Do Malaysians Like To Be Micromanaged?

How do you really like to be managed? photo credit Thinkstock

How do you really like to be managed? photo credit Thinkstock

Your boss has given you an important project with a set deadline. In the days that follow, would you prefer if your boss touch base with you periodically or would you rather your boss frequently drop by your desk to check on your progress and direct your every move?

No doubt most people’s first inclination is to choose the first option. The thought of a micromanaging boss hovering over our shoulders, controlling our every move (however small) is enough to make anyone cringe. Interestingly though, careful observation of the Malaysian culture would reveal that most Malaysians are actually more comfortable with a certain degree of micromanagement. Why is that the case?

One reason could be due to the fact that Malaysians are a face saving culture. We value the opinions of others and we want to be projected as capable and competent individuals. That can lead to feelings of fear in taking risks or making mistakes, so there is a certain level of comfort in delegating major decisions to the boss. We might reason that if anything fails, we can shift the blame to the boss with no negative impact to ourselves.

Another reason could be because Malaysians are a hierarchical culture, so we are used to structures, rules and top-down control to guide business practices. However, this can sometimes be taken to an extreme. I once worked for a Malaysian boss that wanted an elaborate update every week on the progress of hiring employees. Before the one-hour meeting every Tuesday, his spreadsheet had to be updated with the number of resumes obtained, interviews done, reasons for accepting/rejecting candidates, complete with specific color coding for each stage of the process. Hiring an employee was already a challenging task; being harried to do so only added to the stress of the whole process.

Later on, I experienced a totally opposite treatment from a boss who came from a Western culture that emphasized a more egalitarian approach. He left the hiring and interview process entirely to me, requesting only to be given a chance to have a short chat with the final candidate identified. I have to admit that at times, I felt a little hesitant to be making the entire decision by myself and felt the need to occasionally validate my choices with him.

The key then is finding the right balance in being given the appropriate freedom to work independently while receiving the necessary guidance by our superiors. Having discussions at scheduled intervals can ensure an employee is given room to grow and make decisions, all within the accepted boundaries of the company standards. Cultural intelligence training can equip you with the knowledge to work with leaders from different cultural backgrounds and leadership styles, as well as learn how to lead globally no matter the cultural background.


By Boleh Blogger