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.
This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture.
Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working. We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.
This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Indonesia only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.
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