The basic business style in Ukraine is formal. In other words, in business it is best to adopt a formal approach and cross cultural management should bear in mind that Ukrainians pay close attention to hierarchy and status.
In business it is important to be aware of your colleagues’ position and rank so that you treat them with the appropriate deference.
In most cases it is advisable to have a Ukrainian partner to conduct business. This person makes the initial introductions and helps you wind your way through the serpentine bureaucracy.
The Role of a Manager
Successful intercultural management is more likely to be achieved with some knowledge and understanding of Ukraine’s history. Management in countries of the former Soviet Union is a complex, constantly evolving state-of-affairs, each country moving towards a market economy (with its’ accompanying protocols) at a different pace.
The transition to a free-market economy has brought about remarkable, but not wholesale changes in the business culture. Generally, among the older generation, you will find deference to authority, coupled with a sense of loyalty and a detached attitude for meeting objectives and goals of the company. Among younger workers, however, you’ll find an eagerness to explore the new opportunities that the market has to offer.
Approach to Change
Ukraine’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. This country is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and because of this attitude, cross cultural sensitivity is going to be required.
Approach to Time and Priorities
Ukraine is a moderate time culture and typically there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines.
When working with people from Ukraine, in order to achieve successful cross cultural management, it is advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
Global and intercultural expansion means that some managers may have a greater appreciation of the need to enforce timescales and as such, agreed deadlines are more likely to be met.
Most businesses retain a hierarchical structure where employees are expected to defer to anyone in a position of authority. Ukrainians have great respect for age and status, which is denoted by position or wealth. The management style may seem dictatorial or autocratic by Western standards. Managers expect their subordinates to follow established procedures without question.
Since the educational system promoted rote learning for many years, employees often lack problem-solving skills. Subordinates are often hesitant to question a manager’s instructions. Many older managers prefer to make no decision rather than risk making an incorrect decision.
Boss or Team Player
In post communist countries, there is a tradition of teamwork inherited from the communal aspects of the previous era where groups and work units commonly met together to discuss ideas and create plans. However, those plans seldom resulted in implementation or results, leading to apathy and cynicism among the workers.
Today the after-effects are still evident among much of the older generation resulting in a lack of drive and energy. However, there is vibrancy among the younger generation, who seem to be eager to tackle many of the challenges and take the opportunities presented. They will participate in teams and share ideas, but intercultural sensitivity will be needed and it should be understood that they will need to be coached in the process.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Ukrainians prefer to deal with those they trust; therefore they spend a great deal of time developing the relationship. Patience may be a necessary cross cultural attribute. Hire your own interpreters for meetings and negotiations to avoid any possible cross cultural miscommunication. Most negotiations involve a team, although the most senior Ukrainian is generally the spokesperson. Ukrainians can be tough negotiators. If you let the other side know that you have a time deadline, they will delay even further in an attempt to coerce you into making concessions. Ukrainians will lose their temper, walk out of the meeting, or threaten to terminate the relationship in an attempt to coerce you to change your position.