basically group-oriented in approach, people like to feel part of a team and expect individual aspirations to be sublimated to the group needs. Managers should foster this inter-group co-operation rather than try to set up inter-group competitiveness which will lead to lack of harmony and therefore unhappiness.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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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 Malaysia. 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 Malaysia 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:

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