Management styles in Brazil

Written by Aurelia Erasmus, Cisco van Honk, Paloma Aparicio January 2014. Posted in Leadership, Int. Skills

Management styles in Brazil

When becoming a leader in a Brazilian company several things must be taken into account: your personal style, the way you address your subordinates, how you give instruction or feedback, and your capacity to socialize and build rapport are of great importance. One of the aspects to consider when dealing with Brazil’s leadership style is the way Brazilians communicate. This is of the utmost importance since the ability to make yourself understood and to understand others can determine your success in international business (Mole, 2003). The communication style for most Brazilians tends to be high-context and indirect, which means that the foreign manager coming to Brazil would need to try and develop a sense of what Brazilians really mean when they are saying something. To completely understand the message one must read between the lines and figure out the accompanying non-verbal communication. For example, in Brazil, a person from a lower status will not look directly into the boss’s eyes but preferably down as a sign of respect (Moran, Harris & Moran, 2011).
When giving feedback, managers should try and do it in private and not in a too direct way since this could cause loss of face and be considered as rude or harsh (Gupta, 2013). A key characteristic of Brazilian culture is personal pride and the desire to save face. This can sometimes be tricky for the manager since his or her subordinates will not ask many questions about instructions when they do not understand them, generally in order not to appear foolish or uninformed.
The personality of a manager is also of great importance to Brazilians: the way you can present ideas, your gestures and enthusiasm when talking is of extreme importance. If you have an open and vibrant attitude and at the same time you reinforce the boss figure, your subordinates will follow you and put their trust into you, which is the basis of a good team.

Paternalistic
Brazilian organizations tend to be rather hierarchical and paternalistic. Brazilian subordinates expect an authoritarian boss figure and the manager should have a more father-like relationship with his/her subordinates. Brazilian subordinates will commit more to the manager than to the company. In order to become a successful manager, one has to consider the importance of family in Brazil. It is a very strong and fundamental institution that will come before work most of the times. According to Moran et al.(2011), Brazilians view their family loyalty as a major obligation for each individual. Therefore, in order to become a successful leader, you must be flexible and understanding when family obligations emerge and even give assistance to workers when needed. You should build a relationship of trust with your employees but not particularly a close relation (they should always respect you and see you as the boss figure not as a friend) (Santos, 2013). Subordinates in Brazil expect to receive clear instructions. There is a popular Brazilian expression which says Mandaquempode, obedecequem tem juízo” which translated into English means “those who can rule, those who are wise will obey”. Subordinates in Brazil will normally follow the manager’s directions without questioning them, and these need to be clear in order to have work done efficiently.

Portuguese
Although Spanish is the predominantly spoken language in Latin America, it is very important to remember that Brazil is a Portuguese-speaking country. Although there is a certain proximity between Spanish and Portuguese, it is not advisable to use Spanish to address your subordinates. Brazilians are very proud of their culture, and speaking to them in Spanish would mean you do not know anything about their culture, which can turn out to be very offensive.
In order to get orders given and understood, it is recommended to learn Portuguese . Although many of your subordinates can speak perfect English, when dealing with lower-level workers or in certain areas (e.g. manufacturing) presenting your ideas or expectations in Portuguese will help the work go faster, and your employees will actually be able to understand you without any problems.