Intercultural Management - France
Being a Manager in France
The business set up in France is egalitarian and to ensure successful cross cultural management it is important to remember to treat each and every person with equal respect and deference.
In other words, in business it is safest to be formal and reserved in your behavior and expect that your French colleagues will be the same. Communication may be both formal and informal, depending upon the person you are dealing with and the relationship between you.
The Role of a Manager
French business behavior emphasizes courtesy and a degree of formality. Chief executives of French companies often come from a select group of universities and share a similar background. Consequently, it is best to send a senior executive to initiate the relationship with the French decision-maker, especially if it is someone whose credentials and experience are comparable.
Newcomers to the French management style should carefully study the corporate culture of specific companies because they may vary. Consequently, employees will range from feeling empowered to speak out in the management process, to those who believe it is most important to simply execute the instructions by their leadership.
Approach to Change
France’s intercultural adaptability and readiness for change is developing all the time. France is seen to have a medium tolerance for change and risk. It is important for innovations to have a track record or history noting the benefits if they are to be accepted and implemented.
The fear of exposure, and the potential of embarrassment that may accompany failure, brings about aversion to risk and the need to thoroughly examine the potential negative implications. While in risk-tolerant environments, failure is perceived as a learning process that encourages confidence in future ventures, failure in France causes a long-term loss of confidence by the individual as well as by others. Because of this attitude, intercultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made my participating individuals.
Approach to Time and Priorities
France is a controlled-time culture, and adherence to schedules is important and expected. In France missing a deadline is a sign of poor management and inefficiency, and will shake people’s confidence. People in controlled-time cultures tend to have their time highly scheduled, and it’s generally a good idea to provide and adhere to performance milestones.
Effective cross cultural management skill will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.
For effective cross cultural management it is important to remember that hierarchy is part of the French business culture. This is a country where rank has its privilege, often both literally and figuratively. Decision making is done at the highest levels, often without consultation with subordinates.
Boss or Team Player?
French like working in teams and collaborate quite well. The communication within a team is generally quite collegial, albeit somewhat direct and blunt. Role allocation within the team is generally quite clearly defined and people will take greater responsibility for their specific task than for the group as a whole.
Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies. The leader will be deferred to as the final authority in any decisions that are made, but they do not dominate the discussion or generation of ideas. Praise should be given to the entire group as well as to individuals.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
French business emphasizes courtesy and a fair degree of formality. Wait to be told where to sit as there may be a protocol to be followed. Although English may be spoken, it is a good idea to hire an interpreter so as to avoid any cross cultural misunderstandings. Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol. Avoid confrontational behavior or high-pressure tactics as it can be counterproductive.
The French will carefully analyze every detail of a proposal, regardless of how minute. The French are often impressed with good debating skills that demonstrate an intellectual grasp of the situation and all the ramifications.
Never attempt to be overly friendly. The French generally compartmentalize their business and personal lives.