May in France that means lots of holidays! When your French colleagues are in the office though, here are three tips for increasing effectiveness the “French Way”:
1. No news is good news.
While some cultures favor frequent praise and compliments (e.g. “good job”, “thanks so much”, “nice work”), in France less is generally more. Feedback from superiors tends to be less frequent and more formal. The assumption is that you are in your position because you are capable of doing your job. Layering on the positive feedback runs the risk of sounding condescending. On the flip side, when you are complimented on your work, it is truly a job well done.
2. Err on the side of (French) formality.
French formality means dressing the part for business, using titles (Madame/Monsieur) rather than first names in the beginning of a relationship, and sticking to the formal “vous” instead of the informal “tu” if you speak French until your colleague switches to the informal. What may surprise people is that “formality” does not necessarily mean political correctness. It tends to be more readily acceptable to make jokes related to sex or ethnicity, and to give compliments to colleagues of the opposite sex on clothing or appearance.
3. Know your stuff and be prepared to defend it.
It has been said that the French ask questions to make sure that other people know the answers. Approximate answers based in part on hunches and experience rarely suffice. French school systems place a heavy emphasis on reasoning through deductive logic (building from the general premises to the specific conclusions) rather than inductive logic (building from specific observations to general conclusions). Sometimes in France, when you need to convince others, it’s more important that it works in theory rather than in practice!