"Speak your mind"
I have been working with a German automotive giant for almost four years now. A part of my experience was in India, and I later worked for the same company in Stuttgart, Germany. I noticed there was a great difference between the expectations and the behaviours valued in both countries concerning transparency, honesty, backing up information, criticism, the „asking culture“ and creativity. Here’s my compilation:
1. Transparency & Honesty
In general, Germans are very transparent and honest. They value transparency in personal as well as in professional dealings. Another aspect of this factor is that, if any information is left out, even by accident, it may be considered dishonest. This is a point for foreigners to be careful about. A colleague once mentioned to me, “There is no need to be too polite. It is better if you are frank.” It was a surprise for me initially, because no one would say this in India. However, I soon understood that Germans say clearly what is on their mind and one must simply receive it openly.
People in Germany do not mean to hurt anyone’s feelings by saying what is on their mind – they are just very frank by nature. I actually value this sort of feedback now, because it comes from a background of truth. Instead of false praise, which can deceive, such openness is very practical and honest. Honesty is also reflected in the appreciation and praise of a person’s work. That is something which happens naturally, again because of the honest nature of most Germans.
2. Backing up any information and be open for criticism
Germans value information sources. Whenever a statement is made, they expect a backup source to that statement. For example, whenever I have to make a presentation for work, I need to provide the sources of any information, such as graphs or financial statements. Statements without a source cannot be made, as German colleagues will immediately ask for proof. This is also important during educational presentations.
One’s work is open for feedback from different departments. Though this is common in perhaps all countries, in Germany there is something different concerning criticism. Because of their transparency, Germans also give and receive criticism openly. In fact, I have been asked many times for critical feedback on a topic at work. I remember a German colleague once telling me to openly share my thoughts on what was missing in the topic he had presented. Coming from a diplomatic culture, I found it difficult to criticise him. But it is expected and highly appreciated in the German work culture. So, I prepared a small gap analysis of my colleague’s work and it strengthened our professional relationship.
3. Asking questions about a topic shows a person’s interest in the topic.
Questions are even expected and encouraged. Many office meetings involve question and answer sessions. Just to be sure: While this is common in some countries around the world, it isn’t in every country. Coming from India, a diplomatic and obliging culture, it was difficult for me, to ask questions and criticise. It would be considered rude in my country. But in Germany, it is a sign of respect for the other person’s work.
4. Creativity and unique opinions
Creativity is another quality highly appreciated in the workplace. I had been asked to design a project from scratch – an activity tracker, which was going to be used by colleagues from several countries working on a project together. Being a creative person by nature, I made sure to include drop-down boxes, symbols signifying growth or decrease of activities in the tracker. Since I was using my own ideas and being as creative as possible, my team greatly valued this tracker, and it was shared with the department. In general, the use of different methods and the use of pictures in this case are considered creative methods. Such employees are really appreciated.
In conclusion, one can say: Any unique or different opinion is valued in German working life. Employees are constantly encouraged to share their opinions on all matters, and even if the employee has a completely opposite point of view on something, it is still respected
About the alumna and the author of this article
Ajita Shringarpure comes from Mumbai, India and has been studying and working in Germany for the past two years. She is an engineer and has completed her MBA in Germany. She is interested in art, literature and topics of corporate behaviour. She enjoys writing about these topics in her free time.
What have your experiences been like?
Do you also have similar experiences with the German working life that Ajita Shringarpure identified? Or do you have even more factors and behaviours in mind? We would like to know your thoughts in the comments section.