Thursday, January 25, 2007

More on Norwegian Work Place and Work Culture

Norwegians have a work place culture which places them at odds with their non

scandinavian neighbours and of course the USA links with the oil industry.

The key centre to this is that they are into consensus and recognition. This means

that everyone must be involved, decisions are never hurried, other people must be

consulted outside the meeting and an agreement must be at least large majority,

consensus or by mutual agreement. This colours many of their business decisions and

it means that quite ordinary evaluations and decisions can take time.

When a good decision is made or a project settled, then recognition is important for

all contributors. As many in person should be mentioned in the rolling credits. The

one thing the presentor avoids is use of the first person singular- they cannot take

any credit directly. Usually they will have flowers presented or the like and someone

will call for a round of applause.

Taking initiative, as an individual is positively frowned upon. If you are a

foriegner it is grounds for major behind the scenes pow-wows and final dressing downs

on quite minor issues. Ownership must be carefully driven by skillful managers

otherwise there are outright diffusions of responsibility and dissolution of

enthusiasm and engagement.

However there are sharks swimming in the placid commensual society of the working

coral reef. The culture of consensus and consulation is abused to slow up decisions

or to muddy waters. The senior male manager in Norwegian companies can be a real

bastard and the current rack of career climbing females can be ruthless manipultating

bitches...hey what's new? Well the thing is these are the wolves in sheeps clothing.

Norway is great for bastards and those normal mortals with a protestant work eithic.

The wolves are actually all around. On the face of it people are fair and open and

honest, but if you want to get on in management you have to play the game. You have

to steer decisions carefully like a boat in a confused tidal stream. You let the

eddy's of opinion and passing concern move the boat seeminlgy off course, before they

inevitably subside and you can get back to where you are going. It is a bit like

working in a never ending city council environment, but there is a good level of

cooperation and involvement from staff. They just expect to be in on the decision and

recognised at the end.

So to use the oft' cited struting of business personality and behaviour people show,

most norwegians want to be circles but are really squares with secret ambitions to

one day be a triangle. Few are 'squiggles'. It is the triangles who really get the

job done, and they are usually quite high in management.

Also the average norwegian office worker or public employee is lazy. A bit like

working in a city council or a university admin department, flexitime, pregancy leave

and psychologically caused sick leave are widely abused. Family and freetime come

first. Job and any idea of actually working hard to be recognised and fulfill

ambition are secondary. Graduates are worse after a couple of years of having any

individual initiative dragged out of them. They rest on their laurels and the women

look forward to their first baby and upto 18 months off work, while the men look

forward to up to five weeks off in a row over july-august, or the next ski trip

'bought' with dodget flexitime.

Harder working norwegians still don't often work very long hours. Few work even 10

hour days. THis is healty. What they do actually practice is good priotisation and

ignoring the background noise which brits and low ranking yank employees busy

themselves about. E-mails go largely unanswered if they are not from someone

important or follow a direct verbal instruction relating to their contetn and intentd

actions. I've seen many managers work clever. They prioritise. They don't buy

bullshit and after all, I must agree if anything is that important someone would have

phoned their mobile about it.

What they are bad at is delegating shitty tasks always downward and making everyone

else prepared for deadlines so that they don't need to panic unless things

change...they would rather have the job repeated with the new circumstances taken

into account than wait to have a pressured deadline.

Norwegians probably work the shortest annual hours of any developed country in the

world. THis has actually many plus sides- management and key workers can be focused

and fresh in their daily responsibilities, and their health is a lot better than the

opposing middle-aged yank for say. It means operation level workers can come into the

work place as organic growth in demand naturally entails new employees. Norwegians

won't tolerate being told to work 10 hours to take up the slack. They will just not

do it, no matter how bad the employment market is, and at time of writing they just

will go get another job as soon as the pressure is on. Pregnancy leave means that

many people can get valuable experience in new roles, periods of unemployment or in

streatcing their responsibilities up to management level. People can be very

motivated to get work and projects effectively finished or defined as psotponed in

order that they have an uniteruppted 3 weeks in july.

Norway AS (inc, PLC) basically is shut for the summer. Even the oil industry ashore

is on skeleton staff. Because of the spirit of consensus and fear of making decisions

, this means that one boss is often agreed absent in July with the other having

August and no decisions effectively being taken until september 1. This obviously

has an effect on the economy. Not that their service and tourist industry benefit

much. Norwegians are either content with a trip to the asutere cabin for the summer

or a wilder tour to the far east or australia.

Thats another thing. Service industry is seen as a poor cousin, and staff are mostly

of low motivation and down right rude. In the US Chain 'TGI fridays' the staff are

noticeably attentive and polite and helpful. This is not the norm. Norwegains despise

taliking to tourists and generally don't like communicating much with anyone who they

don't know. The plus side of this is that for example, many of the seven eleven

franshisees are business graduates in their 20s cutting their teeth on a business

which often can't fail to line their pockets. Even skiing for foreign tourists is

very much an afterthought and they try to manage it to fill capacity at off peak

times outside norwegian mid term and easter for example.

So all in all a lazy old bunch of awkward sods, but plenty of opportuity for enterprising folk with the general competition for this starting new businesses or "running with the ball" quite low.

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