While Mexico and the US share a border and a rich history together, there remain some vast differences in their work culture. Here are some of the ways in which Mexican work culture differs from the US:
Collectivistic vs Individualistic Work Cultures
The Mexican work culture is collectivistic and more group-oriented. In business situations, Mexicans emphasize the needs and goals of the company above their own. Workers from Mexico are great collaborators and are less likely to view their coworkers as competition. This leads to a supportive and enjoyable work environment.
American workers are more individualistic, where independence and autonomy are prized. While this may sound selfish, these traits can be very valuable to organizations. Americans are often strong, self-reliant, assertive, and independent workers. And are often able to solve problems or achieve goals independently without assistance.
Cultural differences can hugely influence the different aspects of work and business conduct. When working with a Mexican, we have to be sensitive to their need for a supportive community. Otherwise, it can easily feel isolating and cause low morale at work.
Mexicans adopt an indirect communication style while Americans are direct with their communication.
Americans tend to say what they think, and words often take on a literal meaning. In direct communication styles, communication is pretty straightforward and efficient. American workers value truthfulness and frank discussion.
Indirect communicators seek to avoid conflict, tension, and uncomfortable situations. Mexicans prefer to avoid conflict and take on a less direct way of conveying a message. In many business situations, direct communication styles may even be interpreted as confrontational and crude. Instead, when it comes to negative feedback, Mexicans may express it in a more subtle way and expect others to “read in between the lines”.
To reduce unnecessary tensions, we can be more diplomatic when speaking to a Mexican business partner or worker. For example, we can avoid words that may sound condescending, such as “why” or “why not”. Communication is as effective with diplomatic wording like, “Could you elaborate further on that?”.
By recognizing the differences in our style of communication, we can adopt a different style and approach when speaking to our Mexican counterparts.
Hierarchical Structures in Society
Unlike America which has a low power-distance score, Mexico has a considerably high Power-distance score. This means that employers or superiors are entrusted with a lot of power.
The differences in a hierarchical structure is apparent in Mexico where society and businesses are highly stratified. Mexican workers are expected to show respect to authority and hardly challenge their superiors. The management of a company is also often looked up to for guidance.
In America, one of the biggest leadership trends is the adoption of a more facilitative and egalitarian approach. We are often invited to partake in the decision-making of a company. And managers have been trained to stop telling people what to do, and to empower employees.
With the stark difference in management approach, it is not surprising that American attitudes towards status may not travel well. The business communication that works in America is unlikely to yield good results in Mexico.
Instead, if you’re working with Mexican staff, it is often encouraged for Americans to prepare more ideas and be specific with directions to the employees.
Business Meeting Etiquette
Mexican businesspeople are generally less strict on time than Americans. While our American culture has a strict sense of time, the Mexican culture has a known reputation for not being on-time for things.
While this is less likely to happen in today’s age, it is not considered disrespectful if your Mexican business partner arrives late.
It is also not uncommon for Mexican business owners to cancel meetings as they are considered ‘tentative’. Mexicans often say manaña meaning “tomorrow” when referring to time. But it may mean in the near future, or in a few days.
When setting up business meetings, it is important to confirm the specific date and time of the meeting. And sometimes even doing so several times prior to the actual discussions.
Knowing about these differences will make it easier for you to relate to Mexican suppliers. Through the understanding of the cultural differences, both parties can change their style of communication to facilitate business discussions.
For example, if you have bad news to communicate to a Mexican business partner, it can be mitigated by using ‘softer’ language. The “sandwich method” where the negative news is communicated with positive compliments at the start and end, can also be considered.
With fewer hiccups in communication, the overall productivity of your business will be enhanced.