Success with Swedish Colleagues


Success with Swedish Colleagues

When you think of Sweden, do companies like Skype, Spotify, IKEA, and H&M come to mind? If not, they should. Because these innovative and cutting-edge organizations, along with others like AstraZeneca, Volvo, Electrolux and Skanska were all born in Sweden. A carefully balanced mix of individualism and consensus-building, creative risk-taking and fiscal responsibility, and government support of start-ups and technological investment has created a culture where global brands develop and thrive.

Here are three ideas to keep top of mind to work successfully with your Swedish colleagues:

1. Collaborate and Build Consensus

Consensual decision making produces a balanced decision, gathering opinions from several different individuals. Also, it is an organized teamwork process that Swedes feel ensures safety and guarantees the right choice for all involved. Don’t mistake this for indecisiveness! Rather than selling your point of view, use “we” statements that focus on the common good.

2. Look for “lagom”

Lagom may be translated as “enough,” “adequate,” or “suitable”. The concept dates back to the Vikings, who believed each man was to get “just enough” alcohol for himself and leave “just enough” for the rest of the group. (It comes from the words “laget om”  which means “around the group”.) As a result, excessiveness (e.g. variety, portions) and exaggeration (e.g. self-promotion, compliments) are frowned upon. They make the Swedish uncomfortable. So, lagom plays an important role in setting realistic expectations. 

3. Skip the (excessive) small talk. 

In Sweden, small talk with colleagues and acquaintances is generally kept to a minimum. In fact, it can even be pejoratively referred to as kallprat (cold talk) or dödprat (dead talk). A brief exchange about the weather or vacations is perfectly fine. But, avoid filling the space with compliments, jokes, or personal questions that may feel like an invasion of privacy. Say only what you mean and think before speaking.

In Sweden, taking everything in moderation can produce big rewards and results!


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