I had my fair share of working with superiors from many different countries due to different job scope and different companies. The common ones are Singaporeans (which is not surprising, given that it is my home country), Malaysians, Indonesians, Indians, Chinese, Israelis, Australians, Americans, and British. I find that different cultures produce a different kind of bosses but of course, this is my observation and my experiences working under them, it might not be applicable to all. There are always nasty bosses and nicest bosses, no matter where they come from.

Typical nice bosses, friendly and usually easy to get along with. Singaporean bosses are somewhere in between Western culture and traditionally conservative. The problem is that while we are able to communicate freely and explore our ideas, any wildly innovative ideas will get pretty much shelved. We don’t have much hierarchy structure enforcement (meaning – we usually address each other by the first name even if it is the CEO) however, there are still underlying (unmentioned) pressure that implies ‘bosses are always right’.

Very friendly bosses too, very similar to Singaporean bosses, given that they are our neighbors. One noticeable trait is that while guidance is given, not much career growth is being planned ahead. They don’t exactly tell you when and how you can aim for the next promotion or what is the next step you can climb the corporate ladder. My experience is that I have to figure it out by myself.

Pretty nice and friendly as colleagues however as a boss, I find that they tend to be easily distracted and short-sighted in terms of goals for the company and for themselves.

They are extremely caring as a boss and someone who will give you a lot of guidance and advices. Their problem is that they tend to pile so much on their shoulder and lost concentration because they spread their attention too widely all around the department. They also tend to jump into situations without clarification or asking for the reasons, wanting to resolve the issue first.

These group, I’m referring them from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. No doubt, they are different countries but hold many similarities in cultures. The managers tend to focus a lot on productivity and are super ambitious. They asked a lot of themselves and from their staff. They strongly believe in hierarchy and tend to promote people based on a number of years served rather than work performance. They view loyalty to the company extremely important.

I love working with them. They are miser and often money pinching but if you have a great idea, no matter how crazy it is as long as it doesn’t cost them too much money, they will support you and your ideas. Their brains are best for picking on innovative ideas, nothing seems to be impossible for them (well, except asking for a pay raise…).

They are very laid back but they are very egotistic as well (at least, the guys) and can be territorial about their space, both office, and career. But when they play, oh boy, can they be competitive! Whether it’s office sports day or just clunking down beer, they give their all. It reflects on them as bosses that they like their department to be always the ones that shine.

Different behaviors reflect which territories they come from but generally, they are nice and friendly, sometimes overly friendly. They tend to like staff who are very vocal, directive and goal oriented. They like being pointed out they are wrong and open to being challenged.

Compared to the Americans, they are more reserved. However, do not make the mistake of their silence for submissiveness. That definitely they are not. When they voice out their opinions, they tend to not beat around the bush and direct to the point. If you have a weak heart and thin skin, you might not take their brashness that well. Β 

As usual, this is my experience, I’m not sure if it reflects correctly on your experience, why not share with us at the comments below?

52 replies on “Different Culture, Different Bosses

  1. Great review. I would like to see one about your experiences with administrative staff from various ethnicities, which ones are more likely to indulge in office politics and one upmanship and so on.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kally , your posts are always so brilliant and clever…!
    Often I have to leave them apart , for a more appropriate moment so as to read them as attentively as they deserve …
    Enjoyed this one , bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sure that you are right about others too, but you were bang on nose about Indian bosses. Both the positives and negatives. They indeed care a lot for the employees, though bite more than they can chew. This adverse trait affects the performance as well as their employee relationships in the long run, not to mention their (in) sanity.

    Your posts are really very brilliant and informative, Kally!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For myself in the U.S., I have been employed at a few major companies that started the same way (created by a visionary with a hardline game plan) but where the companies have ended up are all over the place as far as work culture is concerned. The best hands down was Busch Entertainment for Anhauser Busch. Extremely organized and they were planners. Which makes it extremely shocking to go to the worst. Where some have that attitude that screams, I am the boss and everyone will do what I want! I had one low-level manager freak out because I walked up and spoke to a executive level manager (who I met through some interactions). So some have that old school mentality that you have to be of some level in the hierarchy to speak to the top brass.

    The one thing that has separated the good from the bad is having bosses that care enough to stroll out of the office and walk the floors. The best way to see if the ideas that are created from the top are rolling down to the front line.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not half as travelled as you, but these sketches are lovely pieces of writing. Lovely idea and implementation, this post. I’ve learnt quite a bit. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I found this very interesting. Have you moved and changed jobs this frequently, or do you work in an environment that demands traveling? Either way, fascinating to read about different working cultures. I disagree that Americans want to be told they are wrong -my experience is: we hate it. However, you are right that we love to debate. there is a difference between wanting to debate and being told we are wrong. I believe Americans truly care about others (outside their lives) but we tend to brush off the person next to us. I don’t know why -maybe a feeling of inferiority even with those in a position below us. So, hierarchy is important for many. Yet, when we love, we fiercely love. Over all we are a compassionate, giving culture -that is why we fight for others to have the same freedom of love, life, and religion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for correcting my impression on Americans!! I have over 20 years of working experience and some of my previous work requires me to wear different roles reporting to different bosses from different countries. Hence, I have a wealth of experience and stories to share.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. …With the comments above, I agree that your posts are clever and thoughtful. I liked this post. Your take on some social and professional observations are always honest and entertaining.

    I too have worked with an array of different bosses. Each one had their cultural traits but always stayed within the western ways of leading… most of them I say, some yeah not so much.

    You are were pretty spot on with this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bosses are Bosses , whether they are in India or USA . Since I worked in a public sector bank , I have no ideas of the present day culture , which is more of Hi & Bye ( no kidding ) . We in our times were terribly afraid of our bosses , even when we were on the verge of retirement after 35 years . Read my book : Journey from Guwahati to Machhiwara : My first day in Guwahati , to find out about the culture when we were hardly working . The #Journey continues

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My word! I can not tell you the last time I read a post like this. I’m going to bookmark this and read again. Your experience in working with different cultures is an interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are welcome Kally. I am going to reblog some of your points to my website linking back to you if you don’t mind? Sorry I did not get a chance to ask you through e-mail.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow, well I’d like to think that anybody can step out of the mould and not be stereotype but you’re right with the British bosses. Quiet but can be harsh to criticize and you do need a thick skin with some of them. (I’ve not had much experience with the others)


  11. Hahaha!! So the joke about Jews being mean with money, might just be true!!! Australian people are easy going,but expect employees to work hard and can be authoritative at times! UK bosses are so-so.. I’ve never experienced Singaporean, Malaysian, or Chinese bosses.


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