Danish Work Culture as seen from Kazakhstan

Good communication with a stranger e. i. a foreigner presupposes that one can put one´s own immediate understanding aside and see that other people may engage in a social exchange with quite different, unspoken expectations.

A talk given by consultant and university-trained teacher Alma Bekturganova Andersen at KVINFO highlighted a set of differences in work cultures stemming from whether you speak from a top-down, autocratic background or a democratic background. Alma Bekturganova Andersen, born in Kazakhstan as a Russian-speaking Kazakh is married to a Dane and has lived and worked in Denmark for several years, spoke captivatingly in Danish about the unspoken rules in the Danish workplaces she and her other Russian-speaking friends tend to stumble over.

Alma Bekturganova Andersen gave an overview of differences between autocratic and democratic cultural codes at work:
In an autocratic culture the communication goes top down, and the correspondingly, attention from bottom up; the hierarchy points to management making the decisions, and to workers to obey orders without discussion.
Danish self-understanding as having a work culture that underscores equal and open social exchanges loses foreigners. Similarly, Danes have a hard time understanding of some of  “the new entrants´” reactions and attitudes e.g. strict obedience of leaders and management.

Alma Bekturganova Andersen differences between autocratic and democratic culture in the work place:

Top Down Culture                                                                     Democratic Culture

The boss threatens employees                                                     Boss perceives others as equals
Focus on right or wrong                                                                 Everybody is right in some sense
Direct criticism is given in front of others                                     “Recommendations” are given in private
Do not say no to the boss                                                               You can negotiate with the boss

Competitions are everyday                                                            Cooperation is the norm
Over performs                                                                                  Community in teams is supported

Pending on direct orders                                                               Things are agreed upon in meetings

Provides constant unsolicited advice                                           Asks questions
Result is important                                                                         Process is important

Meeting is meeting                                                                           Meetings: enjoy your self with coffee
Say yes without having understood the topic                              Says openly when you do not understand
Too shy to ask for advice                                                                 Questions are welcome

Trade Union is employer´s tool                                                     Unions are useful for employees

“Everyone else is responsible for my life.”                                  “I am personally responsible for my life.”

So if you wonder why your Danish team member directly go on to discuss any decision presented by team leader,
or if you, as a Dane, wonder why your critical questioning seems to fall on arid ground, you might consider that
what it is considered normal for you can be a mystery to your fellow team member.
And you can open up mysteries by inviting interested and kind curiosity on board.