Working in Ghana?
Business Etiquette in Ghana
Time’s a Factor
If you did successfully land a work permit for Ghana, you should brief yourself on the most important facts to keep in mind about the Ghanaian workplace before you start your expat assignment. One key fact, which is probably particularly important to remember for those of you who are used to a rigid and loaded schedule, is the concept of time. Flexibility is vital here, as punctuality is not seen as overly important. You should always try to leave a time buffer between meetings to be able to react to any eventualities. However, as flexible as the local understanding of time may be, it is important to always schedule appointments ahead.
Other Key Values
- As in numerous other countries, you will have a hard time separating business from your personal life. Getting to know your colleagues and business partners is very important, and topics which are almost always brought up also include personal ones such as family, health, or social life. In fact, family life is still one of the main social pillars in the Ghanaian society and valued very highly. When getting to know new people in your work life, take the time and get to know one another a little bit. You should also not be surprised if your initial meetings with business partners contain little to no talk about business.
- Hierarchy and the respect a higher social status commands are very important, and not addressing higher-ups and elders in the appropriate manner are a ready source of social faux pas in Ghana. When in doubt, make a point of asking the first colleague you are introduced to about the proper ways of addressing people around you.
- Professional and academic titles are just as important as the hierarchical addresses mentioned above. If someone you meet around the workplace has credentials, you are sure to find out. You are expected to address these people with their respective titles.
- You might already be familiar with the concept of ‘face’, i.e. honor, dignity, and good reputation. A possible loss of face is horrid to a Ghanaian and should not be taken lightly. As the individual is subordinate to the family in Ghanaian culture, loss of face will also directly affect the next of kin. If you have somehow maneuvered your way into a situation where your counterpart could lose face, you will realize it by the silence that will fill the room. This is the common reaction in situations like these; try not to break or fill the silence. As causing loss of face to others is also dreaded, the conversation style in Ghana is rather indirect.
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