Delegating and Supervising in South Africa

Written by Britt Kenter November 2013. Posted in Leadership, Int. Skills

Delegating and Supervising in South Africa

Generalizations about South Africa are risky. Who would dare to make statements about a country with eleven official languages, with nine major African tribes live along with many other nationalities, a country where all world religions are represented? A country where the difference between men and women is great, where wealthy and poor people live together in all possible varieties. South Africa has been described as 'a world in one country'.

It is a country full of surprises.

That was the first impression of Tom Kenter when he arrived in South Africa. He works at De Groot en Slot, a company specializing in onion seed and often goes to South Africa to see the fields full of onions. He works in the area Oudtshoorn, a 400km drive from Cape Town. He says that the country is very beautiful, but it runs 15 years behind. The computers and facilities are old.  That is something that you have to take into account as a manager. What he also finds important for delegating and supervising in South Africa is that you have to be respectful and confident. There is still a distinct culture of “you are the boss and your employees must obey”.

The employees are very obliging, so they do almost everything you say. This is especially true for the black South Africans, the people of pure African descent, who can be divided into two main groups: the Nguni and Sotho. What is important for those employees is that you as a boss exude confidence. South Africans quickly notice when you are not telling the truth to them. You can prevent this by telling them what you want to achieve. You have to be self-confident and you have to know the particular theory. This will give themthe idea thatyou really knowwhat you're talkingabout. This is goodfor establishing a relationship with your employees.

Respect is very important in South Africa. You have to respect your employees and based on this you will work to a higher goal. There is a big distance in the relationship between the boss and the employee. As a boss you are really "above" the workers. You have to delegate clear tasks to your employees, and then they will do them for you.

The white South Africans can be divided into two groups: Afrikaners and English speakers. Unfortunately, there is still a difference between black and white South Africans, but the country lives more in harmony now. In all communities there are unfortunately still some racists, but most South Africans have learned to live with each other.

What is also important to keep in mind is that the South Africans have their own way of dressing. Especially rural residents are still relatively 'poorly' dressed. Cut jeans and revealing clothing are worn daily. Remember that some religions, such as Islam, have their own dress codes, so is advisable to take this into account.

In conclusion, be respectful and confident. Approach your employees like they are your employees. You are their boss. A good first impression is very important. Tell what you want to achieve and what you're doing here. The relationship will grow if you gain their trust. But there will still be a distance between you and your employees, and that is okay. Over the years South Africa has been described as a ‘rainbow nation’, but it is not a country that a tourist can easily get used to. The warmth, the history and the beautiful scenery of South Africa make it a land of hope and opportunities.