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Brazil Business Culture

By Antoine Faugeres

Read Time

By Antoine Faugeres

Read Time

I have worked and lived in São Paulo for 20 years and it has been absolutely critical for me to understand Brazil Management Culture, in order to be successful at work.

Brazil Business Practices

Most businesses are hierarchical in Brazil and decision-making is usually controlled by the most senior management.  In smaller companies, senior executives tend to be paternalistic.

Role definitions are important in Brazil and it is upheld that individuals have been selected for a position due to their expertise.  It is not encouraged therefore to consult with individuals in less senior positions as this may prompt questions as to whether or not the individual is equipped with the skills for the role.

Relationships are critical to Brazilians: it is very important to build positive relationships with those with whom you are working.

Business practices vary by region. In the major cities of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia, many companies are used to dealing with international businesses. In more rural areas, the business practices may be less international and more patriarchal.

Leadership in Brazil

The Brazil leadership style can be categorized as both Authoritarian and Paternalistic.

This leadership style is related with Hofstede’s theory on power distance level, which in Brazil, is medium to high. This power distance is characterized by a top-down communication style. Brazilians expect to have an authoritarian leader that could give them clear instructions, without having them to questioning about it.

At the same time, Brazilians also prefer a paternalistic leader. In general, the subordinates are more loyal to the manager than the organization itself.

The leader typically micro-manages his team and will most likely directing and controlling the employees. Brazilian managers tend to keep the line between employee and boss clear, but still maintain the friendly work environment.

Brazil value charismatic leaders who are encouraging, inspiring, and believe in their teams.

In most companies, there is a low level of competition amongst colleagues.

According to Hofstede research, Brazil scores high in collectivism. That is the reason why Brazilian managers tend to use a group-approach to leadership.

Family is very important for the Brazilian. It is common in Brazil to hire people from the same family to be their colleagues.

Balance between working and family life is also very important for Brazilian.

Brazilian are also more flexible with time, and do not give so much importance to punctuality.

It is OK in Brazil to be 5 to 10 minutes late in a meeting.

Brazilian Managers working style

Decision-making is often reserved for the most senior executives. Junior subordinates rarely expect to be included in the decision making process and execute top management decisions.

Developping strong working relationships is a key factor to profissional success. Brazilian tend to be more open with those they trust.

An outsider will often have more difficulty as Brazilians often prefer working with either people they know, or, with someone who has been recommended. For this reason, third-party introduction can make a big difference.

Roles and status in the organization

In many smaller businesses, leaders are more paternalistic and tend to guide and support their employees.

The general belief is that the leader has been chosen because he has more experience, and for this reason, it is unnecessary for him to consult with lower-ranked employees to make a decision.

When empowered and stimulated, Brazilians can be very creative and work well in teams.

During meeting, a good leader should be open to his team’s suggestions, protecting the reputation of those bringing up ideas, so no one is shamed. If not, employees may likely not participate again.

Time Management in Brazil

Brazil is a fluid time and very relationship-oriented culture.

Brazilians don’t want to upset others in order to meet a deadline. Timescales need to be set well in advance and reiterated carefully, but you must keep in mind  that these will be viewed as flexible.

Decision Making Process in Brazil

There is a great social inequality in Brazil, which impacts the work environment and the decision making process.

Decisions tend to be made by those in power and communicated to subordinates for implementation. This may slow decisions down if, for example, the decision maker is absent from key meetings.

Change Management in Brazil

In Brazil, changes in business are made, but slowly and cautiously. In general, changes require a a lot of thoughts and evaluation. It is important for innovations to have a track record noting the benefits in order to be accepted.

The fear of exposure and embarrassment that may accompany failure mean intercultural sensitivity is needed.

While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in Brazil causes a long-term loss of confidence.


If you are looking to improve your cultural understanding of Brazil and improve your effectiveness as a result, please contact us for an initial discussion

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Management Culture in Brazil