Sweden: genuine equality
Sweden presents a fascinating business model, managing to combine both pro-business policies with the provision of an all-embracing welfare state. This seeming paradox can in large measure be explained by an understanding of one of the central Swedish characteristic – egalitarianism. A belief in the genuine equality of individuals and the resultant desire for consensus are at the heart of Swedish business life.
This driving characteristic of egalitarianism dictates that many situations in Sweden are consensus-oriented. This means that meetings tend to be long with a great deal of open debate. Everybody has a view and everybody’s view is worthy of airing and consideration. However, opinions are expected to be backed up by empirical evidence, which means that a great deal of pre-planning and preparation are expected.
Punctuality is of central importance in Sweden. Don’t be late in Sweden if you want to maintain a professional image. Lateness is largely indefensible as it implies a lack of courtesy and respect for the other members present. Agendas are usually produced and on the whole adhered to. Agendas bring the necessary structure to a wide ranging, consensus-seeking debate. Without an agenda, the meeting would run the risk of disintegrating into an aimless discussion.
Sweden is probably more advanced than most other countries in terms of gender equality in the workplace. The number of men and women in paid employment is about equal and the spread through function and rank is also very equitable. It is estimated that women currently hold around 25% – 35% of all management positions in Sweden – a much higher figure than in most other industrialised countries.
Do you have any experience you can share about doing business in Sweden?