What do the Swedes think of IKEA

That's why employees in Scandinavia are happier

Evia PhotosThe average Swedish Ikea employee is really happy, says bestselling author Maike van den Boom. And that is not due to the convenience of the brand new, modern headquarters "Hubhult" in Malmö.

It's also not because of the apple trees that were specially planted in front of the building so that the employees can pick fresh apples themselves. It is due to the typical Scandinavian approach to life.

The happiest nations in the world

According to the “World Happiness Report”, the Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and Finns are among the happiest nations in the world. Germany ranks 16th.

Born in Heidelberg, Maike van den Boom traveled to Scandinavia for two years to find out why our “neighbors” are so much happier than us - especially when it comes to work. To do this, she conducted countless interviews - from warehouse workers to managing directors.

She has summarized the results of her search in her new book "Eight Hours More Luck". She shared some of her findings with us in an interview.

The peculiarities of the Scandinavian approach to life become clear in many aspects at the Ikea headquarters in Hubhult, she says. For example there are the “Idea Boxes”. These are wooden meeting boxes in which colleagues can discuss new ideas together.

While in German companies the doors of meeting rooms are usually kept closed so that you can talk in peace, they stay open at Ikea. Everyone should listen in and get involved. Because one thing is particularly important in Sweden: togetherness.

A completely different attitude towards people

“A Scandinavian philosophy says that chance is in the air. It is therefore desirable that people who are not experts also give their opinion, ”says Maike van den Boom. “The Swedes have a completely different attitude towards people than the Germans. They assume that 90 percent of people can be completely trusted. "

Everyone is naturally good and always wants to give their best - the Scandinavians are convinced of that, says van den Boom. That is why it is completely unusual for employees to be checked by their superiors: “Managers don't set the tone. It is your job to clear the way for the employees. "

Identification with the company has a different status

“Scandinavian companies have values ​​and visions that employees really identify with. It even goes so far that they quit when their values ​​are no longer congruent with those of the company, ”says the happiness researcher. “And that's why a Scandinavian manager can just let go of his people. Because they know what they are striving for together. "

Are there any mistakes? Naturally. But that doesn't matter. Even the Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad said: "Only those who sleep do not make mistakes."

"Only those who sleep don't make mistakes."

This expresses the typical Scandinavian attitude to mishaps very well.

Error? Excellent!

"Mistakes are not punished, are not even considered embarrassing, but are encouraged," says van den Boom. “The aim is to make people more courageous. The little ones learn that at school. According to the motto: if you fail, you have at least tried. ”This means that the Scandinavians are a step ahead of the people who have many concerns with them from the start.

But how do you react specifically if an employee of a Scandinavian company makes a mistake? “In Germany you look for someone to blame when something goes wrong. The Scandinavians don't do that, ”says van den Boom.

On the contrary. Swedish managers usually look to themselves to blame: “If you could make the mistake, then we probably didn't explain it correctly,” they say. “At the Swedish vehicle manufacturer Scania, for example, they say that the fault never lies with people, it always lies in the process,” says the author.

The question of the meaning

“Scandinavians ask about the meaning of everything they do and compare it with their values.” And it's no wonder they are so confident. “Even at school, children learn to question everything and not simply accept authorities,” says van den Boom. The relationship between colleagues is also very different there.

Scandinavians love to work in a team and every team member is equally important. There is no competition or ulterior motive. Are you surprised? Maike van den Boom explains it with the fact that the gap between the individual positions is not as great as in Germany.

“There are no huge differences in terms of salary, nor are people in higher positions more respected. So everyone does what they enjoy, ”she says. “The idea of ​​envy is not at all pronounced in Scandinavia. Because they learn from childhood that they should be as unique as possible. "

Your attitude is: “Why should I envy someone something? It's nice when he's better at something! That ensures that we all get better together. "

“That is what makes the Scandinavians so effective. You just save the energy. They only talk to who they really want to talk to without tacting. And they never think about what opinion someone else might have of them, because everyone is open and honest anyway. "

Difficulties in dealing with Germans

That can be a problem when dealing with other cultures. “A Swede with German roots told me that Swedes sometimes have misunderstandings with German business partners. The Swedes call a fair price. The German thinks a cool product, a good price, a trustworthy partner. But the Germans always say first of all that it is too expensive. This is negotiation tactic. A Swede with his honest manner doesn't understand that at all. He thinks the product has been rejected because of the high price and withdraws. The German then wonders why the Swede no longer answers. "

“I couldn't mention in my interview requests that my first book was a bestseller,” she says. “The Swedes attach great importance to humility. I've been racking my brains over the right wording. In the end it turned out to be unnecessary. Whether it's a bestseller or not. If you are won over by the idea, you don't need ‘I'm so great’. It's about the substance and not the plaster. "

Collective helper syndrome?

The Scandinavians generally like to say “yes”. Maike van den Boom thinks that the Germans would interpret this openness as a helper syndrome. But for the Scandinavians it does not cause any problem. "Since society as a whole behaves like this, nobody loses, everyone wins," she says.

According to the author, life and family come before work in Scandinavia: “Wherever possible, work follows people and not the other way around. Jet off at two o'clock for the children's ski race - no problem. Because if you don't live, you can't work either, so they think. And nobody looks wrong. Everyone trusts the other that he is already doing his job somewhere. "

Also read: Study: That's why you can lose weight sustainably with the “Ikea Diet”

Maike van den Boom says that if you don't believe it, you should send an email to a Scandinavian company after work. "The answer comes in the evening at 10 a.m. or on Saturday at 2 p.m., sent from the football field or from the ship," she says.

According to van den Boom, the attitude towards starting a family is completely different in Scandinavia: “Parental leave is almost seen as a further training measure because people come back to work with a completely different view of the world. Men and women, by the way. And the thought is also: Come-on! What are a few months in relation to a whole working life? "