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Cross Cultural Management Guide – Switzerland


What will you Learn in this Guide?

In this guide, expatriate managers will gain an understanding of a number of key cross- cultural areas when working in Switzerland:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling 
  • Communication style and; 
  • Negotiation style 


Gain an Expert Understanding:

Once you've read this guide, ensure the success of your Switzerland business venture by: 

  • Taking part in a two-hour live webinar, customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our Switzerland country and culture training experts or;
  • Contacting us in respect to our Switzerland consultancy services. 

Being a Manager in Switzerland

Effective cross cultural management will bear in mind that in business it is safest to be formal and reserved in your behavior and to expect that your Swiss colleagues will be the same.

  • Arrive on time for meetings, show the proper deference to rank and position, and do not attempt to become familiar too quickly. Many companies are conservative, although this may change depending upon the industry as well as the canton.
  • It is wise to be direct when dealing with the Swiss, as they will undoubtedly be direct when speaking with you. This is not a culture that deals in innuendo and non-verbal communication.


The Role of a Manager

Cross cultural management needs to carefully study the corporate culture of specific companies because they may vary from quite hierarchical to rather egalitarian. 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.

  • Some employees in Switzerland do not feel that they are authorized by station, education, or position, to either aspire to leadership or to express themselves freely in management circles. Nevertheless many do, and especially with the influence of intercultural expansion and globalization, organizations are tending to rely more heavily on the wisdom of their people and not just the direction of leadership.


Approach to Change

Switzerland’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is low, meaning that social change is difficult to bring about and the idea of it is not received with enthusiasm. The underlying belief is that change may threaten the social fabric.

  • Even though they are cautious in business, they are some of the most rapid high-tech innovators in the world. In order for change to take hold, however, it needs to be perceived as good for the group and be accepted by the group. Intercultural sensitivity is needed as Switzerland’s attitude toward risk is dramatically impacted by the negative ramifications of failure on both the individual and the group.


Approach to Time and Priorities

Switzerland is a controlled-time culture, and adherence to schedules is important and expected.

  • In Switzerland 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-culture management skill will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.


Decision Making

Managers are expected to provide explicit directions and ensure that their subordinates have the proper materials and understand the appropriate procedures.

  • In the Italian and French cantons, there is less of a tendency to arrive early and it is not uncommon for managers to work past the end of the work day.
  • Cross cultural management is more likely to succeed if you understand that the Swiss are not risk takers.
  • They adhere to high quality standards and believe that nothing short of perfection is acceptable. The highest-ranking person often makes the final decision, after consulting with his subordinates. In large companies, decisions are often made by a consensus of the senior management team.


Boss or Team Player?

The role of the leader is 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

Cross cultural communication should be relatively straight forward when dealing with the Swiss.

  • Check with your business associates to determine if you should hire an interpreter to avoid any possible cross cultural miscommunication.
  • Many Swiss speak English, but not always fluently enough to conduct negotiations. Decision-making is a right reserved for those at the top of the company.
  • You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol.
  • The Swiss are very detail-oriented and want to understand every innuendo before coming to agreement.
  • Contracts are followed strictly.

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