Management by perkele

Management by perkele

Management by perkele is originally a Swedish expression for a Finnish leadership approach that, according to its proponents, takes required actions in a quick and swift way, instead of a prolonged pondering of all possible alternative approaches and points of view before actually getting anything done. This is specifically contrasted to the Swedish consensus decision-making, where the manager makes sure that everyone involved has been heard before decisions are taken.

The name is derived from the well-known Finnish swear word perkele, and it is a reference to the repeated times this word is yelled by the top managers.

Contrary to its original meaning, the expression is also occasionally used when describing old Finnish Army-style authoritarian leadership (which leaves no leeway for dissent or differing opinions and requires blind obedience). It implies that any dissenting opinions are countered with an argumentum ad baculum (a threat of force) by management. The flip side of this management approach is that it creates an atmosphere of efficiency and straightforwardness; everyone knows what he or she is supposed to do. Tasks and goals can be achieved more swiftly and efficiently than in a non-authoritarian atmosphere, and any problematic situations can simply be handled without first discussing them.

In this meaning "management by perkele" implies indiscriminate application of Army methods in civilian life — exporting practices which are proper for one small specific area of society into another, where they may have mixed results. The Finnish Defence Forces have Prussian traditions of discipline: when an order is given, it is expected that it is obeyed perfectly without question.

Unfortunately, Prussian hazing traditions — which have been eliminated recently in the army — follow. The old "army philosophy" is based on inducing fear and uncertainty in subordinates. It can also be seen as organizational workplace bullying. In expert organizations, management by fear has been found to cause halting of positive development, because employees can be too effectively intimidated from expressing alternative development ideas. This also promotes excluding individuals from the teamwork, because a fear of co-workers leads to associations only with the ones one can trust. [1]

It is possible that the concept has arisen from the practice of requiring a reserve officer rank from the conscript service for leadership roles in Finnish companies. (Approximately 10% of men fulfill this criterion.) This has once been a common practice, but it is no longer used as an exclusive requirement.


  1. ^ Eriksson Marja, Parviainen Jaana. Management by fear in expert organization. 2005.

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