Doing Business In The Netherlands

Dutch are generally pragmatic. They speak directly and bluntly say what they think and mean what they say. Everyone is at eye level with each other.

Working in the Netherlands

Accordingly, Dutch companies are informally managed. The hierarchies are flat, the boss and the staff are on first-name terms. The boss’s office door is always open for everyone.

Primus Inter Pares

Different ranks are mostly incidental in a collaboration. The Executive is responsible for the successful team building and sees himself as primus inter pares, a member of the team just like anybody else. Status, title and formalities are considered unnecessary. Referring to one’s rank in a Dutch company risk a direct backlash from employees and achieve anything but a demonstration of their decision-making power. What counts here is the daily personal performance as well as a congenial demeanor, but never the assigned position, tenure or age.

High Performance Ethos

Dutch managers are cooperative and often see their main task as motivating and supporting their team. Nevertheless, their leadership style is strongly task-, result- and goal-oriented due to a Protestant work ethic. A high-performance-ethos is deeply rooted in Dutch society. Discipline and efficiency form the basis of economic thinking.

Consensus Among All

From the discussion among all to the consensus among all is critical to success. Facts or problems are rigorously analysed until a solution is found in consensus with all. This also means that you will often find many more employees being involved than you would anticipate, e.g.the secretary, will contribute an equal opinion. 

Instructions, however, without explaining the purpose behind the task, can easily miss the target. Everyone must be kept in the loop and feeling included into the big picture.

The advantage is that everyone is actively thinking and management mistakes are often revealed at a lower level, because Dutch employees do not blindly follow. Be aware though, if Dutch employees are not convinced of a task, it may well be that they simply don’t do it. It is therefore essential for a leader to persuade and win employees over. Then, the commitment, is fantastic. Any initial loss of time is regained.

Business Culture Guide - The Netherlands

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