Swedish Management Style

An egalitarian approach, which seeks consensus results, produces a very specific management approach.

The paternalism, which can be found further south in Europe, sits uneasily with the average Swede and direct instructions can be seen as embarrassing for all concerned. Therefore managers are seen more as facilitators or coaches who offer advice and suggestions. Bosses are not, necessarily, expected to know all the answers and it is assumed that the person performing a particular task is the most knowledgeable about that particular task.

One result of this approach is that decisions can be hard to reach and the process tends to be drawn out. It is important that the manager includes everybody in the process and that everybody’s point of view is listened to and ostensibly valued. Many expatriates from countries where quick decision making is highly valued can find this process extremely frustrating. It is dangerous to try to circumvent this process, however, as unilateral decisions are unlikely to be respected or adhered to.

As managers tend towards a consensual approach and openness of discussion, information tends to flow well between departments and functions. There also tends to be less social distance between managers and subordinates. Management denotes a level of work-related responsibility rather than a hierarchical status.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

Free Download


Sweden is an open, diversified and competitive economy which has always looked to international trade as an outlet for its products and services. Over the past few decades Sweden has increasingly focused on the development of high-tech products and services and on the green economy which has helped put a relatively small country right at the vanguard of global development.
In addition, Swedish demographics have been helped by the influx of large number of immigrants from around the world who have added both numbers and skills to the highly educated native Swedish population. All of this adds up to a country which represents a host of opportunities to companies and individuals who have the right products or services – ones which will appeal to a very discerning mark place.

Doing business in Sweden is relatively simple and unencumbered with much of the bureaucracy and red tape often found in other countries. However, Sweden is a high-cost economy and you can lose a lot of money quickly if you don’t get your strategy and planning right from the outset. Part of your planning should be to do some homework on Swedish business culture – like all other countries Sweden has its own unique approach to doing things in a business context and you really need to understand these nuances if you hope to make the right impression.

Sweden is one of the most egalitarian business cultures in the world and people from a more hierarchical culture can often find it difficult to understand how this impacts on business operations. For example, going straight to the top might not be the right approach in a country where power and information are shared openly throughout an organisation and showing less respect to one person than another based on job title will definitely be frowned upon.

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