When we encounter chaos or obstacles – we are looking for solutions and methods to control the problematic situation. The methods from different cultures of the world can come with help. As the proverb says: ”Knowledge is power”, so it is worth learning from others to solve problems, gain better understanding and thus communicate better and gain a competitive advantage in the market. The style of communication, management and decision-making is determined by the values you believe in, your perspective and motivation. To avoid misunderstandings, conflicts and unpleasant situations, one should adopt an attitude of open mind and willingness to adapt and implement different strategies, for example in decision-making processes in a team or company.
Swedish management style: “cold” and “just right”.
Sweden is characterized by pragmatism and moderate expressivity, on the other hand a very high degree of femininity in the sense of the scale of cultural researcher Geert Hofstede. Sweden scored 95 out of a possible 100 points in the dimension of femininity, Poland only 36, and thus is more of a male culture in which competition and the will to gain power prevail. Women’s organizational culture is characterized by seeking a high quality of life and understanding for the weaknesses of their own and others. In women’s culture, people and the environment are the most important.
Typical features of the female culture:
- One does not always have to be right
- Equality between the sexes is desirable
- Managers are looking for a consensus
- Mutual dependence is sought
- Organizational culture integrates employees
- “Soft”, democratic style of management is dominants, older employees are obliged to help younger employees, no one is left without care.
Swedes are known for their long discussions until they reach a consensus. Motivators such as free time, flexible working hours and the place of its execution are preferred. The whole culture is based on a word ” lagom”, which means: not too much, not too little, not very noticeable, everything is moderate – means “just right”. Lagom ensures that everyone has enough and no one will leave. Lagom is enforced in society by Jante Law, which should always keep people in “the place.” It is a fictitious law and a Scandinavian concept that advises people not to brag or attempt to be above others.
“The first difference I noticed when I started working in Stockholm is that the manager is also a team leader at the same time. His duty is not only to supervise the work of subordinates, but also to work together with them. The so-called our “manager” must be able to perform all activities in his department and support their work with subordinates, and replace them if necessary. It happens quite often that the owner / chief boss / director is going to work with us because that’s the need. Time and money count here. Swedes are practical and reserved, just like the Finns. Decisions at work are made taking into account the good of the organization, and personal sympathies to a friend / colleague are not taken into account. There is a lot of work in Sweden. Even adolescents who are under age take odd jobs or, for example, 20% of full time. Swedes are also easy to change jobs, they are flexible in changing professions. Twenty cubicles have very different jobs in the CV and this is normal. They test themselves in various professions and this is not considered a lack of consistency. In making decisions, they are guided by the amount of earnings, potential job satisfaction. It is important for them to feel good at work, to be fulfilled.“I also see much less emotionality at work in Sweden than in Poland. Ie. Poles are offended, they hold a grudge in the work environment. In Sweden, this is perceived as unprofessional behavior. At work we have to do the job and even labor disputes are treated as “cold”. At work, discussions concern the professional sphere. If there is any problem or misunderstanding, we solve it immediately. We talk about everything directly, without any conjecture, but in a polite and without negative emotions. This way of communication works. ”
-Jola Szymkowiak – worked in Sweden for a year.
Polder Model – The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, which in the literature of the subject has been characterized as an example of a prototypical culture, moderately ceremonial, monochronic and restrained (“Intercultural differences in business” by R. Zenderowski, B. Koziński), the Polder Model functions as a method of reaching consensus. It consists of bringing the positions closer with respect for both sides. This type of decision-making has been known in the Netherlands for centuries. The idea dates back to the Middle Ages, when difficult living conditions in the Netherlands forced their residents to earlier than in other areas strengthen coöperation and organize themselves in order to achieve mutual benefits.
It was then that the digging of canals, the construction of the ramparts, dams and dikes, and drainage of the marshes began. And that’s how the Dutch polders came about. To do this work without using machines, people had to work closely together and share responsibilities well. Everyone – regardless of social status. This is how Dutch collective decision-making has evolved, in which the monopoly of strong leaders has replaced the long-term grudge of consensus. Putting this idea to practice can be problematic, especially for people who have grown up in a different culture.
“For me it is also extremely ineffective. The Dutch version of the discussion boils down to “poldering” (there is a verb “polderen” in Dutch)! It always starts in the same way: “How nice that you found the time for me.” It is still mandatory to offer a cup of coffee or tea. Then, with the help of numerous questions and fewer answers, we explain to each other what exactly is going on. In the end, each participant can present their expectations. If the atmosphere is favorable, it talks a little further, a little too much but not too far away. Most often it ends with a slight approximation of views – everyone makes a small step towards the center. The discussion closes with mutual assurances about its constructiveness and satisfaction of the interlocutors with the results, and then the date of the next meeting is set. And so it goes until the positions will meet sometime. It can take a lot of time. The main thing is that everyone is happy! ” Małgorzata D. – for many years living with her family in the Netherlands.
The Dutch expect substansive arguments supported by facts and figures. They usually go straight to the point. They do not like unnecessary talk, and the practice of poldering is understood as necessary to show respect for the other party and lack of pressure. Because the decision is based on consensus, this process takes some time. Before making a decision in a company, the matter is consulted with every employee, regardless of their internship or status in the company hierarchy, if the decision concerned.
Wasta – Arab countries.
“If you want to go quickly, go alone, if you want to go far – go together.”- African proverb This is the Arabic version of nepotism. Decisions in countries such as the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia are taken hastily and are preceded by long-term building and tightening relationships. This is a peculiar network of contacts that are carefully built like a network of connections that at some point can become our security network. When we have a leg, we rely more on contacts and who we know than on the system. It all depends on who you know. When you apply for a job or sit down at the negotiating table, be ready for a series of questions about your history, family, contacts. Arab partners want to know who they are dealing with, to be able to decide whether they are interested in coöperation or not. Because the Arab countries are highly ceremonial, the external image plays a large role in the decision-making process. Whether we come in a clean and waxed car, what brand we have watch and clothing – all this shows our status. When we do not attach importance to this, we can be picked up as unreliable or unworthy, showing no respect for the other party.
In order to succeed in negotiations with Arab partners, we should build patient relationships, let us invest time in frequent conversations, e‑mails, meetings to start weaving the network of our connections. The stronger our contacts, the more we can do. We can count on being recommended to other people in the circles of interest or help. On the other hand, we will also be expected to show commitment and readiness to help.
Decisions are made by one decision-maker, often after consultation with advisers, and they are unlikely to change, which makes them indisputable and non-negotiable. “Representatives of the Middle East or North Africa support each other professionally, that is, they recommend each other to work. When they are already employed, they also support in filling positions or in receiving more hours (read: earn more). Family and friendly connotations are of great importance. Cultural ties are strong there and definitely influence decision-making. This is particularly visible among immigrants from Arab countries in Sweden “- Jolanta Szymkowiak.