Every company has standard policies that you will find in the contract or in the employee manual. These all regulate what you can and cannot do while in the office.
The unwritten rules
But by now you have for sure heard a thing or two about Danish culture and especially workplace culture. You might have learned a thing or two in your student group or at lectures on your campus. But how on earth are you supposed to meet expectation and manage a student job if there is no section on those unwritten rules in the manual?
The saying goes: There is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid answers. Always ask to avoid conflict or misunderstandings. These “unwritten rules” are important, so get to know them and inquire whenever there is something that you do not understand.
It is always a good idea to find someone who knows the culture and the unwritten rules from the inside and ask them about what is expected of you in different situations, be they social or professional, as well as how your behaviour in various contexts is interpreted.
One key element of Danish workplaces is that they typically have a very flat hierarchy. This means that everyone regardless of status within the hierarchy is perceived as equal. They may not actually be, but that is the general perception.
So what does that mean? In practice it means that communication across hierarchical levels is quite normal. If you are employed as a student assistant, you may adress both managers and co-workers for advice or in order to present relevant ideas and initiatives. It is the employers’ or manager’s right to manage and distribute the work assignments, but in a Danish setting that does not mean that staff should merely obey orders. Challenging decisions if they seem irrational shows that you think independently. It might seem strange, but a Danish manager will typically value such a move rather than interpret it as discrediting manager status.
What is expected of your input?
Usually, a Danish manager will delegate a task without many details. It is up to the employees to demonstrate the initiative and independent thought that is sufficient to complete the task. It is important to note that the same level of independence is not required of a student position, so you will be given guidance and more leniency than a fulltime employee.
Generally speaking the manager will not check whether everything is going as planned. He or she will expect the employee to approach them with any doubts, questions or needs for coaching to solve the problem.
Danes and deadlines
You will find that Danes are a very punctual people, and like to set and meet deadlines. But more so, Danes like to negotiate deadlines if and when they learn that deadlines are too tight and can not be met. A Danish manager expects staff members to seize the initiative and take on assignments that they find essential in order to move on rather than waiting for the manager to order the job done.
It is expected that you meet your deadline – this shows consideration for the time of your manager, co-workers and other student workers. If you are unable to meet a deadline you are expected to bring it up with management. This might sound very stringent, but as long as you communicate openly about the progress of your work and the conditions you are under, you will not have issues with meeting your assignments.
Danish workplaces often host a number of social events and depending on the type of workplace, you are required and welcome to these events as a student employee.
It could be communal breakfasts on Fridays, monthly cake days, outings, clubs, Christmas lunches, etc.
It is a good idea to participate in these events to get to know your co-workers and create a network in the workplace. Expect that everyone talks to everyone regardless of hierarchical status. The tone is more informal, but you can still talk about work.
These events are a great opportunity for you to get to know Danish workplace culture. This is also where you may make new friends and build the trust in co-workers and managers that is common in Danish workplaces.