How cultural differences affect outsourcing – Germans & Eastern Europeans (III)
What is the German positioning towards trusting and disagreeing? How are the Eastern Europeans approaching these conflicts when dealing with Germans? Find out how to build a process that will work for both parties in the third article from this series.
Seriousness and trustworthiness are two of the most appreciated German values. In German culture, a company’s reputation is closely related to the reputation of its managers. The team is responsible in its entirety, as well as the company for the success or the failure of your project. The communication functions mainly at task-level, with the task being the basis for all business collaborations: if you follow the procedure, you will succeed no matter if you personally are 100% trustworthy or not. In consequence, they will trust the rules and processes proven to be efficient in completing the task. By the contrary, Eastern Europeans will focus on building strong relationships. They will trust the person, not necessarily the process. Hence, they are more flexible – the rules are only there to help the trustworthy professional with his work, and if there is a better way to do it, that’s fine.
Germans will provide and ask for the highest work ethic. In Germany, the titles and professional references and certificates are taken very seriously. The career tends to be unidirectional, very specialized. Hence, these qualities will be showcased to build trust from the beginning. Germans will lookup for the same characteristics in their business partner. The Germans will do their best to be punctual and to stick with the deadlines, and they will appreciate the same from their collaborators. The process of building trust can appear to be a little slower in the beginning, but, once completed, it will be the foundation of a long-term collaboration.
Eastern Europeans will also value a true partnership. As outsourcers, they will do their best to cultivate a good business relationship. But, to stay motivated and productive, they will also need the flexibility and freedom of decision making, with the risk of not always playing by the rules. Eastern Europeans value education and certifications as well, but they also appreciate multidisciplinary expertise and professional flexibility.
Advice for the Germans:
Make sure you don’t confuse the flexibility with the lack of credibility or seriousness. If the basic criteria are met, invest your business partner with your trust, until you have proof of the opposite. Allow your outsourcer to be innovative even if they don’t necessarily follow the traditional process. Unless there is a contractual breach, of course. Don’t mistrust someone who seems overqualified in very different areas -easterners had to learn to be flexible and adapt quickly to market changes, to stay relevant.
Advice for Eastern Europeans:
Always respect the German pillars of trust: punctuality, reliability, work ethics. Be sure you respect the deadlines, and, if this is not possible, to provide explanations on why the delay was necessary. Be sure your appearance and references as a professional are impeccable and trustworthy. For Germans, once signed, an agreement will be an agreement, so make sure you fulfill its terms unless you want to terminate it. Don’t be disappointed if the Germans will take their time in getting to knowing you and your team, in asking questions and being direct in doing so. They only want to make sure you deserve their trust. So, be prepared to provide in advance as much information as you can on your experience and capabilities, even from the negotiation stage.
If anything unexpected happens that prevents you to fulfill your part of the contract, it will be considered as your obligation to notify the other party. Don’t wait for the Germans to ask, be proactive and take responsibility. Communicate any issue through the official channels, by following the guidelines. Avoid approaching the issues at a personal level and bypassing the official “chain of command”. This will be considered as highly unprofessional.
Also, mind the way in which your personal behavior, and your team’s, is reflecting on your company’s reputation, as Germans tend to associate the same values to each of these entities.
We are supporting our clients to identify a proactive partner, one that will show its full commitment and engagement from the beginning. It is always important to have a clear set of criteria to analyze your level of trust. We encourage our clients to identify these criteria and only engage with the partners that meet them. You should also take a closer look at your business and foresee the progress of your project. Which are the things that could possibly arise and could deteriorate your reputation? Assess them and take the necessary steps to prevent them.
Germans have a remarkable capability of precisely separating the business from the personal aspect of the conflict. They will tend to openly express their disagreement in a way that could seem harsh or even rude. But they are only doing so to find a better and quicker solution to the problem, not to be judgmental.
The Germans will tend to disagree, and even to create conflictual situation if they perceive a lack of professionalism or that things are not progressing the way both parties agreed.
Eastern Europeans tend to take criticism more personally than Germans. They will feel like they are not valued as a person and their work motivation will drop. When disagreeing with someone, Eastern Europeans tend to be more subtle and sometimes the reason for their disagreement may not be obvious. They will tend to wait for an appropriate moment before expressing their disagreement, from fear of being misinterpreted or hurting the other party’s feelings. However, Eastern Europeans don’t fear confrontation and they won’t be afraid to have a conflict if they think they are right.
Advice for the Germans:
When you express your disagreement, make sure you are not hurting anyone’s feelings. Be constructive and only make objective comments, without diminishing anyone’s personal value. Make it clear that you are only interested in solving the problem, not in escalating a conflict. Be prepared to answer any questions and to give additional explanations on the reasons you are disagreeing. Be prepared to read between the lines and identify the criticism you receive even when packaged in a pleasant cover.
Advice for Eastern Europeans:
Don’t take criticism personally. Always have a proactive attitude and demonstrate your willingness to admitting your mistakes, if the case, and working towards solving the problem. If, however, you find that the other party is showing disrespect or losing their temper, try not to get too emotional and redirect the focus towards the issues, and not the individuals. Germans respect the people who stand for their values, so, if you think you are right, defend your viewpoint with facts.
If you criticize, make sure your feedback is always timely, do not wait until the next meeting to express it, so to avoid misinterpreting the facts.
It is always best to have as fewer disagreements as possible. But disputes may still arise because of lack of time, of information, of money or of trust. Hence, we always advise our clients to act with caution. Create a conflict management procedure and state clear guidelines to follow if a conflict arises. Design a workflow that will allow any punctual disputes to be identified and managed before becoming critical for the entire project. For example, make sure all responsibilities are clearly allocated so to know at any point who is responsible if something goes wrong with a specific task.
We advise on scheduled feedback sessions every 3 months. This will help everyone get a 360 degree perspective on the overall project, fill the communication gaps, allow everyone in the project to make their voice heard. This type of process will also allow spotting any unresolved conflicts that need mediation.
Remember, trust and cooperation are the foundation of any successful project. On the contrary, conflicts often arise from a lack of trust. When entering a business agreement, be prepared to work on building a meaningful relationship and the rest will follow. 112hub is here to support you in this effort. Feel free to drop us your questions.