Dutch Management Style

It has been said that the Netherlands is the only country in which the manager is not the boss and this apparent egalitarian approach fits very well with Dutch company structures which have traditionally been amongst the flattest in Europe.

The idea of imposing a policy from afar with little or no consultation is not one that sits easily with Dutch thinking.

Therefore, the manager in the Netherlands will rarely take an authoritarian approach to the team, preferring to be seen as the colleague who has most influence rather than as the ultimate arbiter on all decisions. This does not mean that the boss is powerless or that the boss’ thoughts hold no sway. It is more that the influence and control are subtler than in some other countries. It may even appear to those from more hierarchical cultures that the boss is shown very little respect.

Communication is expected to be fairly open and transparent. Any unwillingness to share with colleagues could be seen as devious and underhand – charges to be avoided at all cost in the Netherlands. A boss expects input from all team members and must show equal respect for all ideas.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Overview

If you are currently doing business in Europe it is likely that you will have had some contact with the Dutch. This is mainly due to the pre-eminence of Rotterdam as a port and its position as the gateway to the European Union. This fact reflects the Netherland’s history of one of the great trading nations of the world and also accounts for the fact that the Netherlands has more global, world-class companies than you might expect from a country with such a small population and geographic spread.

The Netherlands is international in its outlook – it always has been. Countries with small domestic markets need to look abroad almost as a matter of national survival and the Netherlands is a prime example of this. The Dutch want to trade – why not with you?

Given the Netherlands’ central position in European business life, it probably follows that you should consider doing business there and that doing business in the Netherlands might also help you to springboard into other European Union countries.

A word of caution though – just because the Netherlands has a long history of international business and the Dutch typically speak excellent English doesn’t mean you don’t need to develop a good understanding of local Dutch business culture. The Dutch can’t be all things to all men and when in Amsterdam you should maybe think about adapting to the local way of doing things. Dutch business culture is just as strong, distinct and all pervasive as in any other country and you are well-advised to do some research before you arrive in-country.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Dutch 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