Business in Britain – Keep Things Flexible!
Generalisation, rather than specialisation, tends to typify the British approach – with less merit being placed on pure technical ability. Some commentators have quoted this tendency as one of the reasons for the demise of manufacturing in the UK over the last three decades.
One thing that can be said of meetings in the UK is that they are frequent. They are often also inconclusive, with the decision of the meeting being that another meeting should be held. The British themselves often complain about the frequency and length of meetings they must attend.
In comparison with many other cultures, relatively little preparation is done for meetings (with the exception of client-facing meetings). This is because meetings are often viewed as the forum for the open debate of an issue and that, during that open debate, a route forward will be found. When the route forward is agreed, then the detailed work schedule will be implemented. Being ‘over-prepared’ for meetings in the UK can result in certain negative feelings towards those who have prepared in advance.
Agendas will be produced and followed loosely. If something important arises during the open debate it will not be excluded simply because it does not occur on the agenda. The British consider themselves to be punctual, but when pressed will admit to rarely arriving on time. It is now fairly common for people to arrive five to ten minutes late for meetings.
Being very non-confrontational in business situations, the British equate directness with open confrontation and fear that bluntness will offend the other party. This can often lead to everyone searching for a way of saying something negative in a positive way.
Humour is virtually all-pervasive in business situations. Indeed, the more tense and difficult a situation is, the more likely the British are to use humour to defuse it. This does not imply that they are not taking the situation seriously – it is merely that humour is used as a tension release mechanism in the UK and helps to keep situations calm, reserved and non-emotional.
Please share any recent business connections you have had in Britain.