Business structures in Portugal have always veered towards the strictly hierarchical — not surprising as most organisations have either been government-run or part of a larger family owned consortium. (The state has until recently owned more than 50% of the country’s assets with another large proportion being in the hands of a relatively small number of very wealthy and powerful families.)
Therefore, unless you are dealing with the subsidiary of a multi-national, it is best to expect that the organisation you are dealing with will have an extremely centralised decision-making approach with all decisions of any importance being made by a few key individuals at the top of the company. It is really important to make some time to understand the structure of the Portuguese business you are dealing with and to ensure that you are speaking to the right people. Time can be wasted trying to get decisions out of people who have little or no authority.
It is also worth bearing in mind that, even when dealing with a multi-national based in Portugal, the mindset of the company’s Portuguese employees might still veer towards a hierarchical structure even where one does not exist on paper.
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This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Portugal only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.