Managers expect that their instructions will be obeyed and this expectation of obedience is usually fulfilled.
Confucianism stresses obedience and loyalty and this manifests itself strongly in the manager/subordinate relationship. It is useful to think of the manager as a father who, in return for loyalty, respect and obedience gives the subordinate support and help at all times.
Although leadership is hierarchical and paternalistic, it is also infused with the Korean concept of inwha, which emphasises the harmony necessary between people of equal rank and standing. Thus, it is important that group situations are characterised by lack of confrontation and blame. The good manager spends a great deal of time and effort ensuring that his team has a good working relationship and that all members feel fully integrated.
The Koreans also employ a process of consensus decision-making in certain situations, which is similar to the system of nemawashi found in Japan. This system ensures that the group feels involved in the decision whilst ensuring that the manager can still maintain an influence over the outcome.
Managers are expected to take a holistic interest in their subordinates and this necessitates greater involvement in many more areas of personal life than would be expected in Anglo-Saxon countries where work and private are very strongly separated.
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 South Korea 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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