I’m an executive in Finland, the happiest country in the world: 5 phrases we use at work every day

Jennifer Liu
Whether you dabble in office jargon every day, or you’ve never ‘put a pin’ in a topic to ‘circle back to’; this is corporate-speak of a different kind.
Whether you dabble in office jargon every day, or you’ve never ‘put a pin’ in a topic to ‘circle back to’; this is corporate-speak of a different kind. Credit: rawpixel/Pixabay (user rawpixel)

Framery has roughly 400 employees around the world, but its roots in Finland run deep throughout its work culture that promotes worker engagement and satisfaction.

Finland, after all, is the happiest country in the world for the seventh year running, according to the latest World Happiness Report.

So it’s not surprising that open communication, teamwork and, perhaps most of all, employee well-being, are all high priorities at Framery, a manufacturing company headquartered in Tampere, Finland, that builds soundproof booths for office spaces.

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As head of people and culture at the company, Anni Hallila works to make sure that employees feel happy and fulfilled while on the job.

She says she and her team use a few common Finnish phrases to create an environment where employees can thrive in the workplace:

team, colleagues, coworkers
It’s corporate-speak of a different kind, and it’s used by the happiest people in the word. Credit: fahribaabdullah14/Pixabay (user fahribaabdullah14)

1. The person who asks questions will not stray away from the path.

Finnish workplaces tend to have a flat hierarchy, where individual contributors feel as empowered in voicing their thoughts on the business as CEOs and other senior leaders.

This phrase highlights this mindset and shows how a trusting environment, where people feel free to share their opinions, is a benefit to the organization overall.

It takes people at all ranks of an organization to raise issues and find solutions, Hallila explains: “If there is an open line of communication where anyone can ask questions, be it the CEO or anyone in the company, then there will be a path forward.”

Workers at Framery are encouraged to speak up on issues they’re working on as well as company objectives as a whole.

“I can ask any questions I need to ask in order to succeed in my role, or ask questions for the best of the company,” Hallila says.

“So even if it’s not my job, and I see something that should be addressed, I have the responsibility to ask the questions for us to not stray away from the path as a company.”

2. A crazy person does a lot of work; a smart person gets away with less.

woman, work, office
Work smarter, not harder. That’s a motto that crosses all language barriers. Credit: This_is_Engineering/Pixabay (user This_is_Engineering)

In other words: Work smarter, not harder.

Leaders are encouraged to help their employees work with this mindset, Hallila says. Bosses should be clear in their expectations and manage in a way that their employees can stay focused on the business priorities that matter most.

“You can work and work and work,” she says, “but whether you actually achieve more is questionable.”

A lot of the time, the end goal supports both meeting a business need and doing so in a manageable way.

“It’s not about being lazy,” Hallila says. “It’s about being smart about what you focus on, and getting away with less in a way so that you can have a healthy work-life balance.”

3. Put the cat on the table.

cat, siamese cat, fur
Maybe not literally, but you should put your cards on the table. Credit: webandi/Pixabay (user webandi)

Hallila says this phrase is used in a similar way as addressing the elephant in the room — as in, address the business issue at hand rather than letting it slide.

“It’s about believing in a working culture where the cat is the issue that needs to be put on the table, and for people to be able to have a a trusting and open discussion about whatever is the issue,” she says.

More simply, “we believe that things are solved when they are discussed,” she adds.

4. Whatever you leave behind, you will find in front of you.

On the flip side, this phrase suggests that leaving an issue unattended will only become a problem later on.

“If you leave problems behind you, you will find them in front of you” at another point, Hallila says.

“So the only way to handle it is to actually address them when they are brought up.”

5. Going toward the tree with your back first.

man, write, plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Credit: StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay (user StartupStockPhotos)

This phrase visualises what happens when you don’t plan ahead or think about the consequences of certain business decisions, Hallila says.

“If you don’t plan what you’re doing, you will go back first toward the tree and get hurt versus actually planning ahead and being smart in what you want to achieve,” she says.

In Finnish workplaces, these conversations often involve people at all levels of the organization, she adds. A business’s strategic planning makes sure “people feel they are heard, they have a say in our strategy, or at least that they understand what it is all about.”

“We appreciate being smart about planning [in a way] that’s respectful of other people’s time as well,” she adds.

This article first appeared at CNBC.


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