French Meetings

As management style tends towards the directive, meetings can often be more for the dissemination of information of decisions previously arrived at than for the open debate of perceived difficulties.

They will often be chaired by the boss and follow a set agenda as determined by the boss. In such formal meetings it would be rare to contradict the boss openly – this will have been done elsewhere, prior to the meeting in more informal lobbying sessions. If meetings sometimes appear to be a rubber-stamping exercise, it is because that is what they often are. In such an environment, it is vital to be actively involved in the pre-meeting lobbying if any influence at all is to be brought to bear.

Meetings, which take place between peers and without the presence of a more senior figure, will be much more open and less rigid. Open debate will often be seen in such situations and this debate can often become heated – especially when people are defending the validity of their own cherished logic. In such meetings, strong confrontations can often occur which reflect the sense of competition often found just below the surface at peer group levels in large organisations.

Cartesian logic is at the heart of French thinking and this process introduces the thesis – counter-thesis approach where adversarial debate around a topic is seen as very healthy. This can be seen as disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing through the eyes of more consensus-minded cultures.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in France

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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France represents both a challenge and an opportunity from a business perspective. It is a large modern economy with a highly educated workforce, a sophisticated consumer base and a solid industrial base of successful companies spread across a range of industries. France is also a country where protectionist policies have proven very hard to remove and where change comes slowly at the macro level.

Recent political changes might indicate that France has recognised the need for a new vision for the country to help propel it into the future. Indeed, we have recently seen the strange sight of France standing up as a guardian of free trade and globalisation whilst the USA looks to retreat into a more isolationist and protectionist approach – a strange situation from a historical perspective.

It certainly seems that France is at a crossroads and only time will tell which route the country choses to take. In the interim, France remains too big an economy to ignore. If you are not doing business in France at the moment you should probably be looking at entering the market in the near future and this country profile is designed to help you understand the cultural landscape you will find when working with French colleagues or customers.

The French have a distinct and unique approach to many aspects of working life and anybody considering doing business in France would be well advised to research some of the specifics of French business culture before embarking on any commercial activities.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of French business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips