I have a British colleague who joined STP in May 2018. After six months at the company, this experienced HR professional is still in a state of shock. She struggles to believe our company culture could genuinely be as nice as it seems – she still secretly wonders when the honeymoon might be over and the skeletons will start emerging from the cupboards.
There are two main contributors to my colleague’s incredulity. The first one is the Nordic Janteloven mentality. The second is the nature of the translation industry.
Janteloven (the Law of Jante) is an idea of equality where individuals don’t think themselves as being any better than the rest of the community. You don’t consider yourself any lesser either, but you try to see other people’s value as equal to your own. In the Nordic workplace, this mentality creates a culture where trust and respect do not have to be earned. I place substantial trust in each of my colleagues as a default. They can lose my trust, but they don’t initially have to jump through hoops to earn it.
This is different from the UK company culture, which is characterised by a distinct hierarchy. The polite and indirect communication style of British managers can disguise the fact that they are the sole decision makers at their company. In a study published by Bupa earlier this year, a quarter of the UK employees interviewed said they had left a job because of a lack of trust in their workplace.
My British management peers might still have their junior employees make them a cup of tea, whereas I am sometimes found at the sink of our office kitchen cleaning dirty cups so that the others don’t have to. For a Nordic professional, the CEO rolling up their sleeves is an indication of the high level of mutual respect between colleagues, regardless of their role in the organisation. Courtesy across the levels of hierarchy makes the office atmosphere more relaxed and minimises power games and the need for office politics.
The translation community is characterised by a similar disregard for hierarchy in its interactions and collaboration. Size does not always matter in our industry since specialisation lends importance to the smaller players. The client/subcontractor roles may alternate and be reversed in the complex supply chains. The need for innovation drives language companies into R&D partnerships and technical alliances. Business is still based on personal contacts and recommendations through networks.
I was contemplating these characteristics when planning STP’s campaign to support Translators without Borders in their holiday fundraising appeal this month.
STP has been a corporate sponsor of this charity for the past seven years. The focus of their work is to provide people with access to vital knowledge in their language. This involves translating for non-profit organisations in the areas of crisis relief, health and education, and training new translators in under-resourced languages.
STP is registered with Translators without Borders (TWB) as a reviewer and translation provider for the Nordic languages, but our languages are not the ones they need most. We only get to donate a few hours of linguistic and project management work every other month. Yet we cherish opportunities to raise awareness of why language matters in humanitarian work.
To this end, the members of the STP team have cycled through Hampshire as a part of TextPartners’ European tour (Operations Manager Susan Hoare), completed the Great South Run (Project Manager Emma Tamlyn) and had their hair dyed (Executive Chairman Jesper Sandberg). I myself walked around with “Language matters” tattooed on my back for two months last year.
To support this year’s holiday fundraising, we have set up a JustGiving campaign with a promise from the senior members of our management team to perform embarrassing dares for publication online as we hit certain milestones.
Rosie Marteau, TWB Senior Development Officer commented: “TWB is privileged to have the support of its colleagues in the commercial language industry, including STP who have been steadfast allies of our work for many years”.
“In many ways we are two sides of the same coin; just as LSPs deliver translation services for corporate clients and brands, we support global charities and small local NGOs alike to ensure their life-saving information is in a format and language that people can understand, at times of humanitarian crisis. We understand each others’ work, and that makes us a natural fit for CSR partnerships such as STP’s sponsorship”.
The work of Translators without Borders is of course serious, and it deserves to be supported even without silly dares like ours. But in the spirit of Janteloven, we wanted to muck in, add a little extra incentive and a touch of Christmas cheer to our campaign. We hope you enjoy!
To read more about the work of Translators without Borders, visit www.translatorswithoutborders.org