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Cross Cultural Management Guide for Denmark

The information offered below is for managers who want to learn more about the management style and business culture of Denmark.

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

Topics include:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time
  • Communication style
  • Negotiation

Did you know that according to the Business Culture Complexity Index, Denmark has the 'easiest' business culture in the world?

Being a Manager in Denmark

Denmark is known for its cooperative and collaborative management style, which values equality, trust, and respect for individual rights. Danish managers tend to be open-minded and transparent in their communication, and they encourage participation and input from their employees.

You should consider the following when managing in Denmark:

  • Avoid managing autocratically as this will not go down well in Denmark and you will lose the respect of your team members.
  • If you are going to Denmark to meet with your Danish counterparts then arrive punctually for meetings and be prepared to make productive use of the available time.
  • Avoid too much small talk.
  • Danes like to get down to the business at hand as swiftly and efficiently as possible.
  • They generally say what they think and expect others to do the same.

The Role of a Manager

Foreign managers need to recognize that Danes value the specialized knowledge that employees at all levels bring. In Denmark, as in most egalitarian cultures, you may find that:

  • Positions of authority are earned largely on the basis of individual achievement and people, at all levels of the organization, while respecting authority, are free to aspire to those positions.
  • The role of the leader is to harness the talent of the group assembled and develop any resulting synergies.
  • This is done by giving individuals a voice and facilitating discussions. 
  • 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.
  • The Danes fundamental belief in an egalitarian society means they support a participative management style.
  • In Danish organizations, there are often fewer layers of management than in other countries.
  • This means that managers have a smaller span of control and employees have more autonomy and responsibility.

Approach to Change

Denmark is regarded as having a medium tolerance for change and risk. You mind find, therefore, that:

  • 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 embarrassment that may accompany failure, bring about an aversion to risk.
  • Because of this attitude, cultural sensitivity is going to be required, especially when conducting group meetings and discussing contributions made by participating individuals.

Approach to Time and Priorities

Denmark is a controlled-time culture, and adherence to schedules is important and expected. Time is considered something to be valued and used wisely.  When working with the Danish, you may find that:

  • 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 management will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.
  • Danes tend to value the work-life balance and will manage their working day productively to ensure that they are able to leave the office on time and make the most of their family time. 
  • Employees who consistently work outside standard office hours are likely to be viewed as poor time managers. 
  • Danish managers recognize that employees are more productive and motivated when they have time to pursue personal interests and spend time with their families.

Decision Making

Companies are relatively flat with few hierarchical layers. Danish managers value trust and transparency in their relationships with employees. They are open about company performance, share information freely, and involve employees in decision-making processes.

  • Managers do not flaunt their positions and prefer to be seen as members of the team.
  • Although not as group-focused as some other cultures, employees often subjugate their desires for the good of the group.
  • Managers generally act as coordinators or team leaders rather than autocratic micro-managers.
  • They are task-oriented and emphasize achieving a goal, productivity and profits.
  • They expect their employees to do their job in a professional manner.
  • Danes are often quite comfortable working in teams and do not expect to be singled out for their contribution.
  • Most employees are members of a union.
  • The pay scales for the same job are relatively equal across companies, so employees seldom move companies in an attempt to secure more pay or perquisites.

Boss or Team Player?

The role of the leader is to harness the talent of the group and develop any resulting synergiesThe culture means that:

  • 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.
  • Danish managers invest in the training and development of their employees, providing opportunities for growth and advancement within the company.
  • This helps to build a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Communication and Negotiation Styles

As with many time-focused cultures, the Danes tend to say what they think and get to the point, albeit in a tactful way. You should:

  • Avoid "hard sell" techniques and use direct communication without hyperbole or superlatives
  • They like to get down to business quickly and are direct and frank communicators.
  • They are detail-oriented and negotiations are normally carried out in a reserved and polite manner.
  • Decisions are normally made after consulting with everyone involved.
  • When negotiating with the Danes, ensure that your materials are clear and referenced with data and facts where appropriate.
  • Accurate and robust detail is valued in Denmark and should not be underestimated. 

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