Malawi was once a British colony—but is now a relatively small (population about 17.4 million) but independent country in Central Africa. Thus, it inherited a British administrative tradition, which is very Western and very bureaucratic. And thus it also benefits from significant investment from Western MNEs, with many local subsidiaries. However, traditional Malawi cultural values, which emphasize family membership and attention to status, are also superimposed onto local and multinational business administrative systems, mostly imported from Europe and the US. In the Malawian culture, workers view employers as an extension of their families. They expect to be provided with a broad array of benefits from their employers, such as housing and transportation. Malawi society also places great importance on status differences. The relationship between managers and subordinates is viewed as authoritative; workers give deference and expect managers to act paternally. Malawians view proper protocol as very important. Managers often resist accepting individual blame for their mistakes and do not directly criticize their subordinates. Malawian managers rarely delegate authority because the culture believes that delegation strips managers of their authority and thus lowers their status in the eyes of their subordinates. How do these cultural practices influence the development of T&D programs by MNEs in Malawi? MNEs setting up local operations in Malawi must consider the following three realities when developing training programs:

■ Western models of innovation, motivation, leadership, etc. will not work well in Malawi. For example, most Western (European and Anglo) management experts believe that proper leader behavior depends on the situation: there is no one right way to lead. However, the Malawian culture believes that leaders should always be authoritative. Consequently, HR professionals must first learn how these issues apply in a Malawian culture and then train Malawian workers accordingly.

■ Status-conscious Malawian managers will resent being told to attend a training program. They will interpret this gesture as an indication that they are considered “below-average” performers—and will assume that their subordinates will make the same assumption. A company must thus carefully prepare a strategy to solicit trainee attendance in a way that will not cause managers to “lose face” with their peers or subordinates.

■ Training methods must be congruent with employee learning styles. Malawians learn best in “process-oriented” education settings. Consequently, training methods that use experiential and small-group techniques and other “supportive learning” techniques should be used in lieu of those that focus on lectures and rote learning.

Source: Adapted from Jones, M. L. (1989). Management development: An African focus. International Studies of Management and Organization, 19(1), 74–90; and updated (2014) from the following:; and 2014 CIA World Factbook. Available at

Discussion Questions

1 Are there any training techniques that are culture free? Why or why not?

2 How would you design a training program (e.g., to use a new software for tracking sales) for Malawi? What would it look like? Who should deliver it? How should it be delivered? What language and cultural variables would you take into consideration?