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Cultural Considerations in Business

Discover how cultural norms impact business and employment in Bahrain

Communication styles in the workplace

In Bahrain, understanding communication styles is crucial for navigating the professional landscape. Here are some key aspects to consider:

Indirect Communication

Bahraini culture generally favors indirect communication. This means messages might be delivered subtly, with emphasis on preserving harmony and avoiding confrontation. Criticism or disagreement may be couched in suggestions or veiled language. Straightforwardness is often seen as blunt or disrespectful. Bahrainis prioritize building relationships and trust before delivering direct messages. Reading between the lines and understanding the context is essential.


Communication in Bahrain leans towards formality, especially when addressing superiors or elders. Titles are used frequently, and greetings are elaborate. Formality can adapt depending on the relationship and situation. Communication with colleagues may be more relaxed over time, but a respectful tone is always maintained. Business meetings in Bahrain often begin with social conversation and relationship building before diving into work matters. This initial informality shouldn't be mistaken for a lack of seriousness.

Non-Verbal Cues

Non-verbal cues play a significant role in Bahraini communication. Maintaining eye contact conveys respect, while excessive directness can be seen as aggression. Open postures and gestures indicate openness to communication. Silence is often used to indicate contemplation or respect. It's not necessarily seen as awkwardness, and interrupting someone can be considered impolite.

Negotiation practices

Negotiation is a vital aspect of business in Bahrain, with certain approaches, strategies, and cultural influences playing a significant role in shaping these interactions.


Bahrainis place a high value on building strong relationships in the context of business negotiations. Trust and mutual respect are considered the bedrock of a successful deal. They also tend to adopt a long-term perspective during negotiations, seeking solutions that are mutually beneficial in the long run, rather than focusing solely on immediate gains.


Bahrainis often employ indirect communication during negotiations. Offers or concessions might be subtly presented, necessitating a careful interpretation of cues and body language. Negotiations can be lengthy, with a focus on building consensus and exploring all options. Patience and a willingness to make small concessions are crucial.

In Bahrain, avoiding direct confrontation and preserving "face" is important during negotiations. Open criticism of proposals or overt aggressiveness can harm the relationship. Bahrainis also rely heavily on non-verbal cues during negotiations. Understanding body language, silence, and subtle expressions is key to interpreting the true message.

Cultural Influences

Bahrain is a collectivist society, where group harmony is prioritized over individual gain. In negotiations, the needs of the team or company may be prioritized over personal achievements. Bahrainis are also known for their hospitality, which extends to business negotiations. Creating a comfortable atmosphere and offering refreshments are common practices.

Understanding hierarchical structures

Hierarchical structures are a significant aspect of Bahraini businesses. These structures are crucial for understanding internal dynamics and building successful working relationships.

Prevalent Structures

Bahraini businesses often operate with tall hierarchies, where there are clear distinctions between upper management, middle management, and frontline employees. Decision-making authority typically lies with senior leaders. Information is expected to flow up the hierarchy, and employees are expected to follow directives. This structure aligns with Hofstede's Power Distance Index, where Bahrain scores high, indicating a greater acceptance of hierarchical power structures.

Impact on Decision-Making

Centralized decision-making can lead to slower processes, as proposals need approval from multiple levels of management. Employees may have limited opportunities to directly influence decisions, which could potentially hinder innovation and creativity.

Impact on Team Dynamics

The emphasis on hierarchy fosters a culture of respect for authority figures. Employees are expected to defer to superiors and avoid challenging decisions openly. Strict hierarchies can create silos between departments, hindering communication and collaboration.

Leadership Styles

Some Bahraini businesses exhibit paternalistic leadership styles, where leaders act as guardians, providing guidance and support to employees. However, there's a growing trend towards transformational leadership, where leaders inspire and motivate employees to achieve shared goals. This shift aligns with transformational leadership theory, which emphasizes inspiring followers and fostering a culture of innovation.

Understanding these hierarchical structures and their impact can help businesses in Bahrain to find a balance between centralized decision-making and incorporating employee input, which can improve efficiency and innovation. Empowering middle managers can bridge the gap between senior leadership and frontline employees, facilitating communication and decision-making. Encouraging cross-departmental collaboration can break down silos and leverage the strengths of diverse teams.

Holidays and observances affecting business operations

Business operations in Bahrain can be significantly impacted by various holidays and observances throughout the year. Here's a breakdown of the key ones:

Statutory Holidays

Islamic holidays are the most significant holidays in Bahrain, with the exact dates determined by the lunar calendar. These include Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting, during which businesses are typically closed for 2-3 days. Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, commemorates Prophet Abraham's sacrifice and leads to businesses closing for 3-4 days. The Islamic New Year, or Hijri New Year, is the first day of the Islamic calendar year, and businesses may close for a half-day or full day.

National holidays celebrate Bahrain's history and independence. Key ones include National Day on December 16th, which commemorates the establishment of the State of Bahrain, and Accession Day on November 16th, marking the anniversary of the Amir's ascension to the throne. The Labour Law of Bahrain (Law No. 36 of 2012) outlines the mandatory public holidays for employees in the private sector.

Regional Observances

Ashura, a ten-day period of mourning, commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad. While not a public holiday, some businesses may have shorter working hours or adjust operations out of respect.

Impact on Work Schedules

During major holidays like Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, most businesses close completely for several days. Government offices and some private businesses may operate with reduced hours during other holidays or observances. It's common practice for businesses to announce holiday closures and adjusted work schedules in advance, allowing employees and clients to plan accordingly.

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