The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) have launched an guide to “Respecting Myanmar Culture in the Workplace”.
The guide aims to help foreigners understand Myanmar culture and avoid cross-cultural misunderstanding in the workplace and with local communities. It was developed by the MCRB, in partnership with DICA and with input from other Ministries.
With illustrations by prominent Myanmar cartoonist Aw Pi Kyeh, and covering topics such as dress code, eating and drinking, greetings and body language, the guide highlights the importance of listening to and learning from local people, to help prevent conflict and contribute to commercial success. While it mainly focuses on building mutual respect and understanding, rather than legal requirements, it makes clear that investors should ensure that they are familiar with Myanmar workplace laws, including those concerning labour, health and safety and environmental protection.
ThaungTun, Union Minister for the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER), said: “Responsible investment is respectful investment. Workplaces which are respectful and inclusive are invariably more productive, and with lower turnover of the workforce. Respect for diverse cultures and traditions will undoubtedly contribute to the wider goals of our government, including sustainable peace.”
Vicky Bowman, Director of MCRB, added: “Minor cultural misunderstandings by foreign company employees can escalate into wider grievances – including with local communities –which can ultimately jeopardise investments. They can also contribute to less motivated and less productive workplaces.”
Through gathering inputs from focus groups and interviews with various stakeholders – including government, the private sector, NGOs, communities, and employees with experience of foreign workers – the guide tries to provide a broad understanding of the main Myanmar cultural norms, while also recognising Myanmar as a country with diverse ethnic cultures, languages and religions. The guide highlights in particular that investors and their employees need to understand local culture in remote locations so as not to cause offence.
“Respect for Myanmar’s many cultures is an important part of promoting equality, combatting discrimination and creating a respectful workplace” observed Ms Bowman.
Thaung Tun added: “Although this guidebook is primarily targeted at foreign managers, to help them respect and comply with the customs, traditions and traditional culture of the ethnic groups in the Union, the messages in it are important for all.”
The Respecting Myanmar Culture in the Workplace guide is now available online www.dica.gov.mm, www.mcrb.org.mm in English, Myanmar and Chinese Versions. Japan, Korean and Thai are planned for release later this year.
Printed copies of the guide will also be available via DICA’s state and regional offices, events, and samples will be distributed to Ministries, Organizations with further hard copies available for purchase from MCRB with a small charge to cover printing costs.