Thailand is one of the countries in ASEAN of which the majority of the population follows Buddhism traditions. Buddhism has deep roots in the Thai society and it directly influences their management style. Harmony is the highest importance of Thai management in business. They always try to avoid argument and conflict in their organization. It’s a phenomenon that impacts on giving directions, setting goals and making decisions laid down by top bosses/managers.
Business in Thailand is more formal than in many Western countries, therefore if you want to manage the culture change successfully you will need to understand that there are unwritten rules. Foreign managers working in Thailand will probably have to adjust their management style to have an effective leadership.
Being a manager in Thailand
If you follow the Western management style you might change your notions of management in Thailand. Your Thai employees expect a style of leadership counting as authoritarian and autocratic. Employees show respect and deference to their managers and it is important that the manager maintain their role as “boss”.
In many Thai organizations, managers would like to participate in some community activities with employees because through these activities they will have a deeper understanding about their staffs so that the leader can develop their own team more and more. Besides, as a manager you must practice the autocratic decision-making because there will be only top-down decisions.
“Sanook” concept in Thailand
Thailand is famous for the “Land of Smiles”. Thai people love to have fun together. They call it “Sanook”. They don’t like conflicts or quarrels so that keeping happy environment is very important in Thai workplace. You should strive to establish a company culture that is not too overbearing. The more you make your staffs view the workplace as a miserable experience, the harder it is to manage your team/company effectively.
If an individual makes any mistake in his work, the manager needs to deal with this cleverly. It’s essential that the individual does not feel embarrassed in front of his/her colleagues and that the other feel able to continue dedicating their contributions.
Thais enjoy laughing and find working in groups much more pleasant than working individually. Besides, they can be extremely hard-working staffs if the work is fun. Understanding the “Sanook” concept can help you have a suitable reaction in front of your staff.
Paternalism in superior and subordinate relationship
In Thailand, subordinates respond to their manager/superior by showing the proper respect and obedience. They expect the managers to take care of employees by asking about their families, being in times when they’re in trouble and offering advices and guidance wherever it is needed.
Because of adhesive hierarchy in Thai culture, decisions are made from the top. Nobody has to take responsibility for making decisions except the managers/bosses who are highly respected.
It’s such a challenge for foreign bosses/managers to get accurate feedback from Thai subordinates. This is the right moment to be highly patient. It is more effective for you to understand some aspects of the Thai style of management and to spend time with your staff to collect feedbacks indirectly. Moreover, gaining the trust of your staffs will encourage your team and help you to work with them easily.
“Greng jai” concept plays an important role in Thai values
“Greng jai” means to give respect, deference and a reluctance to disturb others. Many Thai employees have learned not to ask questions. Therefore, management style in Thailand often results in having employees who don’t ask, don’t questions and don’t confront. It’s hard to evoke their critical thinking because they don’t want to be considered rude. It seems to be impossible to change this conception because it belongs to the Thai culture. But as a smart manager you can reduce the “Greng jai” by being a caring leader then you will get their trust that can inspire them to give feedback about the performance of the team.
In general, like many countries in Asia, management style of Thais is influenced by hierarchy conception and this might concern with Thailand’s competitiveness. However, Thai staffs can be very hard-working and highly responsibility if they have a good manager/boss who can gain their trust and inspire them to work. They also have high determination to complete the work. But for a better human resource management, it’s good to have tactics in team work and career planning respectively. Besides, the tactics commonly used by top managers/bosses to improve the efficiency of organizations. Finally, Thailand is a very beautiful country with friendly people that’s worth having wonderful experiences in working and living there. So why don’t think about Thailand as the next destination in your career path?!