European executive profiles (by steve lodge)

Be nice and smile if you want to hire a Hungarian manager…

Eastern Europe is no more a block than Western Europe when it comes to the way managers think, according to research by an AngloDutch joint venture. Questionnaires completed by 8,000 managers from 18 European countries – including 400 each from Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and East Germany – show that 40 years of Communism has distorted but not overridden national cultures.

For instance, Bulgarians are just as unlikely to help the boss paint his house at the weekend as their UK, Dutch or West German counterparts. But nearly a third of Hungarians, a similar proportion to that in Spain or Italy, would do so. “This should explode the myth of an Eastern bloc – all countries are different,” says David Wheatley of British-based Employment Conditions abroad, which has developed the original research of Fons Trompenaars of the Centre for International Business Studies in the Netherlands.

Mr Wheatley believes the research, which he plans to publish soon, should help West European companies employing and doing business with East Europeans. Deepseated differences in attitude could be crucial to the way companies judge potential recruits, business partners and suppliers, as well as the ability to win business. Unless you recognise and take into account the differences, business relationships will falter or even fail, he says.

A Pole will call you utterly crazy during a meeting without meaning to be personal. Criticism of an idea does not extend to the person any more than it does among the Irish, the research finds. But East Germans and Hungarians are evenly matched between those who can take it and those who fear losing face. But all will take criticism of their plans better than Greeks, Portuguese, Spaniards and ltalians, the research finds.

A Hungarian manager is as likely to join your company because he likes and respects you, as much as the career

opportunity itself. So friendly interviewing might pay off in recruitment. Colder, more formal work relationships – as in West Germany or Austria – might suit East Germans better.

Nine out of ten Hungarians will expect to be judged on the basis of who they are, rather than what they do. Austrians are similar. And in contrast to other East Europeans and his Greek neighbours, the typical Bulgarian expects to be judged more on how he works.

Surprisingly, the research finds East European managers are less collective thinkers than the West Germans, Belgians or French. Individual bonuses might motivate managers from Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland and East Germany better than many Westerners.

More than half East German managers questioned thought the overwhelming goal of a company should be profit. This is the greatest proportion of any country – West or East – and compares with only a quarter of West Germans and one in eight Hungarians. And three-quarters of East German managers also believe in getting the job done, no matter how upsetting this may be for employees.

Both these attitudes should bode well for the restructuring of East German industry into a united Germany economy with its associated redundancies. But West Germans might find East Germans’ distrust of “the system” hard to handle. East Germans would lie to protect their friends rather than follow the rules, and might in turn question the West Germans’ own values.

But having ditched the emotional baggage of Communism, other East European managers might still not be left with anything like Anglo-Saxon business values.

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European executive profiles (by steve lodge)