Blog

2/25/2012 4:54 AM | Minna Salminen-Karlsson

Are Swedes particularly poor in trust?

We are planning the fieldwork in one of the companies taking part in the study. In addition to our research questions and the question of our contact person of how to increase the sense of togetherness between the Swedish and Indian parts of the company who work with the same project, we have collected questions from further down in the hierarchy. We are already hit by the issues of trust.

Some questions among the Indians we have talked to concerned the perceived need of safety of the Swedes – their tendency to micro-manage, their hesitancy to offshore more qualified work, the time it takes to build trust.  We were told that Swedes show more of this need for safety than other European people the Indian employees work with, and that being micro-managed even may make employees to want to switch to other projects.

And on the Swedish side we got the related questions, the feeling of insecurity when leading a team which is not physically there. How do we know that the time reporting is accurate? One person told us that his Indian employees seem to under-report the time they work in a project, while another told that in her team the Indian employees seem to need a lot of time for every task. How come the Indian part of the team does not seem to understand the longer term consequences of what they do – or neglect doing? And how is it possible to communicate so that we get what we want, that our messages are not interpreted as meaning something else and something less than what we require?

Issues of trust are what should be expected when doing research on IT offshoring. But it is possible that trust is accentuated even more in the Swedish-Indian relationships. Trust is such an inherent part of the Swedish organizational culture. Swedes are not good in documentation and contracts, but much is based on trust which in turn is based on implicit understandings, both between managers and employees and between providers and clients. So what do you do when you suddenly have a team of employees who obviously don’t have those implicit understandings which are needed to work for the common good? Can there a standard method that can be taught to Swedes: “How to go from implicit managing to explicit managing without falling in the pitfall of micro-managing?”

I doubt that Offswing will be able to answer that question – or that there is a standard answer. But I also think that some of the people we have talked to this far, especially those Indians who have a long experience of working with Swedes can provide us with clues.