Management styles in France

Written by Gernot Müller, Mehrdad Akbari, Laura Svalina January 2014. Posted in Leadership, Int. Skills

Management styles in France

Management in the French business world follows specific business etiquette. The executive, also known as “le patron”, is supposed to have a detailed overview of everything that is happening under his authority. Therefore, the executive is expected to show interest and involvement in the tasks of others, but at the same time le patron is expected to keep a distance between him or her and the employees, in order to display his/her position.
When it comes to decision making in France, subordinates generally serve to generate company opinion. Since in France everybody has to agree, the company opinion and strategies usually are made up of a consensus by a company delegation. The outcome of, mostly time-consuming, business meetings, however, do not lead to the final agreement. Final decisions are taken higher up in the hierarchy by le patron without contributions from subordinates.
A strong hierarchy is characteristic of the French working environment, and an autocratic leadership style is applicable. For the most part, the French business world follows strong patterns of hierarchy within organizations. High ranking managers, for example, separate themselves from their subordinates by sticking together with other high ranking managers at the top of the building or in some cases even at the headquarters in a different city than the business outpost.
Motivating employees, in France is more a matter of acknowledgement of etiquette and the mental strength of subordinates. Managers in France should not give too detailed information about tasks to be done and certainly should avoid a detailed step-by-step guide as this questions the individual self-thinking process of subordinates and even insults their intelligence.
Frenchmen generally are collective people; their communication culture is high context. The French make use of flowery language, read between the lines and add value through interpersonal relationships. Nonverbal communication is more important than for members of the low context groups. Thus, a succinct communication style requires at times a certain sensitivity to interpret the actual message (Mooij, 2010). They think more about the topic than they actually say.