Doing business in Malaysia

Malaysian companies are strongly hierarchised. There is a high power distance between superiors and employees, but also a close, loyal relationship.

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The boss follows his moral obligation to take good care of his employees. This includes giving precise work instructions, supervising and monitoring the work being performed.

He or she is also being available at all times to answer questions and to actively take care of the well-being of each individual. This care even extends into private life. Hence, the boss is also a welcome guest at family celebrations.

In return, employees show their unrestricted loyalty. The boss’s decisions are not questioned, his position is never challenged. The power differences in the company are widely accepted, everyone fits into this finely diversified power structure. 

Ask for an organisation chart

When working with Malaysian companies, you should always be aware of who is subordinate to whom. It is quite common to ask for an organisation chart at the start of a new project or collaboration. Address questions and tasks to the right person and bear in mind that Malaysian employees usually do not want to deal with too much room for manoeuvre. The boss got the full responsibility and he should set the tone.

 

Work climate is a motivating factor

The relationship between boss and employee as well as between the employees themselves is the most important motivating factor in Malaysia alongside financial incentives. The identification with the company is much higher than in many other countries. Malaysians like to work for their employer, especially when the care leaves nothing to be desired – also from a financial point of view. However, if another company offers much better care, in every respect, jobs are quickly changed.

Hence, joint meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner -are part of everyday life in Malaysian offices and extend the working day accordingly. Business topics are often discussed while eating. Many Malaysians spend their free time with colleagues, and companies offer sports and leisure activities.

Keep this in mind at all time when doing business in Malaysia! Learn more about the cultural standards and how to set the right tone in intercultural communications!

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