Managing in Thailand: Common Mistakes Thai Managers Make with Foreign Employees

Posted by | 08/03/2017 | Recruiters Corner, Thailand Working Guide

Earlier, we explained a few common mistakes made by foreign managers who manage Thai nationals. Now we discuss some regular mistakes that Thai nationals make with foreign employees.

Most of the regular mistakes are a result of the variation of personal background and culture. This can be solved with relative ease if there is open communication and a better understanding of individual values, problems could also escalate due to language barriers and misunderstandings could play a significant role.

A number of senior Thailand colleagues and clients and some expats were questioned and some of their responses were serious and others amusing.


A few of the most common mistakes Thai managers make are:

1. Failure to Communicate

This is the most obvious and most common error made. The interesting thing, however, is the number of ways to miscommunicate.

This is depicted in several ways, it could be the failure to comprehend, agreeing to something you really don’t want and failure to communicate or respond. Most miscommunication is done verbally.

This is mainly because verbal agreements can be easily misunderstood or forgotten. A typical example can be a promise of a salary or bonus, extensions, work permits etc, a foreign employee will expect this in any country. If this agreement is not upheld, it could result in irritation and disrespect which could lead to demotivated employees that will end up sourcing for other jobs.

2. Reminding the foreign employees that they are expensive

Often foreign nationals are hired to make the company more “international” and sometimes they are used to impress customers or business partners; this luxury comes with a price in form of a higher salary compared with a local Thai employee. Thai managers tend to regularly remind foreign hires that they are expensive and expect them to work twice as hard. The foreign nationals will be willing to put in hard work, but not at the expense of their virtue.

3. Telling the employees that they do not know the local laws and cultures

Thai managers often tell the foreign nationals that they do not understand the Thai culture and Thai laws. Although this is true but it can also be used as an excuse from the Thai’s perspective. It is a very poor business judgment to dismiss observations made by foreign nationals that sound unconventional to the way business is conducted here mainly because it is not Thai culture. Another is dismissing the suggestion mainly because they are in contradiction with your personal preferences is quite immature and is poor judgment. Although, not all foreign employee suggestions are relevant but instead of just accepting management decisions, the foreign employee believes that it is their duty to think of what is best for the organization.

4. Not making an effort to build relationship

The report claims that the Thai people are some of the most social people in the world. If you consider daily tasks like eating, transportation, and other leisure activities, you will realize that relationships are being built in all areas but when it comes to managing the relationship with foreign employees and building a personal relationship it stops. The Thai managers will happily wine and dine with the Thai employees but when it comes to foreign subordinates there is a reluctance to form personal bonds. Although this can be based on things like confidence, and cultural differences, we all have different social habits, so get to know your foreign staff on a personal level this will give you a stronger bond and a well-dedicated individual. Read “Importance of Relationships at Work” to find out more about the benefits of good relations at work.

5. Conclude that all Foreigners are Alike

Local managers like to treat all foreigners the same way, however they need to understand that the fact that they are foreigners does not make them the same. They are from different backgrounds hence they should not be assumed as being the same. The failure to appreciate the different cultures and attitudes of people from different countries can bring countless errors that can cause embarrassment, people being offended or a loss of business.

Let us know what your personal experience is. What are your thoughts?


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