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Business and Workplace Culture

Thailand - Business and Workplace Culture


It is very important to build good relationships with business colleagues and acquaintances as it is common for Thai businessmen to choose to work with those that they respect. You should not expect a working relationship to develop quickly. Thais will take their time in getting to know you. It will help to be respectful and polite at all times, as this is expected. In business situations communication is always formal and it is important to watch body language as well.

It is essential to have respect for rank and age. The eldest person in any group has a certain amount of seniority and should be treated as such. Due to their need for politeness at all times, Thai people will find it hard to say no so you should be aware of any negative signs in body language.

When you are in meetings in Thailand it is important to make an appointment as far in advance as possible (one month is considered the norm). Punctual attendance for an appointment is essential in order to make a good first impression. Thais will expect to have in advance a complete list of all those who are attending the meeting and their status. If you are meeting with Thais that you have not met before it is a good idea to send information on your company so that they can be prepared. When you enter the room you will be invited to sit and the person you are meeting will show you where you can sit. You should remain standing until this happens.

For attending business meetings you should always dress conservatively and both men and women are expected to wear conservative business suits. You will also be judged by Thais on what you wear, so your shoes should be clean and polished and you should always dress smartly for the workplace.

After your initial introduction to a Thai business person you should give them your business card. This should be given first to the person in the room with the most seniority. One side of your card should have information in Thai. This should be held in your right hand when being passed over and it should be done so that the Thai information can be seen first. When you are given a card by someone else you should look at it for a moment and make a polite comment about it.

The accepted business language is Thai, although there are some international companies which use English for most of their operations. An English speaking person who is meeting a Thai person should make the effort to converse at least a little in Thai, even if it is agreed in advance that the meeting will be held in English.

Many Thai women do have jobs and when compared with salary differences in some other countries, women in Thailand are able to earn a reasonable living. On average they will earn around 90% of the salary of a male in a similar job, which is a higher percentage than in countries such as the US. However, there is a culture of the ‘glass ceiling’ and many women will never reach a senior position in their organizations. It can often take a long time for women to climb the corporate ladder but with more international companies operating in the country this does look set to change. In this respect there is sexism in the workplace, but disrespectful behavior towards women is generally not tolerated.

Workers may also find that they experience age discrimination and race discrimination in Thailand. Many job adverts for Thai company will specify that they want a young attractive person for the role. However, this is the norm and they do not consider it to be discrimination as there is no law against this. There is a mention of equal rights and opportunities for all regardless of age, race, sex and health in the 1997 constitution but this is not enforced as law.

There are unions for many professions in Thailand and there are no regulations which would prevent somebody from joining a union if they wanted to. Strike action is not particularly common, but does occasionally hit public services such as public transport. Employers usually try to work with the unions to come to an agreement which will prevent strike action from taking place.


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