Since the early 1990s Ireland has been transformed into a modern and thriving economy and is now viewed as one of the most progressive European nations. A range of multinational companies have offices in Dublin, which has become a magnet for technology and industry.
Business structures in Ireland tend to be hierarchical, where decisions are made at the top. However, the relationship between managers and subordinates is generally relaxed and the Irish view themselves as team players who conduct business in a friendly and informal manner. Networking and relationship-building between colleagues and business partners is essential to the successful Irish business model.
Depending on the organisation, managers in Ireland are generally open and inclusive of the opinions of their subordinates and prefer to work as a team, rather than taking an authoritarian role. Relationship-building between employees and managers is seen as paramount to the success of the business. Managers will endeavour to build a good rapport through taking an interest in their employees and engaging in banter with the team. It is customary for Irish managers to take into account all employees’ views before making an important decision.
Business in Ireland tends to be less formal than in other European countries. Irish business people are comfortable using first names instead of titles and appreciate a friendly approach. However, although meetings can be informal, physical contact such as kissing or hugging is not viewed as appropriate behaviour.
Irish people are warm and friendly and this permeates business relationships. Face-to-face meetings are preferred to the telephone and a direct, conversational style is expected. The Irish are famous for their razor-sharp wit and workplace banter can often leave some foreigners bewildered. If you find yourself on the receiving end of some well-intentioned ribbing, don’t take offence, it is more likely to mean you have become accepted into the team. It is not uncommon to continue meetings in a more social setting or over lunch, however bear in mind that family is central to Irish life so it’s best not to make too many demands on people’s personal time.
Business attire in Ireland tends to be smart and formal. Women usually wear smart business suits and blouses while most men opt for dark suits, shirts and ties. It’s advisable to carry a raincoat and umbrella to avoid turning up to meetings soaked from the inevitable Irish downpour.
The handshake is the accepted business greeting in Ireland. On meeting Irish business people, shake hands with everyone in the room and maintain eye contact, as this will put people at ease. Having a friendly demeanor and open communication style will take you far in an Irish business meeting.
Good time-keeping is important in business meetings and appointments, however the Irish have a more relaxed attitude to punctuality in social situations, where you may be waiting up to an hour for your counterparts to turn up. However, if you are going to be late to a meeting it is a good idea to phone ahead, particularly in Dublin where severe traffic congestion can mean that being on time is somewhat out of your hands.
Business meetings in Ireland generally follow a pre-determined structure but tend to be informal and conversational in comparison to other countries. It is quite common for a meeting to be conducted in a restaurant or pub and negotiations are personable and relaxed. Expect lengthy and eloquent discussions at business meetings, where everyone is encouraged to participate. To get the most out of an Irish business meeting it is important to get to know all the participants and not be over aggressive in trying to get the deal done.
The Irish are tolerant and friendly people and are not quick to take offence at good natured humour or banter. Indeed a few jokes would be actively encouraged in order to break the ice. However, there are a few controversial subjects you should avoid bringing up in a business setting such as; present and historical Anglo-Irish relations, religion and laws relating to sexual identity and family planning. Giving opinions on people’s private lives or personal appearance in the workplace would also be frowned upon.
Most business in Ireland is conducted in English. However, be aware that Irish-English has many different words and phrases to British English. Regional accents in Ireland vary greatly and Irish people have a tendency to speak rather quickly, so non-English speakers may have some difficulty understanding what is being said. It is perfectly acceptable to ask someone to repeat themselves or to politely ask them to speak more slowly.