Magazine article Workforce

Building Relationships in Sweden

Magazine article Workforce

Building Relationships in Sweden

Article excerpt

Cross-cultural communication is tough. The solution? Learn about the customs of your global colleagues.

There's a lot about the Swedish culture that's comfortable to Americans. One reason is that U.S. pop culture has significantly influenced Swedish society, making Sweden one of the more Americanized European countries. But delve a little deeper and some interesting differences surface.

In cross-cultural encounters, the people of two nations are likely to find more similarities than differences between their cultures. But problems arise when they don't anticipate the differences, and they don't have the skills to bridge cultural gaps once they bump into them. Not surprisingly, this can have serious implications in the business world.

Achieving cultural competence and bridging the gaps require more than memorizing a list of facts about a specific country. It begins with developing an awareness of your own culture, values and biases. It means learning to expect differences and developing an appreciation for (or at least an acceptance of) them. And it means building deeper relationships across cultures that will withstand the challenges these differences bring.

These are a few of the teachings of Gunnila president of Kontura Gruppen, a cross-cultural president of Kontura Gruppen, ba cross-cultural management firm Here she shares Stockholm, Swe key differHere she shares and her home key differBusiness environmences between the cultures of the porate Sweden flattened States and her homeland.

Business environment. ago, drastically porate Sweden flattened organizational hierzations 20 yearchy. Today Swedes ago, drastically comed to working the organizational hierarchy. Today Swedes are of autonomy than Americans. "'Empomed to working with a greater States] means you'ree of autonomy than Ameriabout how to move power the States] means you're top to the bottom of an org about hierarchical move power from the top to the bottom of an explains. "In Sweden, you would find hierarchical manner," Masreliez-Steen exple are talking about cooperation "In Sweden, you would find sharing respeople are talking about consistent with Swedish collectivism. More than and sharing responsibilities."

This is consistent win Europe, Swedish collectivism. More than any othe value of sharing recountry for in Europe, Sweden emmembers of society. This the value of sharing reapparent in the cooperative all members of society. businesses value is unions. "Swedes apparent in the cooperative relationship between businesses and unions. "Swedes anchor every major idea or major decision both with the union and the personnel," Masreliez-Steen says.

Sweden's flattened corporate structure is successful due, in part, to a free flow of information between unions, employees and managers. Managers share their visions for the future and corporate goals on a regular basis.

Masreliez-Steen points to perhaps the most striking difference in the business environment: "You can't fire people in this country. If you've employed them, you have to live with them." The result is something that in the States would be considered insubordination: Employees who don't agree with a manager may simply disobey him or her. This means that Swedish managers are more interested in consensus-building than their American counterparts. …

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