British Culture

Business Culture

Meetings

  • Make the appointment for your meeting a few days in advance, and indicate what its objectives are beforehand. It’s best to share a written agenda with any other parties involved prior.
  • Lateness reflects badly in a professional setting, so make sure to arrive on time or slightly early. If you’re chairing the meeting, it’s even more crucial to start punctually.
  • Business cards are exchanged during introductions without formality.
  • It can be helpful to preface any discussion of business with a few minutes of social conversation. Only talk about impersonal topics (such as the weather) to avoid intruding in their private lives.
  • The British may use humour throughout dealings to lighten the setting, so reciprocate this to build a good atmosphere for discussion.
  • Always give the impression that everything is well managed and under control. The British like to feel relaxed about business, no matter what the situation may be.
  • Avoid making exaggerated claims as everything will need to be backed up with facts and figures.
  • If you sound overly rehearsed, people may become suspicious of you, as they tend to be sceptical of slick spiel and formality.
  • In an effort to be diplomatic, the British do not disagree very openly. Instead, they may use vague statements (e.g. “That might be tricky”), humour and tentative or non-committal agreements (e.g. “Hmm, that’s an interesting idea”) to indicate that they are not in full agreement with you. 
  • Vagueness is also a way of stalling for time, so take another route if you notice this.
  • The British generally do not like to rush and are unlikely to commit to anything immediately, so don’t expect final decisions to be made during first meetings. To promote timely decisions, ask suggestive questions such as “Do you think we could make a final decision at our next meeting?”. This will indicate that there is a specific time frame for them to work within.
  • Although meetings are often inconclusive, everyone who attended is expected to leave with a specific task.
  • Finalise all agreed-upon commitments in writing.


Hierarchies

Managers may appear to be part of the team as they only keep a marginal power distance, but business hierarchies are still definitive. The status of managers may be hard to detect as they try to have consensus before directing others. Furthermore, directions are hinted at and instructions are polite requests such as, “Perhaps we should try…”, or “Do you think you could…”. This avoids regimentation and formality in the workplace. Nevertheless, managers’ suggestions are to be followed as though they were given as firm orders.


Considerations

  • The British enjoy working with those who they have some kind of familiarity with. Thus, try using a familiar third party introduction to initiate business relationships.
  • The pub is often an intermediate place between work and socialisation where colleagues can rest their professional pretences and bond in a non-hierarchical setting.
  • You may be invited to meetings at pub lunches or over dinner. In these settings, the host who offered the invitation pays the bill.
  • Much importance is put on fair play in the British business culture. Thus, while it is okay to be competitive, impeding on others and playing dirty will be remembered and denounced.
  • Nepotism in the workplace is often frowned upon.
  • If you are a higher-ranking executive, do not boast of your importance.
  • British executives are likely to have their annual budget in mind when engaging in a large deal.
  • On the Corruption Perception Index (2019), the United Kingdom ranks 12th out of 198 countries, receiving a score of 77 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is relatively clean from corruption.
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