INTERCULTURAL MANAGEMENT | Working with the French…

Working with the French has some good sides and some bad sides, with many differences.

  • The French do not organize meetings to reach a decision: they meet to exchange information, then the person in charge takes the decision… If you need to have a serious and/or difficult discussion with someone, you'll invite him/her for lunch and business lunches are an important part of corporate communication; of course, be ready to drink wine…
  • Regarding meetings: French global companies are not very different from their American counterparts but some " traditions " may resist (particularly outside Paris). Among them:
    • Beginning a meeting 15 minutes later than scheduled so as to wait for those who are late and who expected it to be (it is called the "quart d'heure marseillais" or "parisien" or "wherever"): most participants are surprised when the meeting starts just on time.
    • Interrupting the speaker or speaking about a topic which is not on the agenda (when there is an agenda)
    • Forgetting to summarize the conclusion and/or to circulate a memo about the conclusion after the meeting…
    • French meetings are often more creative: take advantage of it!
  • The French are more flexible and creative and they do not feel bound to a previous decision …
  • The French do not like clear procedures: they want to maintain some form of " grey zone " and do not believe that it is right to use always the same and only way to do the same things ; organizational charts and objectives are not clear…
  • The French do not believe a win-win situation can exist ("if you win, it means I lose") and negotiations are always difficult when people do not try to reach a consensus…

 

  • Only written commitments are serious: nothing oral is really binding and lying is no big deal …
  • Within the company, the French are less constrained by social codes such as "you must play golf with your boss",… they do not like to mix corporate life and personal life ; being invited at one's boss' home is the worst possible thing that may happen !
  • The French are much more sentimentally attached and faithful to their company: they like to put corporate relations on a personal basis…
  • Top-down management: for the French, the Boss is the Boss and management is very autoritarian; to understand this, learn about the Grandes Ecoles" and the importance of diplomas…
  • The French are highly polychronic : they love to do several things at the same time and they are good at that…
  • Within the company, the French keep the doors closed (open floor offices are not popular), and information is often distributed selectively… (this is changing now)
  • They often consider reporting a sign of weakness and a risk
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