As has already been stated, the Belgian approach is characterised by a desire for compromise and the need to reach a workable, acceptable solution.
This approach is necessary in a country so beset with factionalism and regionalism – if people were to be dogmatic and pedantic, nothing would ever get done. Of course, one of the sometimes frustrating by-products of this somewhat laboured approach is that decisions take time and that change can be a painful process.
These gradualist sentiments are mirrored in the Belgian approach to management. It is important that issues are discussed and aired and that decisions are arrived at through a slow process of working towards an accommodation. Going in to Belgium and assuming that changes can be imposed overnight and without consultation would be folly and lead to future difficulties. As one senior Belgian manager said when being regaled with the merits of the latest management theory by an American colleague, ‘thats all very interesting and new, but you have to remember that some Belgian companies are older than the United States itself.’ Change does not happen quickly in Belgium!
Thus, managers need to be seen to be inclusive yet at the same time they must appear knowledgeable about their functional areas and also have clear views on direction and goals. The style is a complex mix of inclusiveness and management by direction. How does it work — it’s a Belgian compromise.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in Belgium. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in Belgium and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: