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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. Hungarian and Polish managers will be much more loathe to sack people to rationalise their industry than East Germans. Three out of five Hungarian managers would favour adjusting their enterprises' objectives, including profits, to spare existing workers. Mr Wheatley says the more Catholic countries might retain a view of business modelled more around personal relationships than Western business values.

National barriers may well be replaced with cultural ones, the research warns. If that is the case companies should prepare themselves for business values as different as those between Latin and Anglo-Saxon countries in the West.

Source: The European


according to research: in agreement with the research (de acuerdo con la investigación)
joint venture: a partnership designed to share risk or expertise (negocio en conjunto)
distorted: altered or misrepresented (distorsionado)
overridden: prevailed on (prevalecido en)
for instance: for example (por ejemplo)
unlikely to help: improbable to help (poco probable que ayuden)
counterparts: people having the same function as another (homólogos, equivalentes)
nearly: almost (casi)
myth: a traditional story accepted as history (mito)
believes the research: believes that the investigation (cree que la investigación)
deepseated differences: (used especially of ideas or principles) fixed differences (las diferencias largamente establecidas)
crucial: of the greatest importance (cruciales, de vital importancia)
recruits: people seeked to employ (postulantes)
suppliers: providers (proveedores)
take into account: consider (consideres, tengas en cuenta)
will falter: will be unsure (serán inseguridad)
utterly crazy: absolutely mad (totalmente loco/a)
fear: are afraid or anxious about (temen)
is as likely to join: will probably join (muy probablemente ingresará a)

pay off: yield a profit or result (dar buenos resultados)
suit: be suitable for (convenir, resultar adecuados para)
nine out of ten: ninety per cent of (nueve de cada diez)
collective thinkers: creative people working in a team (creativos trabajando en equipo)
bonuses: income plus (gratificaciones)
Westerners: inhabitants of a western area (occidentales)
managers questioned
: managers interviewed (gerentes entrevistados)
overwhelming goal: strong objective (objetivo abrumador)
upsetting: disturbing (desconcertante)
should bode well: should be a good sign (deberían considerarse buena señal)
hard to handle: difficult to deal with (difícil de manejar)
having ditched: having thrown away (habiendo enterrado)
will be much more loathe to sack people: will find repugnant to dismiss or fire employees (les resultará mucho más repugnante despedir empleados)
enterprises: initiatives (emprendimientos)
warns: (used in advance context) notifies (advierte)