The business cost of avoiding confrontation

The business cost of avoiding confrontation in Nepal

A friend from the US living part-time and doing business in Nepal expressed frustration over our (Nepali) strong cultural desire to avoid confrontation in a professional relationship. Specifically, the steep business cost of this in-action. We discussed for some reasons behind this.

The graciousness of Nepalis is a double-edged sword. The Nepali hospitality is world-renowned but this can be problematic in international business culture. This is rooted in a Nepali tradition of treating visitors as ‘gods.’ People here go out of their way to make sure that a visitor’s experience is a good one. Nepali people don’t like to disappoint. It’s personal pride. But in business, if you don’t let me know that you are going to ‘disappoint’ me – i.e not delivering on time, not delivering on the quality i seek – then I will make promises that I can’t keep, losing face and disappointing others. This creates a domino effect on all my professional relationships. In business, brutal honesty of your short comings saves a lot of pain later on. In a lot of cultures, this is expected of you in business.

But a Nepali may not understand the true business cost of disappointing others. In other words, things not getting done correctly (with quality) or on time is not a big deal among Nepalis but is a BIG deal in the U.S. So why are we so afraid to avoid confrontation, and to avoid conflict?

Is it because of our culture that worships authority, hierarchy, and guests. This culture that taboos ‘questioning authority or displeasing guests’ leading to complications when trying to keep your professional commitments. While we  stress on the culture of “guests as god” relations, we unknowingly end up belittling our professional commitments. Do we have a conflict between our cultural and professional commitments. Many times I have come across this situation. We deny outright that there is a problem and we lie casually with reassurances to avoid the inevitable confrontation. This is our chaotic contradictory way to avoid confrontations.

To a foreigner wanting a professional relationship in Nepal, this is a contradiction.  On the one hand working with a Nepali earns you genuine care and respect, thus earning great personal relationship. On the other hand, their apparent dishonesty with you in terms of keeping up their professional commitments costs you your professional (and later personal) relationship with others,

Is it, that to preserve this status qua of our fabled “respect your authority and guests” philosophy, we may become a generation of conflict averse professionals who cannot keep up with our professional commitments. Do we really understand the business cost of disappointing others? In this flat world, we need to figure out a way to solve this sooner than later.

on a side-note : why “do Nepalis turn our heads sideways (as if we disagree) when agreeing completely with them! (it makes any foreigner go crazy).

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