How cultural differences affect outsourcing – Germans & Eastern Europeans (I)
Cultural differences between Western and Eastern Europeans can lead to collaboration flaws, mainly caused by miscommunication. You can easily avoid any unpleasant surprises and meet your project deadline and scope by following a few simple rules.
This is the first of a four-part miniseries covering the business relationship between Germans and Eastern Europeans (Romanians, Ukrainians and Bulgarians).
The German business communication style is usually functional and direct (explicit). The objective is to get the job done, so the people tend to go straight to the point. This can make everyone’s work more efficient, but it can also leave the impression that they are too harsh, as they don’t use much of the non-verbal communication. However, this also means a tendency to take everything the others say literally. Germans find it easy to separate business communication from personal interactions and to depersonalize the conflicts. Germans will usually speak openly about their wants and needs and will expect to be treated the same way. For Germans, communication is more a way of exchanging ideas than a way to building relations.
Eastern Europeans tend to be more contextual in their communication. They usually begin the meetings with small talk and leave the serious issues towards the middle of the meeting. The non-verbal elements are important in evaluating feedback, hence, the lack of them can lead to missing out the point. Eastern Europeans would rather avoid to directly express the issues, leaving the impression that they are hiding the truth when they are merely trying to be polite. They also take conflicts more personally. For them it is important to build a good personal relationship in order to have a successful business partnership.
Advice for the Germans:
When dealing with Eastern European business partners, be more aware of your nonverbal communication. Try to soften difficult feedback by focusing on the positive aspects. Also, you might want to invest some time in building a good social relationship, making small talk and telling jokes. Also, do not always take the information literally, try to see if there is some other meaning your counterpart is trying to emphasize, besides the primary information they deliver.
Advice for Eastern Europeans:
You can expect that the Germans will be honest, not trying to go around the subject. So be sure you are also clear in what and how you communicate and that you are always honest. Be aware of the meaning of your communication and how it can be interpreted in a literal way because this is how it will be perceived. If you see that they are not sensitive to small talk or jokes, do not insist, try to be more straightforward and get to the point.
From our experience, it is always best to prepare the meeting plan in advance, so that everyone is aware of the topics and the timing. Try to keep the meetings serious and mostly formal. This way, if anyone tends to prolonge the introductory part or is focusing too much on a specific topic, you can immediately switch the attention towards the meeting’s agenda without hurting anyone’s feelings.
The evaluation process is very similar for both the Eastern European and the German cultures. When giving feedback, even a difficult one, the Germans will usually be straightforward. When doing so, they sometimes appear to disregard other people’s feelings, although their intention is only to be clear and efficient. Germans will tend to give feedback formally, detaching themselves from any personal affinities.
Ukrainians and Bulgarians are treating the feedback in a similar way, they are comfortable with a more direct communication style. However, Romanians tend to be more subtle when giving feedback and will expect the same. Romanians will need to receive positive feedback more often in order to stay motivated. They will prefer to deliver the message more vaguely in order to save the appearance and reputation.
Advice for Germans:
Get familiar with the “sandwich method”. When giving feedback try to emphasize the positive aspects and express the negative ones as challenges that both parties can overcome if willing to do so. This will create a positive environment that will motivate everyone to give their best. Do not show mistrust, unless there are serious reasons to do so. Always provide arguments on the issues raised in your feedback. Avoid any criticism that may appear as personal, as this can lead to conflicts.
Advice for Eastern Europeans:
Try to avoid leaving the impression of “beating around the bush”. This can inflict the idea that you are not willing to get the job done or that you are hiding something. Express your ideas in a clear way and be honest about what it can or cannot be done. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get immediate positive feedback, this doesn’t mean that your business partner is not happy, it can mean that you are already fulfilling their expectations and there is no need for feedback. Make sure you ask and give feedback whenever you consider it is needed. Asking for feedback is accepted and even appreciated by Germans.
Make sure you set a clear feedback process, at regular intervals so that no party lacks the information they need. At 112Hub, we recommend feedback sessions every 3 months. We also recommend having, from the very beginning of the project, a list of major topics that will be covered in your feedback.