Swiss Management Style

Being pragmatic and unpretentious are widely respected virtues in Switzerland and these are characteristics which are expected from managers.

Thus, Swiss managers will tend to be fairly low-key in their approach to most issues and not display any of the theatricality sometimes associated with bosses in southern European countries. It is important to be reserved, objective and level headed.

Authority and respect are earned by being perceived to have relevant knowledge in relevant areas – whether that is technical knowledge or company/client specific knowledge. Technical knowledge and academic qualifications are both highly respected and it is usual for the manager to be amongst the most technically competent in the department. The generalist management approach is less in evidence than in countries such as the USA or the UK.

At senior level, decisions are made following a collegiate model, where decisions evolve amongst peers over a period of time rather than emanating from one, dynamic, charismatic mover and shaker. This can obviously lead to the decision-making process being somewhat protracted, but without the necessary degree of peer level agreement, it is difficult to implement policies.

This non-confrontational, collective approach at senior management level is reflected in the desire to seek agreement and buy-in further down the line. It is important in Switzerland for the bulk of the people to feel involved in the process.

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

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Switzerland must rank as one of the most politically and economically stable countries in the world. It has for years managed to deliver ongoing prosperity for its highly educated, multi-lingual population and, although the country did feel the impact of the banking crisis, the long-term signs seem very positive.

Switzerland is a land-locked country yet despite that seeming disadvantage it is an extremely successful export economy with sector strengths ranging from advanced manufacturing through to high-end financial services. As well as being export-oriented, Switzerland has also been able to attract massive levels of inward investment through a combination of fiscal incentives and a very high standard of living.

Recent years have seen large numbers of immigrants entering Swiss society and whilst this has led to some internal tensions, it has also allowed Switzerland to benefit from the arrival of highly skilled workers who have helped Swiss industry remain at the forefront of innovation and productivity.

Switzerland is a high-cost, high-skilled economy which must be an attractive proposition for many international organisations who are looking to grow their business by entering new markets. Don’t be put off by the seemingly high costs – Switzerland is worth a closer look.

However, Switzerland is a culturally complex country – as you would expect from a country with four official languages. Before starting to do business in Switzerland you would be well-advised to develop a good understanding of the significant cultural differences you can find within the country. Don’t be fooled by the fact that so many people speak good English – their fluency in English doesn’t mean they don’t think, act and behave in a Swiss way.

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