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Intercultural Management - Finland

Being a Manager in Finland
Management Guide finland

The business set up in Finland is egalitarian and to ensure successful cross cultural management it is important to remember to treat each and every person with equal respect and deference.

Intercultural adaptability relies on this understanding that in Finland there is a sense that all people in the organization have an important role to play and are valued for their input. Therefore, in this culture, managers will lose no respect in consulting employees to gather background information and even share in the decision-making process.

The basic business style is formal. Finns do not engage in much small talk and prefer people to speak succinctly, not to discuss themselves or their interests, focusing primarily on business. Finns generally do not make friends at work, and do not need to get to know you as a person in order to conduct business.

The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural communiciation will be more effective when working in Finland when you remember that the most productive managers in Finland recognize and value the specialized knowledge that employees at all levels bring. Employees expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization.

Managers tend to be task-oriented, but do not generally micro-manage their staff. Managers emphasize achieving a goal, productivity and profits and expect their employees to do their job in a professional manner.

Successful intercultural management will remember that the role of the leader is to harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies. The leader will be deferred to as the final authority in any decisions that are made, but they do not dominate the discussion or generation of ideas. Praise should be given to the entire group as well as to individuals.

Approach to Change

Finland’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is low, meaning that social change is difficult to bring about and the idea of it is not received with enthusiasm. The underlying belief is that change may threaten the social fabric.

Even though they are cautious in business, they are some of the most rapid high-tech innovators in the world. In order for change to take hold, however, it needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group. Intercultural sensitivity is needed as Finland’s attitude toward risk is dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Finland is a controlled-time culture, and adherence to schedules is important and expected. In Finland missing a deadline is a sign of poor management and inefficiency, and will shake people’s confidence.

Since Finns respect schedules and deadlines, it is not unusual for managers to expect people to work late and even give up weekends in order to meet target deadlines. Successful intercultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.

Decision Making

Employees expect to be consulted on decisions that affect them and the greater good of the organization. Not doing so may be significantly counterproductive because employees typically feel responsible for success beyond the execution of specific instructions.

Boss or Team Player?

The egalitarian belief of Finns supports a collaborative and participative management style. Finns are often quite comfortable working in teams and do not expect to be singled out for their contribution.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Relationship building often takes place outside the office: in a restaurant or the sauna. Never turn down an invitation to use the sauna, as it is an entrenched part of the Finnish culture and an important part of relationship building. There will be minimal, if any, small talk. Finns prefer to get down to business quickly. Finns are direct. They say what they think and expect you to do the same. Maintain eye contact while speaking. Decisions can be made quickly and implemented as swiftly. Finns are very concerned with quality. Finns are interested in long-term rather than short-term goals. When making a bid, it is important that your first offer is realistic. Finns do not expect to negotiate a great deal on price.

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