Meeting styles in Argentina

Written by Daniël Dam, Ricardo van der Himst, Dirk Boogaarts January 2014. Posted in Int. Skills, Meeting styles

Meeting styles in Argentina

Business meetings in Argentina can be somewhat different when compared to Western European meeting styles and require some planning and work beforehand to make everything go as smoothly as possible (Lewis (2006).
Argentines seek information on their counterparts they are meeting. This includes company details and also the people, such as official titles, positions and task areas. Furthermore it is advisable to send someone representing the company at an equal level (Lewis, 2006, p. 107). Reconfirmation of appointments is generally expected, and also done once or twice, as procrastination does happen, at any moment.
Due to the long working hours of the Argentines, business diners are generally held at 8, 9 or even 10 p.m. Both lunches and diners may take longer.

Meeting etiquette
It is not uncommon for Argentine counterparts to arrive 30 to 60 minutes late (Lewis, 2006). The more important a person is, the longer they might let guests wait. Besides simply showing power (e.g.: Argentine Pope Francis: Jorge Mario Bergoglio kept his German visiting bishop waiting), this is most likely also due to the Argentine view on time, or simply due to Buenos Aires traffic jams (Becker, 2004).
A professional appearance is meaningful in Argentina. This includes the dress code, documentation as well presentation. It is furthermore appreciated if business cards or handouts are translated to Spanish. Business cards should have all the doctorate degrees and titles on them.
Greetings are also dependent on status and seniority. The highest ranking member of a business team is normally the one to introduce and greet everyone first according to Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conway (2006).
The business meeting will start with a more informal talk about personal life and the beloved things about Argentina. Appreciated topics to talk about are sports, Argentine music or the Argentine history. During this stage it is advised to try to speak open with Argentines, because small talk is seen as a vital part of the relationship building process (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1997).
When giving presentations to Argentines, listing fact and figures will only be successful if they do not contradict faith or feelings. Interruptions during presentations are more frequent. And Argentines show less hesitation picking up their mobile phones during a meeting.
After the meeting, be prepared for another “informal talk” about the Argentines and their lifestyles. It is considered rude to rush off after a meeting. They would perceive it as a lack of respect towards the Argentine counterparts. Also, it is not uncommon to continue negotiating outside the meeting room, for example in the hallways of the office, or during a luncheon after a meeting.

Seating arrangements
The seating arrangements will follow a specific order. The person with the highest ranking will most likely enter last. The person with the highest position within the company will be seated at the head of the table. The most important people are seated to the left and right of the senior manager. Furthermore, find out who else are attending the meeting and which positions they have within the Argentine company. This way you can figure out who is going to sit where. Try to seat the businessmen and women opposite to each other, so that the people with the same position in the companies are sitting in front off each other. For example, put the senior manager in opposite with the senior manager of the Argentine company. Then put the marketing manager in opposite of the other marketing manager etcetera (Morrison & Conway 2006).

Reasoning styles
The reasoning style that fits Argentina bests is referred to as “finishing with the conclusion”, a style explained by Peterson (2004, p 104). Through this approach, one would “collect data, consult experts, run studies, and then arrive at a conclusion. Using this approach, you work your way inward and won’t know for certain what your conclusion will be until you arrive at it”. Argentine businesspeople have a cognitive reasoning style that is strongly influenced by a school system which is based on philosophising and reasoning. As a result, Argentines have a more circular reasoning style. This means that it will take time before coming to a conclusion. The Argentines take many things in consideration before reaching the conclusion, including things which might look irrelevant from a Western perspective.
Therefore, important details of the meeting could pass by in just seconds, so listen very carefully. Due to this circular reasoning style Argentines prefer extensive and complex explanations. The style of communication for Argentine people is polite, assertive, formal, serious, and argumentative. Tempers could easily go up during the discussion. To reach an agreement, ensure the Argentine leader is involved right from the start and give the most attention to openness, fairness and transparency while meeting the Argentines. When an agreement is finally reached with an Argentine counterpart, be prepared for a very detailed contract that needs to be signed.

Display of emotions
Argentines are likely to display their emotions during a meeting. Due to the circular reasoning style they will talk a lot, and there will tend to be an overlap of communication before the point is reached. Because they want to discuss so many details the tempers could go up during the meeting. Argentines like to give their opinion with passion and ambition. However, if someone disagrees with the boss from the Argentine company itself, it is not said directly. If this should happen, the Argentine boss would lose face and not be seen as a good manager or boss. Also, the Argentine pride would be crushed. Do not criticize your Argentine partner directly. The Argentines will lose face. More importantly, they think it is very offensive to do something like that and will not do business with you anymore. It also works the other way around. When they think your idea is worth nothing they never say it right in your face.

Patterns of information sharing
In Argentina the communication style is very indirect and implicit. Displaying passion about your idea or product and the way you talk about it is very important. Decisions are made by seniors, even without consulting with their subordinates. It can take some time before Argentines see you as a business partner because Argentines are profit-driven, according to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997). They need to know if someone is trustworthy, so you must be open to participate in social activities.
In Argentina decisions are made from the top. The business culture is very hierarchical, which translates to the power being assigned to a few individuals instead of boards. Therefore the bosses are more paternalistic. They do not want to give their subordinates any authority, and they make all the decisions themselves. Because of this there is a poor information flow. If you want information, you should build a relationship with the right people and show that you are trustworthy.
Argentines do not like sharing information, because of their hierarchy. It is common to keep information for oneself, because information is really valuable and is sometimes used in a game of power. Only seniors pass information to each other, or they pass it to family members.
In conclusion, the communication style of the Argentines is polite, formal and serious with a preference for detailed explanations. Meetings are not always focused on the specific issues, but all previously specified issues need to be present! If not, it will be noticed. The meetings in Argentina are like a discussion. When you have an idea you can be interrupted the whole time because the others are demonstrative in making their points.