Norway Country Profile - Business Etiquette

     
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Organisational structure

Norway has a sophisticated and flourishing economy which relies on the country’s abundance of natural resources and heavy investment in telecommunications technology. Like other aspects of Norwegian culture, business structures adhere to the Law of Jante, whereby fairness, equality and teamwork underpin all corporate activities. Organisations therefore have a very flat structure, where every worker’s opinion and input is valued equally.

Management style

Norwegian managers are seen as coaches or guides, rather than authoritarian figures. Decisions are generally made by management but only after a consensus has been reached with staff. Being deferent to superiors is not the norm – to a Norwegian this behaviour would be seen as a trust issue and would make most managers feel uncomfortable. Indeed, challenging an ineffectual manager in a transparent way through open channels is commonplace in Norway. Norwegians are known for their honesty, so if there is a problem then it will be discussed at all levels of the business until a solution is found.

Formality

Business in Norway is generally conducted in a friendly, open and informal atmosphere. Titles are quickly dispensed with after the first meeting. Managers are almost always addressed by their first names and it’s important that everyone feels at ease and part of the team.

Relationships

Norwegian workplaces are relaxed and flexible. However, Norwegians are also very goal-oriented and like to get on with the job so that they can get home to their families. Attempting to impress the boss by working long hours or being over-competitive would be viewed suspiciously. Norwegians are considered to be quite reserved and public displays of anger are rare. Teamwork is paramount in all business settings so it’s a good idea to show that you can work collaboratively with your Norwegian counterparts.

Dress Code

Business attire can be quite casual and jeans and t shirts are acceptable in many workplaces. More ‘formal’ professions may require men to wear a smart suit, shirt and tie and women either a trouser or skirt suit. Whatever the industry, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the extreme winter weather when leaving the office by investing in sturdy shoes and padded outerwear.

Greetings

Norwegians value their personal space and a handshake is the accepted greeting in a business setting. Touching or hugging would be considered odd and is usually reserved for friends and family.

Punctuality

Punctuality is highly valued in Norway and there is an unspoken rule that you should be on time. However, most workplaces allow for flexible working (called ‘flexitid’) where workers are expected to be in work between 10am and 2pm. If you have family commitments or are late due to a personal situation you will not be reprimanded - most managers are very understanding of people’s family commitments. If you are going to be late, it’s a good idea to call ahead, particularly if you are due at a meeting.

Meetings

Meetings are generally informal and everyone is given an opportunity to speak. Norwegians like to get to the point, so meetings don’t generally veer from the agenda or involve much small talk. However, reaching a consensual decision on the topic at hand is very important in a Norwegian business setting, so meetings tend to go on until everyone is happy with the outcome.

Cultural sensitivity

Norway is considered to be a class-free society and there are very few rich people and very few poor people. Any competitive behaviour or attempts at one-upmanship would therefore be frowned upon. Norwegians are also very patriotic and do not take kindly to being compared with their Scandinavian neighbours.

Business language

Most business is conducted in Norwegian. However, most people speak a very high level of English and can switch between languages in the presence of foreigners. Learning a few Norwegian greetings and phrases will help you to break the ice.

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