Krengjai doesn't stand in the way of firms striving to stay ahead of the competition, said a senior expatriate at a Swedish company.
Krengjai is a distinctly Thai trait that means to be considerate or afraid of offending someone.
She was speaking at a Franco-Thai and German chambers of commerce workshop held recently by three executive coaches – Jean-Francois Cousin, Martin Aldergard and Gerrit Pelzer.
She said she was at first culturally ignorant after joining the company two years ago.
"I made a mistake. I was direct. I was aggressive for Thais. I made them fear. They thought I had high expectations. They were afraid that I would fire them if they didn’t meet my goals," she said.
However, after learning her approach wouldn’t work with Thais, she quickly changed her leadership style to suit the local way.
"Now I’ve overcome that, be-cause you make them feel secure |and now you support them.
"It’s how you make a ‘soft approach’ to Thai people and then show care that you’re one of them. You’ll win their hearts.
"Krengjai is a good thing because you are considerate of others," she said.
But Alexander Paufler, a management lecturer at the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration, disagreed that a krengjai culture would always bode well for an organisation.
"I have no problems with krengjai. I like it even when it means caring and being polite and considerate. That I learned to appreciate already in Japan many years ago," said Paufler, a former president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz (Thailand) and former chief financial officer at the German’s automaker’s subsidiary in Japan.
"However, even Thais have to speak up, ask questions, point out possible problems to their boss just to help avoid mistakes," he said.
"Also everybody must learn to say a ‘positive no’ instead of a ‘negative yes’, since it is better to over-deliver than underperform, and you underperform for sure when you always say ‘yes’ and then in the end you cannot do it."
Cousin told the workshop on "Transforming Mindsets and Behaviour for Effective Leadership" that to enhance companies’ competitiveness, employees’ behaviour must evolve towards more accountability, engagement and collaboration, abbreviated as AEC.
And to achieve these AEC values, companies’ leaders have to change their employees’ mindsets and ways of thinking.
"New rules of the ‘game for success’ in companies have to be defined first, and then leaders must all be inspiring role models. Coaching will be the most effective accelerator for Asean Economic Community-readiness, first at the leadership-team level, then across the organisation," he said.
Pelzer went through the "Be-Do-Have" coaching model to demonstrate how a leader’s beliefs and behaviour could change employee behaviour, which would bring in the desired organisational outcomes.