Flat company structures & implied hierarchies!
Perhaps difficult to navigate at first, many expats say that the quality of Danish work culture contributes positively to their experience of living in Denmark.
For years, Denmark has consistently scored high in happiness surveys. But why is that? Some mention the level of personal freedom, others hype the concept of hygge. Some put it down to tax-funded health care or tuition-free access to high quality education; others to safety and trust between people. And others again to work-life-balance and flexibility within working conditions.
According to several issues of the World Happiness Report, the level of happiness in Denmark is highly linked to the level of equality and community shared responsibility of social welfare.
Equality and shared responsibility are also hallmarking qualities of the Danish work culture. A work culture which many foreigners find it difficult to adjust to, but once understood come to value as an enhancing factor of their experience of living in Denmark.
This series of blogposts will highlight some of the most distinct features of Danish work culture helping you to better understand the unspoken rules of your work environment.
This post is on the flat company structures and the implied hierarchies. Future posts will be on the informal tone around a workplace, the applied humour, and what Danes like to call freedom with responsibility as well as how being open about your mental health is viewed as being a responsible employee whom a company is keen to help recover.
Flat company structures and implied hierarchies
The flat company structure and its implied hierarchies are top of the list over things in the Danish working culture which foreigners find … well, foreign.
A flat hierarchical structure is a predominant feature of Danish workplaces and this is probably where you will have some of your first experiences of how Danes value equality and openness.
Unlike in most other places; generally, the distance from the bottom to the top of an organisation is short. In most companies, it’s perfectly okay if not even expected for everyone, including student assistants, to chip in with opinions and ideas – even to challenges how how things are run.
Though not paid the same, everyone’s contribution, experience, and opinion to an operation is highly valued as a necessity to a successful company – as such, every employee is treated equal and with the same respect. Many will find that the typical Danish leadership is less commanding and more coaching, even collegially, in its approach.
Furthermore, you might experience hierarchy in Danish companies to be more implicit than explicit; and if you aren’t used to this, it can be challenging to know how to navigate and to trust that your manager and leadership team are in fact leading and taking the appropriate responsibility that they are trained to and paid for.
Tips for navigating a flat company structure and an implicit hierarchy:
Ask a trusted colleague to show you the ropes.
Ask to have mentor allocated.
Ask direct questions about expectations of you in relation to contributing with ideas, experiences, and opinions as well as your role in taking part in the decision-making process.
Be mindful of how you treat colleagues who are lower on the corporate ladder than yourself.
Keep an eye out for future posts on freedom under responsibility as well as informal communication and humour in Danish workplaces.
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