WORKING IN IRAN:
WORKING PRACTICES IN IRAN
The working week in Iran begins on Saturday and ends on Thursday. Friday is a Muslim holy day for Iranians which should be respected when scheduling meetings. Working hours tend to be from 9.00 to 17.00. Be aware of Muslim holidays like Ramadan and schedule business meetings around them.
Iranians have a flexible attitude towards time. Therefore, foreigners should not expect meetings to always start and end on time even though Iranians will expect punctuality from them. Being patient and including some extra time in your schedule can help business relationships.
Muslims will pray five times a day. This routine may interrupt business schedules so consider this when making business appointments with your Iranian colleagues.
STRUCTURE AND HIERARCHY IN IRANIAN COMPANIES
In Iran most companies have a top down hierarchy. Decisions are made by directors and initiative and input from employees is not always welcomed.
When addressing an Iranian colleague or client you have just met, it is crucial to use the correct title and to be formal. The appropriate title for men is ‘agha’ followed by the last name while women should be addressed with ‘khanoom’ and the last name. Once the relationship becomes less formal, your Iranian counterpart will probably call you by your first name.
WORKING RELATIONSHIPS IN IRAN
Personal relationships are very important in Iranian business culture. It is common to build a close personal relationship before starting to do business.
Today, an increasing number of women are working at all levels of business in Iran but there is still a very traditional understanding of gender roles which should be considered when doing business as a woman.
DOING BUSINESS IN IRAN:
BUSINESS PRACTICES IN IRAN
Greetings in Iran are usually initiated with a handshake between men. If a woman is present, wait until she initiates a handshake. “’Salaam ‘Alaykum’ (peace be upon you) and the response ‘Alaykum As-Salaam’ (and upon you be peace) or the short form ‘Salaam’ are common greetings in Iran.
When exchanging business cards with your Iranian colleagues, it is important to use your right hand or both hands as the left hand is considered unclean. When given a business card, review it carefully before putting it away.
In business meetings in Iran decisions tend to be made by the directors of the company. The decision making process can take a while due to their indirect style of communication. Avoid putting pressure on the decision making process as this can have a counter-productive effect and might give a negative impression.
Generally speaking, business dress in Iran is modest. Men wear suits and a shirt but ties are relatively uncommon. Women should dress conservatively and when in public it is advisable to wear a scarf to cover their hair.
IRANIAN BUSINESS ETIQUETTE (DO AND DON’TS)
DO try to get to know your Iranian business partner personally in your first meeting. Establishing trust and a good personal relationship is important in Iranian business culture.
DO avoid topics of conversation like Iranian foreign policy and politics and also avoid criticizing Islam as this can cause offense. Also avoid talking about the female relatives of your Iranian colleagues and if they introduce the subject avoid asking too many personal questions.
DO be aware that typical physical distance maintained when communicating in Iran is closer than in many western countries. Though you may not be comfortable with this close distance, it can be perceived as impolite if you back away.
DO show respect towards your Iranian business associates by taking a sensitive approach to behavior and cultural gestures. Avoid using the left hand when passing something, drinking alcohol or eating pork while in the presence of your Iranian colleagues.
DON’T criticize your Iranian counterparts in front of other business colleagues as this may cause a loss of face and harm their sense of honor.
DON’T schedule business meetings during the holy month of Ramadan if at all possible as business activity tends to be reduced. Ramadan is a major Islamic tradition that includes fasting for an entire month.
DON’T give the ‘thumbs up’ sign while in Iran as this is considered to be an offensive gesture.
DON’T display emotions or affectionate behavior to people of the opposite gender in public. This is very uncommon in Iran and can cause offense. In contrast people of the same gender often display affection in public and it is not rare to see two men holding hands.