Danish work culture and cats: a story of independence

Do you have a cat? If so, you should know how it is like to have one. If not, lets us explain a little bit. Cats are considered very independent animals. Unlike dogs, cats can be left alone for a long time without them feeling depressed or alone. They invent their own lifestyle, even games. Cats’ personalities are more individual than dogs’. And they appreciate and love you, only if you have earned that right. Nothing is given. Plus, they will still boss you around, don’t expect to be worshipped.

The Danes, like most other Nordic people, are like cats at work. This is why many non-Danes claim that managing Danish employees is like herding cats. The Danish workforce is renowned for being highly productive and efficient. They have their own way of working and collaborating that puzzles most outsiders. But yet, they deliver and they are happy. Their bosses too. And work-life balance is at an all-time high in the Nordics. What exactly is their cat-like working? Is it linked to the social trust and equality that spans all levels of the Nordic societies?

Work it out!

Most employees in the Nordics are autonomous. They like to do their job, independently. Without much control, supervision or interference. This is reinforced by the fact that job responsibilities are always defined and clear. So there is no ambiguity as to what is expected from any employee to deliver.
Bosses and managers are comfortable with that. They don’t mind their team members to work in the quiet. There is again a sense of trust. They trust their people that they will do their job and deliver. Although the Nordic working environment is relaxed and all but controlled, deadlines are deadlines. Not to mention that showing up for a meeting in time (i.e. a couple of minutes before the start, not later, not much earlier too) is greatly appreciated and expected.

Tribal decision-making!

Often, Danish bosses and leaders are characterized as informalrelaxed and acting more like coaches rather than strict and authoritarian businessmen. This leadership style usually influences the decision-making process too. It can be tribal. Well, in a good sense. Just like tribes in the early times of humanity gathered around the fire and debated to reach a decision at the end, the Danes also take part in a very loose yet collective decision-making process.

Bosses and managers trust their employees. So, many times the decision -even if it is a strategic one- is made by the employees themselves. And get approved by superiors. Rather than the other way around, right? Also, it is very common to call meetings with a wide participants list or even open to anyone interested. Sharing opinions and discussing to reach consensus is greatly appreciated in the Nordics. It is about their sense of togetherness and acting for the greater good.

Key takeaway:
Trust creates strong mutual bonds between people, whether on a personal or professional level. It empowers both sides to use their full potential in order to reach goals and build lasting relationships.