In many other business cultures the meeting room is often more like a battlefield.
It’s where ideas are pushed forward, allies are formed, and confrontation is inevitable.
The Norwegian meeting room is a peaceful place, a calm room where grandstanding and chest-pounding is greatly discouraged.
Even aggressive hand motions are not recommended here!
This was tough for an American. I, am after, all more used to unfurling my feathers, much like a peacock, across the conference room table to make my point.
However, in Norway, you don’t see much peacocking in the meeting room. The scene is more similar to a flock of extremely polite songbirds chirping in agreement. You can perhaps thank Janteloven (the Law of Jante) for this.
Conversations are structured and well balanced between the participants, with no single participant getting a larger share of the agenda. This happens regardless of seniority in the organization.
In the flat hierarchy of the Norwegian organization, everyone has equal say. A good Norwegian boss will try to guide the conversion and let the participants work it out among themselves so it is common for them to survey the room to ask if anyone has additional thoughts on a subject. Given Norwegians’ shy nature, they almost never do – or at least they feel their potentially disruptive thoughts are not worth sharing.
Meetings in Norway start exactly on time as Norwegians value punctuality. To keep a meeting attendee waiting is considered a great disrespect. Those who deliver work on time and show up for meetings on time earn extra prestige in the workplace. At the same time, arriving early to a meeting is also discouraged as this can create additional stress for the meeting host entertaining you until the meeting starts or other participants are ready.
In Norway meetings also end exactly on time and typically not a second later. This hard stop gives Norwegians a much needed exit from the room, which of course helps them avoid one of their greatest fears: having to make small talk. When the meeting ends everyone quickly shuffles out of the room. You don’t linger, there is no smooth transition from meeting discussions to small talk. You sort of just look at your shoes and slink towards the exit.
In general it’s not appropriate to talk about one’s private life during meetings in Norway. This should be avoided. From personal experience, I can recommend not over-sharing about your complicated love life, that time you drank excessively and did something ridiculous, or your views on religion and politics in general. Any of those are likely to create discomfort with the meeting participants. Meetings are strictly business affairs.
It’s important you understand Norwegian meeting room culture as you do business here. That’s because in Norway you’re going to have a lot of meetings.
Sometimes you have a meeting to plan the next meeting.
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