Excerpted from the Russia Career Guide
Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area (about 1.8 times size of the US) with population of more than 140 million people. It has a strong collectivist culture that dates back to medieval times when farmers lived and worked in self-managed agricultural communities known as mirs or obschina. The country's extreme physical conditions also forced people to work together in order to survive.
Russians are physically active and enjoy activities as varied as cross-country skiing, ice hockey, ice skating, football (soccer), tennis, hiking, mountain climbing, volleyball and gymnastics. Many minority groups have favorite sports activities; e.g., sled racing is popular among the Yakuts of central Siberia and archery is popular among the Buryats of eastern Siberia. Russian athletes are among the best in the world and include many Olympic champions across various disciplines. Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.
Russians are generally reserved. Loud speaking or laughter in public is frowned upon. Russians prefer to develop a relationship slowly, so it can take a while to establish rapport. One should be patient and allow the Russian to set the pace. Russians do have a sense of humor and enjoy jokes, especially those about politicians and other public figures. In business settings, Russians may appear gruff and negotiations can become heated (see Negotiation Styles below for more information). Foreigners are advised to stay calm but to state their positions with confidence – this will earn the respect of the Russians.
Punctuality is greatly appreciated, and obligatory in many companies. Some companies require employees to record their times of arrival and departure. If being late is unavoidable, it is important to apprise a supervisor. However, Russians are, at times, not punctual, and this may be a test of patience for the foreign businessperson; he or she should neither express disapproval toward nor expect an apology from the Russian.
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
- Russians like to invite guests to their homes and make great efforts to impress the guest. It is strongly recommended to bring small presents (sweets, for example), especially if it is a first visit.
- If offering flowers, they should be in an odd number. Avoid yellow flowers.
- One should remove his or her shoes when entering a Russian home. Hosts will usually offer a pair of slippers (tapochki)...
The influence of Western business etiquette, business norms and values is very strong in Russia, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The business culture within a particular Russian company will depend upon the company’s history and its corporate policies and culture, including the vision of its shareholders and owners. Nevertheless, there are still some companies (mostly those involved with the government) that could be described using past Soviet terms (bureaucratic and formal), and whose personnel have a very conservative management style. In Russian companies, different departments and directors usually have separate spaces and rooms. An open door policy is applicable mainly for Western companies. Knock and wait for an invitation to enter before opening a closed office door, and close the door when leaving.
The management structure of Russian companies is usually hierarchical and vertical. Russians respect age, rank and position. As mentioned above, Russian companies are often driven and directed by a central individual with strong character who is the main (and sometimes the only) decision maker. However, in some companies this is changing to a more democratic style where decisions are made by a management committee and board of directors. However, the most senior persons generally make the decisions.
Conducting a Meeting
The first meeting is often a vehicle to determine if the business person and the company he or she represents are credible and worthy of consideration for future business dealings. Expect a long period of socializing and ‘getting-to-know-you’ conversation before business is discussed.
Women in the Workplace
The general assumption is that career success for Russian women is incompatible with success in family life. This situation is changing, and at present there are many successful businesswomen in Russia. Nevertheless, Russian women still face considerable challenges as the stereotype of a woman staying home with the family is still alive. The Communist system of Russia preached equality of the sexes but had far less success in achieving this objective than did its counterpart in the People's Republic of China. Thus, although a high percentage of the Russian workforce is female, there are very few women in senior management positions.
This is just a sample of what you'll find in over 100 pages of information in the Russia Guide.