An outstanding culture and communication in the workplace is the pilar of modern business cultural communication. Make most of it today.
Even if you were born and bred in Ireland, it can still be a challenge to navigate your way through the cultural norms that surround every business deal and workplace interaction in Ireland.
Although a small country, Ireland is regularly rated as being one of the most open economies in the world, ranking at the time of writing, as number 5 on the world Index of Economic Freedom. While this makes Ireland a potentially easier place to do business in than larger and more independent economies, there can still be challenges and misunderstandings that can put an otherwise excellent business prospect in jeopardy.
What Is Business Cultural Communication?
Every culture has its distinct way of doing business, with some being very direct and others needing to take their time and observe certain rituals or customs before coming to the point. If you are looking to make a connection with a potential prospect, you need to approach them speaking (that’s why we’re calling this a business cultural communication) a language they understand. What is considered polite in Germany, Western Europe’s largest economy, may be misinterpreted as rude, gauche, or even confrontational in an Irish setting.
A simple example of this is the custom of rapping a table with your knuckles to show appreciation of a talk or presentation given in Germany. Regardless of how open an economy Ireland is with a multitude of nationalities working side by side in both large and small companies, this custom will be seen as odd at best, outlandish, or even aggressive at worst, in an Irish setting.
What Makes Business Cultural Communication in Ireland Distinct?
With a long tradition of migration or ‘taking a year out’ to travel abroad, the vast majority of Irish professionals are familiar, to some extent with the differences in cultural norms, but this doesn’t mean that mistakes can’t happen.
In typical Anglophone fashion, communication in Ireland tends to be relatively loose with formalities. Nevertheless, despite the bias towards familiarity, there are levels of informality that need to be reserved only for family and friends.
Although a business relationship in Ireland (if you don’t have a registered business – Registering A Business in Ireland can help you out) can quickly lead to more relaxed exchanges, it is important to keep in mind your goal of making your potential client feel at ease, rather than becoming overly friendly or thinking that you need to entertain them.
A simple handshake followed by a semi-formal greeting is the right start. A harmless joke or comment about the weather is always in order, but keep it on this level. Avoid political, religious, current affairs and keep any other potentially controversial topics firmly off the table. Don’t allow yourself to be led into these under the misapprehension that finding a perceived common political viewpoint will lead to a better relationship, especially if you are faking it and don’t share the opinion at all.
Business communication in Ireland can very often seem like a social gathering after just a few minutes, but of course, they aren’t! You are there for a reason, so no matter how relaxed the atmosphere, always be ready to make your contribution at any given moment.
Humour And Politeness In An Irish Business Setting
A little humour is always appreciated in Ireland, but if you are not 100% sure of yourself in this setting, then leave it aside.
In contrast to some central and Northern European cultures, things may appear to be all well on the surface, as Irish people will always seek to avoid confrontation, but the damage may well have been done. If your Irish business colleague or prospect shifts from being laid back and informal to being overly polite, there may well be a problem.
How To Take Advantage Of A Unique Business Culture
The relaxed atmosphere of many Irish business settings has the advantage of allowing people to speak their minds more freely and to feel more confident in bringing new ideas to the table or asking questions that may otherwise have remained unasked.
If you can allow yourself to loosen up and relax, and enjoy the atmosphere while always keeping in mind that you are still in a business setting, it can not only be an enjoyable way to do business, but also a very effective one. Strictly linear thinking has its place when outlining a business or engineering process that has already been agreed upon, but there is an art to business, sales, and the workplace that requires a more lateral ‘thinking-outside-the-box’ approach that can be very amenable to the Irish approach to business.
Culture And Family
It is always appropriate to inquire about family, and Irish people will consider discussing the well-being of children and parents as a way of humanizing relationships that are otherwise focused on business and bottom-line concerns.
This is not to say that you should carry out an inquisition on a new prospect, but if the subject finds its way into your conversation, don’t dismiss it. Instead, treat it as an invitation to take some of the formality out of your interactions.
Likewise, family time is considered to be very important in Ireland, so while it may be routine in some cultures to maintain cultural business communications round the clock, 7 days a week, in Ireland there is still a certain level of 9-5 and Monday to Friday mentality. While this may seem initially seem an inconvenience, particularly if you are more used to a ‘high-availability’ working culture, you might be surprised to find yourself not only adapting to but even appreciating this aspect of Irish business culture.
Efficiency Through Informality
Although the informal nature of some professional interactions may give the impression that Irish people don’t mind extending a meeting beyond its logical conclusion, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the necessity to exchange greetings, ask about family and inquire about the weekend, typically an Irish person in business is keen to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once the niceties have been completed you should be ready to get down to business as quickly as possible, come to the point on the main issues at hand, make any necessary decisions and then conclude the meeting.
Whether you gained your business experience in another culture or whether you began your business journey here in Ireland but then moved abroad and have become more accustomed to another style of doing business, remember that integrating into Irish business culture doesn’t need to become a riddle to be solved. Keeping a few pointers in mind will take you a long way.
While perhaps slightly less formal than a North American business atmosphere, Irish business communication is certainly more relaxed than the typical Central European style of doing business and a world away from the complexities of doing business in some very distinct settings in the Far and Middle East.
If you remember to ask about your business colleague’s family, their weekend and master the art of commenting on the Irish weather, you will be more than halfway there. If you can effectively do business within a 9 to 5 framework and deliver consistently without intruding into family time, the world of Irish business will become an open book for you to explore. If you are interested in more, similar articles, feel free to browse our Entrepreneurship blog category.