Managing and understanding Mexican business culture
In addition to acquiring knowledge of the country´s regulations and laws, successful operations in Mexico require a profound understanding of its etiquette and corporate business culture. A manager is expected to demonstrate integrity, trustworthiness, and sincerity towards the personnel. Especially in medium sized companies, Mexicans are more concerned about building long lasting personal relationships with their coworkers and managers than about the status of the business they represent.
Cross cultural business management hence needs to familiarize with the hierarchical manner in which businesses in the country are being operated and how decisions are made.
The decision to go to Mexico, be it for professional or personal reasons, offers a wide variety of opportunities and is an increasingly attractive destination for foreigners. The Mexican culture has some basic characteristics that are reflected above all in the way Mexicans think, such as their perception of power and power distribution. Mexicans are typically more used to and tolerant of a somewhat more top down, autocratic form of leadership, which is why they accept and expect an unequal power distribution. Furthermore, Mexican workers are likely to see great importance in status and power, not only in day-to-day life but also at work.
In contrast to that, however, it is crucial to understand that family is traditionally the first priority for a Mexican worker. Hence, familial obligations might, in some instances, be put above career achievements. A further aspect which should be taken into account is the rather elastic sense of time. It is not unlikely for a Mexican to be late for a business meeting or to work. In contrast to some European Countries, where this might draw consequences, this behavior is usually tolerated in Mexico. Especially noteworthy when establishing business relationships in Mexico is that the focus should be on building a friendship. While workers in other countries usually try to draw a line between interpersonal relationships and business relations, the boundary between the two is not as clearly defined in the Mexican workplace.
Communication and daily routine
There are some differences between the US-American and Mexican way of communication and behavior in the daily routine.
In Mexico, one of the most important things is to appear likeable and to establish mutual trust. Harmonious relationships are essential in private life as well as on a business level.
In addition, Mexicans are particularly considered to save face which leads to conflict avoidance and strong politeness. Another important etiquette is to address the counterpart with the right salutation, especially for written communication – usually according to the university degree, for instance “Licendiado/Licenciada” for a Bachelor’s degree in business or “Ingenerio” for an engineering degree.
The Mexican culture leans toward collectivism: Community and family are a priority.
Time and rules
When it comes to time or rules Mexicans are quite flexible. Living in this very moment is important, long-term plans play a secondary role. In addition, the Mexican culture is known for its polychronic understanding of time, which means that several things are done at the same time.
Also, be prepared for tardiness; being late is normal and even in a professional environment up to one hour of being late is accepted and tolerated. Keeping appointments or meeting deadlines do not have the same priority as in the US-American culture.
Concerning rules and laws, improvisation and a rather flexible handling are the norm.
In the context of business and negotiations there are a few things attention should be paid to. Companies are structured with a strict hierarchy. Physical appearance is important, as well as status symbols and the separation between private life and career.
Usually, negotiations start with small talk in order to get to know each other and to establish a trusting relationship. Accepted topics are family, the weather, Mexico’s travel destinations and culinary specialties. Topics implying criticism, for instance corruption, criminality and (a lack of) environmental protection, should be avoided.
It is common to have dinner with a business partner – just be aware that business topics won’t be discussed until after the meal. When it comes to negotiation itself Mexicans are masters of indirect statements and will probably not answer with an unambiguous “no”. Hence, a “yes” should be taken as “probably”.
Contracts are preferably negotiated and closed in person. In addition, although most business professionals speak English, contracts should always be translated and, if possible, negotiations should be realized in Spanish.