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Business culture

Norway is very non-hierarchical in its approach to business structure. In accordance with Norway’s famous interpersonal code of ‘Jante Law’ (first put into words by the famous poet Aksel Sandemose),people in Norway are expected to be egalitarian in their approach to all aspects of life - ‘you shall not think you are special’ is one of the main tenets of Jante Law. This egalitarian approach obviously lends itself to being comfortable in a more matrix-style organization.

Thus the emphasis in a Norwegian operation is placed, not on the hierarchy of people’s relationships, but more on pragmatism and the development of efficient systems which allow people to perform their tasks effectively and with as little interference as possible. Hand in hand with this egalitarian approach goes an openness of communication and freedom of information which many more hierarchical societies would find difficult to accept.

When working with Norwegians, it is best to spend your time trying to find the person who is responsible for a specific task rather than working out what the hierarchy is and working from the top down to the fact holder. It might even be viewed negatively if the fact holder is initially ignored and a senior member of the organisation is approached first.

Management style: In Norway, managers are expected to act more as coaches and facilitators that as paternalistic, authoritarian figures. Managers are expected to act as the first amongst equals and their job is to encourage the best out of all colleagues and ensure an effective allocation of company resources.

Decisions tend to be consensual and one result of this approach is that decisions can be hard to reach and the process can be lengthy. Managers often feel the need to include everybody in the decision-making process and it is seen as important that everybody's point of view is listened to and valued.

One very positive aspect of this egalitarian approach is that information flow within Norwegian organisations is usually very open and all employees therefore feel engaged and valued.

Meetings: Meetings can be lengthy and involve lots of open debate. As everybody has an opinion and, as each person’s opinion is worthy of consideration, meetings can sometimes appear lacking in drive and urgency.

Be aware that punctuality is of central importance in Norway. Lateness is generally not acceptable and it implies a lack of courtesy and respect for the other members present. If you are going to be late for an appointment with a Norwegian, make sure you inform them.

Meeting participants are expected to speak one at a time and interruptions are viewed as rude and unhelpful. If you wish to make a comment, raise your hand slightly and wait until the current speaker has finished. The chair will indicate when it is your turn to join in.

Women in business: Norway probably boasts one of the most gender-equal economies in the world and is often mentioned as a model and inspiration for other countries. Therefore, foreign business women should face no gender bias whatsoever and can be assured that they will be judged solely on their professional competence.