Working together as a team with Thai people

Written by Daniëlle de Goeij November 2013. Posted in Int. Skills, Working with people

Working together as a team with Thai people

In order to get things done with Thai people, it is very important to build up a relationship by earning their trust. Holding informal meetings during lunch, giving treats, or just a having friendly conversations to get to know each other will help you build up this relationship, as simply start getting down to business immediately will not work.

The Thai seem to wander around the point in order to avoid confrontation at all times, as they just do not want to hurt your feelings. They also expect you to do the same, so is not advisable to be direct and to give them orders without first having earned their trust if you want to maintain a good spirit in the team. Instead, say something close to the truth in order not to hurt their feelings. In other words, be sure to prevent them from suffering a “loss of face”, which they would see as rude and unforgivable and which could damage your relationship. Once a “loss of face” has happened, no cooperation will be given and it will be really hard to get back to where you had been with them. It is really important to approach them calmly and to speak nicely as well as not too loudly, since they are really introverted and quiet at first.

Punctuality does not seem to be a Thai thing, as they apt to be late and very relaxed in terms of time schedules. Therefore, try to trick them by saying the appointment will be at 8 o’clock if you want them to be there by 9 o’clock, since an hour is on average what it takes for them to arrive.

In addition, Thai people are not apt to share their information and their ideas at their own initiative. Instead you need to ask for it and encourage them to speak up. You can do that by showing them respect by listening to their whole story, yet do not be too direct if you do not agree with their opinions and do not intervene when they are telling their story, as this is seen as rude. It will make them feel insecure and it can damage their willingness to work together with you. If you take this into consideration, you will notice that they will become more assertive and will speak up more quickly because they feel safe.

As soon as you have earned their trust and a good relationship has been built, the Thai tend to be very loyal to the team. Moreover, reaching consensus is important, as their goal is to get to a win-win situation.When consensus has been reached it is important to have at least one person who will take the lead and make the final decision, since the Thai are apt toleave the final decision for those higher up in the hierarchy. Leadership is needed in order to get things done, as otherwisedeadlines will not always be met. Therefore, the best way to make sure deadlines are reached is to monitor and intervene frequently. Yet, do not rush them or put a lot of pressure on them, as this will work counterproductively.  

As should be clear by now, the Thai people have a lot of rituals and traditions that reflect how they work together. The best results are reached by means of informal events rather than by structured and serious meetings. The key factor is to make friends and show respect for the Thai culture and to be the leader they need you to be in order to get things done. That will also get you their cooperation, and that will open doors to further collaboration.