It is important that meetings should remain as harmonious and non-confrontational as possible, with due regard being given to the preservation of face.
Thus, it could be very detrimental to the long-term health of any business relationship should a meeting descend into recriminations or openly expressed frustrations. Bear in mind that the quality of the relationship is the key determinant of a successful and mutually fruitful partnership. (Although, once again, when dealing with Western educated Singaporeans working with MNCs, it is possible to encounter US style frankness.)
The focus of any meeting should be on co-operation and the preservation of harmony. Therefore, it is often a good idea to let any sticking points drop, returning to them later through another approach or even saving them for later in the negotiation process when further progress has been made and the relationship further strengthened.
Respect should be given to the hierarchy during the meeting, which includes thoughtful pauses prior to answering questions posed by senior managers. Do not leave your junior members to deal with their senior team whilst you attend to something more important! Punctuality is crucial, as lateness implies a lack of respect.
The use of coded and diplomatic language can make meetings seem inconclusive and confusing, with many items seemingly left hanging in the air. It is important to have a good understanding of Singaporean communication patterns.
The government has introduced very tight legislation governing the issues around gift giving – wishing to avoid the corruption scandals which have tainted other Asian societies in the past. It is, therefore, less common for gifts to be given and received in Singapore than in many other countries in the region.
It is possibly better to give one gift to the group as a whole, but if individual gifts are to be given they should be merely tokens (pens with corporate logos etc.) As with other Asian countries, gifts should be wrapped and are unlikely to be opened in front of the giver.
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 Singapore 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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