Cross Cultural Management Guide - Germany


What will you Learn in this Guide?

In this guide, expatriate managers will gain an understanding of a number of key cross cultural areas when working in Germany:

  • Hierarchy
  • Leadership style
  • Time and scheduling 
  • Communication style and; 
  • Negotiation style 


Gain an Expert Understanding:

Once you've read this guide, ensure the success of your Germany business venture by: 

  • Taking part in a two hour live webinar, customised to meet your unique needs, with one of our Germany country and culture training experts or;
  • Contacting us in respect to our Germany consultancy services


Being a Manager in Germany

The business culture in Germany is extremely formal with a hierarchy based on technical expertise and experience.  In order to achieve successful cross cultural management, you must be prepared for a host of regulations, guidelines, and principles covering every aspect of conducting business in Germany. Additional considerations are as follows:

  • German businesspeople have deep-seated rules and regulations.
  • Transparency and respect for accurate detail are very important .You are likely to find, in this respect, that Germas place considerable emphasis on the quality and value of their materials, including excellent presentation. 
  • The Germans tend to be strong critical thinkers and to be open to new ideas and change where needed. 
  • This is a formal culture that believes time is money.
  • Relationships are clearly defined, which intimates the type of communication and behaviors expected.
  • Some employees in Germany do not feel that they are authorized by station, education, or position to either aspire to leadership or to express themselves freely in management circles. Nevertheless many do, and especially with the influence of intercultural expansion and globalization, organizations are tending to rely more heavily on the wisdom of their people and not just the direction of leadership.


The Role of a Manager

Subordinates demonstrate their respect of their supervisors and managers by following their directions to the letter:

  • In return, managers provide explicit directions and ensure their subordinates have the proper materials and understand the appropriate procedures.
  • All work hard within the official working hours. However, neither managers nor subordinates expect to work outside of normal office hours.  Productivity and delivery during normal office hours are valued and employees who consistently work outside of these hours are likely to be viewed as failing to manage their time properly. 
  • There is often a gulf between managers and their subordinates, although this is less so in newer companies, high tech, or other high growth industries.
  • Managers are expected to give precise directions when assigning tasks so that there is no question what is expected.
  • It is important to note however, that the work place culture does not tolerate managers who are overly autocratic. 
  • Expertise and technical understanding are greatly respected in the work place. If you work in Germany therefore, then it's not considered inmodest to communicate professiona expertise or qualifcations. 


Approach to Change

Germany’s intercultural competence and readiness for change is low, meaning that social change is difficult to bring about and the idea of it is not received with enthusiasm. The underlying belief is that change may threaten the social fabric.  If you are proposing change then it's important to:

  • Fully detail and outline the underlying benefits and rationale. 
  • Detail this information with figures and numerical facts where possible. 
  • Be prepared to approach all stakeholders to discuss your ideas and to gain their buy-in. 


Approach to Time and Priorities

Germany is a controlled-time culture, and adherence to schedules is important and expected:

  • In Germany missing a deadline is a sign of poor management and inefficiency, and will shake people’s confidence. People in controlled-time cultures tend to have their time highly scheduled, and it’s generally a good idea to provide and adhere to performance milestones. 
  • If you envisage missing delivery at the agree time, then be sure to make your counterparts aware of this in advance and to advise when delivery will take place. 
  • Since Germans respect schedules and deadlines, it is not unusual for managers to expect people to work late and even give up weekends in order to meet target deadlines.
  • Effective cross cultural management skill will depend on the individual’s ability to meet deadlines.


Decision Making

For effective cross cultural management it is important to remember that in general, subordinates do not expect their managers to seek their concurrence. Germans tend to be:

  • Comfortable complying with decisions. Again, this may depend upon the industry, the professional level of the employees concerned, and the corporate culture.
  • Germany is undergoing rapid changes which are impacting business life.


Boss or Team Player?

  • Germans like working in teams and collaborate quite well across hierarchical lines. The communication within a team is generally quite collegial, albeit somewhat direct and blunt. Role allocation within the team is generally quite clearly defined and people will take greater responsibility for their specific task than for the group as a whole.
  • Successful cross cultural management will depend on the individual’s ability to harness the talent of the group assembled, and develop any resulting synergies. The leader will be deferred to as the final authority in any decisions that are made, but they do not dominate the discussion or generation of ideas. Praise should be given to the entire group as well as to individuals.


Communication and Negotiation Styles

  • Direct communication is valued and your German counterparts will be quite unabashed in pointing out any deficiencies they may find in your product or business plan.
  • Germans will also be quite comfortable saying "no" directly when necessary, or let you know when they cannot meet your expectations.
  • To gain control of a conversation, a German will interject into what they other party is saying, or speak over the other parties in a louder volume.
  • To avoid any cross cultural miscommunication make sure your printed material is available in both English and German. It's essential that this material is presented in a clear, to the point way, with relevant detail included. 
  • Be careful not to be seen to be cutting corners or compromising rules and regulations when communicating with your German counterparts. 
  • Negotiations are transparent, detailed focused affairs, based on facts and essential information.  Your counterparts will want to understand your position in detail and to explore all potential eventualities.  Don't adversely affect your reputation by making outlandish or unfounded claims. 

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