It’s human nature to anticipate behaviour based on experience. Stereotypes emerge when several independent experiences correspond. Buying into these stereotypes can raise the risk of self-fulfilling prophecies – thoughts become things! – whereas ignoring them can repeatedly hinder progress.
I recently met with Claudia Urani – a Swiss business and leadership coach, working as a corporate relations and careers manager on the St. Gallen MBA – to discuss how an outsider can navigate Swiss corporate culture by taking heed of certain stereotypes while remaining true to self.
“Newcomers to Switzerland often experience the Swiss as reserved or overly cautious,” Claudia told me. “Typical questions include, “How direct can I be?”, and “What is considered harsh for Swiss people?” she said, with a smile. “It’s tricky because business culture varies between companies and location. But similar tendencies can be observed, especially among the 99% of SMEs that make up the Swiss market.
“For instance, Swiss company culture is generally very formal and might be perceived as conservative. The Swiss value precision and punctuality; we’re detail and quality oriented – there’s a reason we’re global leaders in insurance, finance, and watchmaking!”
Claudia then offered a glimpse of how she advises people to maneuver in what seems to be a potential minefield of faux pas. “Conflicts tend to occur because of a misunderstanding. Given the historical tendency we Swiss have towards mediation it’s especially important to veer towards diplomacy and tactful communication,” she explained.
“Bring your authentic, credible self to work and be sensitive and empathetic in your communication. In this way you can start to build trust, using the principles of non-violent communication that are independent of any culture,” she added.
Claudia left me to pore over an Isaac Newton quote that embodies her advice: “Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.”
Claudia Urani is our Corporate Relations and Career Manager, dedicated to working with our Part-time MBA participants.