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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Austria

The insights offered below are for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Austria.

It provides some useful information for managers who are relocating to the country for employment as well as those who may have Austrian employees in their global or multicultural teams.

Topics include:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling
  • Communication style
  • Decision making

Being a Manager in Austria

A strong emphasis on efficiency, innovation, and long-term planning characterizes the Austrian management style. This management approach is rooted in the culture and values of Austria, which place a high value on individual responsibility, teamwork, and collaboration.

  • The business culture in Austria is conservative and hierarchical and to ensure success, managers should attempt to conform to rules and regulations.
  • Managers require an understanding of the importance of each person’s very distinct role within an organization; maintaining those roles helps to keep order.
  • Always demonstrate respect and deference when dealing with people at a higher level.
  • First impressions are important and you will be judged on your clothing and demeanour.
  • Wear conservative clothes that are well-tailored if you want to be treated with respect.
  • Managers typically work hard within the official working hours and make every effort to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
  • As such, neither managers nor subordinates expect to work beyond the regular workday.

The Role of a Manager

Overall, the management style is characterized by a collaborative, empowering, and innovative approach to business. This can lead to a more engaged and motivated workforce, as well as a more sustainable and successful business model in the long term.

  • Austrian companies tend to be decentralized, with decision-making power distributed among various levels of management.
  • This allows for a more flexible and responsive approach to problem-solving, as decisions can be made quickly at the appropriate level.
  • Austrian managers tend to empower their employees by delegating responsibility and encouraging them to take initiative.
  • This can lead to a more motivated and engaged workforce, as employees feel valued and trusted.

Approach to Change

Austrian companies tend to take a long-term view when it comes to planning and strategy. This can lead to a more sustainable and stable business model, as companies are less likely to make short-term decisions that could have negative consequences in the future.

  • Austria is a low-risk and low-change-tolerant culture.
  • Change can be difficult to bring about due to an underlying belief that change may threaten the social fabric.
  • Of course, changes are made, but they take longer to implement and one should not expect individually-driven innovation, but significant team efforts where each step is thoroughly reviewed, analyzed and agreed upon by the group as a whole.
  • Austrian companies are known for their innovative approach to business, particularly in the areas of technology and engineering.
  • This focus on innovation can help companies stay ahead of the competition and adapt to changing market conditions.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Austria is a controlled-time culture which manifests in the workplace as follows:

  • Adherence to schedules is important and expected.
  • In Austria missing a deadline can be seen as a sign of poor management and inefficiency, which may impact the perception of someone's professionalism.
  • Successful management will depend on the individual's ability to meet deadlines and adhere to schedules.
  • Austrian companies tend to place a high value on work-life balance, with many offering generous vacation time and flexible work arrangements.
  • This can lead to a more satisfied and productive workforce, as employees are able to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life.

Decision Making

On the whole, Austrian employees usually believe managers have been chosen for their roles due to their experience and technical abilities.  When it comes to decision-making, then this may impact the workplace in the following ways:

  • In general, they do not expect their managers to seek their concurrence in the decision-making process and are comfortable complying with any decisions. 
  • If asked to contribute to the decision-making process, however, then they are generally happy to do so.
  • Austrian business culture places a strong emphasis on collaboration and teamwork.
  • This means that decision-making typically involves input from multiple stakeholders, including employees, managers, and other relevant parties.
  • Decision-making is often focused on building consensus among stakeholders.
  • This means that decisions are not made unilaterally by a single manager, but rather through a process of negotiation and compromise.
  • The business culture tends to have a long-term perspective when it comes to decision-making.
  • This means that decisions are often made with an eye towards their potential impact on the business in the future.
  • Austrians value a logical and analytical approach to decision-making.
  • This means that decisions are often based on data and evidence, rather than intuition or personal preference.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

Successful intercultural communication with Austrians requires an understanding of just how much order, tradition and hierarchy are highly esteemed. These values are likely to manifest in the following way:

  • It is always polite to address someone initially by their title
  • Confrontational behaviour or high-pressure tactics are not respected, or tolerated and, as such, should be avoided.
  • Cultural sensitivity is essential and it is imperative that you exercise good manners in all your business interactions.
  • Austrians want to be seen to be doing the right thing at all times. Therefore, they follow established protocols and expect others to do the same.
  • Austrian employees tend to be careful about what they say. They don't tend to speak for the sake of filling the silence and are generally not impetuous in their speech.
  • They tend to value detail and are likely to want to understand every innuendo before coming to an agreement.
  • In Austrian business culture, building strong relationships is seen as essential to successful negotiation.
  • This means that negotiators often spend time getting to know their counterparts on a personal level, and may engage in small talk or social activities outside of the negotiation room.
  • Austrian negotiators tend to be good listeners and may ask open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of their counterpart's position.
  • This helps to build trust and can lead to more effective problem-solving.
  • Austrians often seek to find mutually beneficial solutions to problems, rather than focusing solely on their own interests.
  • This collaborative approach can lead to more creative and innovative solutions, as well as stronger long-term relationships.
  • Negotiators tend to place a high value on fairness and equity. This means that they may be willing to compromise on certain issues in order to achieve a fair and balanced outcome.
  • While it takes time to reach a decision, once one has been made it, it's unlikely to be revoked and business can be conducted with a handshake as a guarantee.

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