Working in Norway: The Colleague Conversation

Yet another reason to be happy that you’re working in Norway?

Consider the Norwegian term medarbeidersamtale.

It’s one of those long words where Norwegians stick two nouns together to form a new one. Which they do a lot in this country, much to the confusion of foreigners trying to learn the language.

Anyway, roughly translated, it means ‘colleague conversation.’

Which sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it?

Just a chat?

Two colleagues sit down together – since it’s Norway, probably over a cup of strong coffee – and chat about this and that. How the national soccer team’s doing, where their cabin is, what the weather’s been like today, what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow.

So, colleagues just conversing? Well, in reality not quite this low-key, as this talk does take place between a staff member and their supervisor. By the time it’s done, both are supposed to know where the other’s at job-wise, or, simply put, are they happy on the job?

The staff member has probably filled out a form in advance, answering the basic questions: What’s gone well for you at work this past year? What could’ve been better? What can you do differently in the upcoming year to improve your life at work?

Different strokes in the States

In contrast, there’s no such term as medarbeidersamtale in the US.

In fact, I just put the word in Google Translate and got appraisal up as the English equivalent.

Which isn’t quite as nice, is it? The Cambridge Dictionary says that appraise means: to examine someone or something in order to judge their qualities, success, or needs.

At least ‘needs’ is included there, that’s something.

Actually, though, for those Norwegians wondering about it, this is a bad translation of their long word.

One-way conversation

Though the better one isn’t that much better in terms of conversing with your boss: annual performance review.

Which does not imply a two-way conversation, or dialogue. More like a mini monologue, where the information flows one way, as in from top to bottom.

(Your boss is on the top and you’re on the bottom, in case you were wondering.)

Think I’d rather have a conversation, myself, as I usually get so much more out of them.

Don’t you?

Maybe we need to start a campaign to start using colleague conversation in the US workplace.

Would it fly? Probably not.

But don’t worry about that, all of you working in Norway: Just enjoy your conversations there, both on the job and off.

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