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The verdict on Danish bosses: 'If you get fired, it’s just business'

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
The verdict on Danish bosses: 'If you get fired, it’s just business'
Danish bosses have a direct style but nevertheless can sometimes find it hard to communicate certain instructions, according to our readers. Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Are Danish bosses direct or do they shy from conflict? Are they too relaxed or are they rigid in their approach? We asked our readers in Denmark for their thoughts on hierarchy in Danish companies.

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Danish workplaces are known for their flat hierarchical structure, but that doesn't mean no-one's in charge. We'd asked our readers in Denmark for their thoughts on working for bosses within Danish working culture.

“It can be difficult because they will not communicate in a straightforward manner if something is wrong or if they want me to do something differently. It feels like I have to read my manager's mind sometimes,” said Renee, who is from the United States and has worked for a Danish company in Copenhagen.

Bosses in Denmark “give much less instruction compared to bosses I have had in the past (in Canada). They are more relaxed in terms of deliverables. They care much more about work life balance,” said Zoey, who has worked for three Danish bosses in two different companies in Copenhagen.

'The difference is night and day'

One of the readers who responded to us had primarily negative things to say about Danish bosses.

“All in all, I have worked under eight Danish supervisors before (and) one non-Danish one and the difference is night and day. Danes are bad bosses for expats in global businesses based on my sample,” said Aleks, who is from Central Eastern Europe and now works in Copenhagen.

“I think the big divide is between Danish supervisors who have worked and lived abroad for a prolonged period of time and those who have not,” he said.

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“If they have not, then they are living in a bubble of Nordic exceptionalism and think everything their Danish subordinates come up with is pure gold and that all contributions are equal,” Aleks said.

READ ALSO: 'They will treat you like their own child': What it's really like having Danish in-laws

Others were positive about flat hierarchy and how it is implemented by Danish bosses.

“Danish bosses leave much more to their subordinate workers to decide. They assume competency and often assume you know how to handle problems. They are not micromanagers nor interested in over-directing their team members,” said R.B. from the United States, who has worked for one Danish company.

“It is a different model than most other countries that rely on their bosses both for direction and also for permission and approval,” R.B. observed.

“Often it feels like Danish bosses are missing in action until you see actions taking place which seem out of the blue. The lack of transparency into the process is due to their trust and assumption of competency but they are not usually inclined to handholding,” he said.

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Others also had plenty of praise for the direct Danish style.

“Respect and humility are the two key words” to describe Danish bosses, said Francisco from Spain who has worked for two.

“That helps a lot with both the listening and opening parts; it's very easy to debate both new and old ideas when there is so little heat involved,” he said.

“The main negative is that I found Danish managers to be way more impulsive than expected,” he added.

READ ALSO: These are the biggest culture shocks for foreigners coming to Denmark

“Direct communication, honestly, saves so much time and other resources which you would usually put into one conversation or the relationship as a whole,” said a reader who has worked for several companies in Jutland, and asked for his comments to be anonymous.

“At first it seemed ‘bold and direct’ in a bad way, though after some time I have realised that it is an incredibly effective communication system,” he said.

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“The given system has its negatives, though,” he added.

“[It] seems like the Danish/Scandinavian culture with its ‘inner and outer people circle’ mentality applies to work as well. A CEO or a manager in Denmark would let you off work early if you need to pick up your kid, go to a doctor or anything else that comes up, but it is a good, well-meant decision that would not go further than that,” he explained.

“By that I mean that the politeness part ends on that particular moment, without developing into anything further. If you do them a favour and then the next week you are fired - it is what it is, it's just business,” he said.

One of our readers who works in Denmark said it is difficult to make any kind of generalisation about Danish bosses.

“There is no such thing as a Danish boss. Every human being is an individual, and they might simply happen to share a common nationality—in this case, the Danish one,” said a European reader who lives in Copenhagen.

“I have been working with two bosses who were Danish: one was great, whereas the other one, my current one, is horrible: controlling, narcissistic, manipulative, condescending, and even abusive—among some other horrible things!”, he said.

The reader provided his first name but we have decided to keep him anonymous to prevent his comments finding their way back to his boss.

Share your own views on Danish bosses in the comments section below.

 

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