Austria – a country of specialists
It is still reasonably unusual to meet women in very senior positions in locally-owned Austrian companies. There are some sectoral exceptions to this, such as the law, but any changes that are happening are happening relatively slowly. That said, you will be treated with great kindness and professional respect — and do not be surprised by the old-fashioned courtesies they are shown. Austrian companies tend towards a hierarchical approach to corporate structure. It is still customary to use family names in the workplace — even with quite close colleagues. Although there is some evidence that the younger generation are moving away from this convention.
Meetings are formal affairs and you would be expected to arrive well-prepared. Austrians would be classified as ‘pre-planners’ in terms of their approach to meetings. It would be unprofessional to arrive at a meeting and to start looking through the papers as the meeting is beginning. Also, punctuality is prized – do not be late as this could be classified as ‘stealing people’s time’.
During the course of a meeting you will be invited to speak and it is not expected that people will be interrupted or that strong emotions are shown. Meetings will be run in a methodical fashion with the agenda, by and large, adhered to. Try to avoid deviating from the set agenda unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Actions will be agreed, written down, distributed and acted upon. In a culture which places great emphasis on specialisation, people are expected to speak when they have something to say about something within their area of expertise. Do not feel the need to speak if you have nothing relevant to say.
Direct communication is appreciated. Lack of directness in discourse can be mistaken for lack of clarity of thought or, at the extreme, dishonesty. Thus those cultures which tend to be more diplomatic and worried about causing offence by being too direct should try hard to ensure the use of a literal form of communication. Ensure that what you say relates to what you mean.
Have you noticed the ‘direct approach’ when doing business in Austria?